With the new SAT now in full swing, I thought it would be helpful to list some tips that can help you or your child succeed on the Math portion of the new test. Before you or your child begins to prepare, make sure you consider the following tips:
1. Always answer everything:
Unlike the old SAT, students are no longer punished for incorrect Multiple Choice answers. This means that you or your child should learn to *always* answer every question, *every* time. This sounds simple, but it’s one of the most frequent mistakes my students make, even after I’ve told them a dozen times to leave nothing blank. When practicing, it’s important to use the last minute or two to ensure that all questions have been filled in, including the Student Produced Responses (aka the questions where you have to bubble in a number without the aid of Multiple Choices). There’s nothing wrong with guessing, but make sure the guess is there. Like the great Wayne Gretzky once said: “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”
2. Always keep moving:
Students taking the new SAT Math will have 1 minute and 15 seconds per question on Section 3, and 1 minute and 30 seconds on Section 4. (NOTE: This averages about 45% more time than on the ACT math.) A student who takes two minutes on a question, therefore, is taking too long. Make sure to move past questions that are slowing you down; you can always come back to them later, or simply guess if pressed for time.
3. Brush up on your statistics:
Unlike the old test, the new SAT puts great emphasis on a student’s’ knowledge of Statistics. If you don’t know terms like “mean”, “median”, “mode”, and “standard deviation”, *now* is the time to look them up. Also be ready to read bar graphs, pie charts, and tables.
4. Geometry is de-emphasized:
Just like the old test, at the beginning of every SAT Math section you will find a series of geometric equations for rectangles, circles, triangles, and three-dimensional figures. What you won’t be told, however, is how little these equations are actually applied on the new test. While knowledge of two-dimensional and base three-dimensional shapes is certainly useful, don’t put an inordinate amount of prep time into learning how to find the volumes of cones and spheres – they simply don’t come up that much! You or your teen will be much better served by reviewing the concepts and equations that are *not* given to you at the beginning of a section: the Quadratic Equation, the Difference of Squares, Systems of Equations, etc… Algebra I/II and Statistics are much more important now, so focus your efforts there.
5. Get back to the basics:
The new SAT is the first standardized test in ages to prohibit the use of a calculator. While a student will be able to use a calculator on Section 4, Section 3 will have to be done unassisted. Long-forgotten skills, such as long division, are once again going to be quite helpful on the new test. Many students get problems wrong because they make very simple errors in addition, subtraction, division, and multiplication. If it’s been awhile since you or your teen has done arithmetic with just pencil and paper, now is a great time to practice. There are tons of online resources for practicing basic operations, and there’s no shame in brushing up on these rudimentary skills.
Now that you have a few pointers to start with, there’s no time like the present to start brushing up on your skills. Find a practice test, do some sections in a timed setting, and find out how you need to improve. After all, it’s better to know what you need to work on now than find out on test day!