This week, I wanted to give you some insight into the process of preparing to study for the New SAT Math section. Here are some of the most common questions that I’m asked by new students and parents:
1. Q: “If I only get 50% of the questions right, that’s like getting an F, right?”
A: Not at all! Getting half the questions right on an SAT section is, in fact, average. Remember that the SAT is a test designed to test a wide range of skill levels, so it has to contain much more difficult content than the average high school test.
2. Q: “What Math classes best prepare me for the SAT Math? When will I have the background knowledge I need?”
A: I highly recommend at least being far into Algebra II before taking the SAT Math. Much more so than the old SAT, the new test emphasizes the importance of understanding quadratic functions, and any student who hasn’t studied them is going in with a heavy disadvantage. Students who have taken Statistics will also find it to their advantage, though not as much of one as Algebra II.
3. Q: “When should I start preparing for the SAT Math? Should I be practicing all the way up until test day?”
A: 3 months is about right, though it also depends on your progress in Math. If you haven’t taken Algebra II, for example, more time for review would be recommended. Students should practice up until the day before the test; however, do NOT review at all the day before the test! It’s much better for a student to get their rest than spend the evening cramming and stressing out!
4. Q: “Will reviewing old math skills suffice for preparing me for the SAT Math?”
A: While reviewing old texts and skills can be useful when preparing for the SAT Math, it alone is not usually good enough to help improve one’s score significantly. The SAT is a timed test, and it’s very important to practice doing SAT Math sections in a timed environment, so that students learn to pace themselves properly. There are a number of practice books available at your local library or bookstore, as well as free practice tests you can find online.
5. Q: “How frequently should a student practice the SAT Math?”
A: While highschoolers have very busy schedules, they should still have enough time to practice for the SAT each week. For students aiming for a Math score in the 500s-low 600s, 1-2 sections a week should suffice. For students aiming for high 600s-700s, at least 2 sections a week is recommended, one Non-Calculator Section, and one Calculator-Allowed section. Between sections, students should spend a little time each school day (~20 minutes) reviewing skills that they were shaky on the last time they did a practice section.
I hope these tips give you a better idea of what kind of work is required to prepare for the SAT Math. I’m also happy to take any other questions that might arise in the future, so please let me know if you have any!