Beat the SAT at its Own Game

High school seniors, take note. It’s the fall semester and now is the time to take the SAT. (Preferably for your second time. Students tend to do better on their second attempt.)

I know what you’re thinking. Why do I have to take the SAT? Is it mandatory? How come it’s so different from typical school tests?

You should take the SAT because many colleges require it as part of their application process, and the SAT is weird because it is an aptitude test and not a knowledge test. The SAT doesn’t so much quiz you on what you know as much as it quizzes you on how you approach problems from a critical perspective.

I checked out a post originally published in the Home School Enrichment Magazine about the math section of the SAT. The good news is that you don’t need to be a math whiz to perform well on this part of the exam. You just need to know the tricks that the test throws at you and how to dodge them in order to arrive at the answer. And since this is a timed test, getting good at efficiently answering questions is the best way to boost your score and feel comfortable while sitting in those climate-controlled examination rooms. The post reads:

“It is important to read each question carefully with a critical eye to find out what it is asking. The students’ first thought when they approach the math section should not be, “How do I calculate to find the answer?” but “Where’s the pattern—what’s the fastest way to find the answer?” By eliminating long calculations, mistakes are minimized and time cut in half.”

The folks over at TestSherpa prep service offered a great example of a way to slice through a basic SAT math question:

“Which has the largest area, a right triangle with sides of 3, 4, and 5 inches, or a circle with a radius of 3 inches?”

You could spend your time painstakingly using formulas and plugging in numbers to arrive at your answer, or you could just draw yourself a little picture:

If you keep in mind that the radius is the same as one of the sides of the triangle, you can visually arrive at the answer in a fraction of the time it would spend you to actually calculate it. Clearly the circle has the larger area. When you look at it that way, you’ve done absolutely NO math using that method.

Of course, if you feel comfortable with your math skills and feel like doing long-form calculations is the way to go, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that! The SAT is a test that can be approached in a variety of ways, so find the method that’s best for you and stick with it!

Here are some resources to help you out: