SAT Tip: Most-Tested Math Concepts

SAT Tip: Most-Tested Math Concepts
Master these seven concepts and you'll see a quick score jump on your next practice test (Photograph by Hill Street Studios/Gallery Stock)
Photograph by Hill Street Studios/Gallery Stock

This tip on improving your SAT score was provided by Vivian Kerr at Veritas Prep.

Even if you’re not a math genius (few of us are), you can quickly improve your SAT math score by focusing your study time on the most-tested concepts. Unlike the ACT, the SAT doesn’t test trigonometry. (Hooray!) Here are the 10-most-tested SAT math concepts to review; get these down and you’ll see a quick score jump on your next practice test.

1. Properties of Triangles. Triangles are tested a lot on the SAT. You should know the Pythagorean Theorem, Triangle Inequality Theorem, the special right triangles (45-45-90 and 30-60-90), as well as the properties of isosceles and equilateral triangles. Other plane geometry concepts to review include parallel and intersecting lines, angles, circles, and polygons.

2. Ratios and Proportions. A ratio is a relationship between two things. Given a ratio and one “real world” number, you can always set up a proportion to solve for the other missing “real world” number. Sometimes you will need to do this for similar triangles in geometry and sometimes in algebraic word problems.

3. Functions. Instead of y = mx + b, you might see something like f(x) = mx + b. It’s helpful to think of a function as simply replacing the “y” with a symbol called “f(x).” The SAT may also present made-up symbol functions; pay attention to any definitions you are given and expand accordingly.

4. Inequalities. Remember that when you multiply or divide by a negative number, you must reverse the direction of the inequality. Be comfortable with expressing inequalities on number lines and know the subtle difference between “greater than or equal” and just “greater than” (≥ vs >).

5. Systems of Equations. You will need to be able to solve for a system of equations. Remember the “n equations with n variables” rule. If you have two variables, x and y, then you will need two equations with those two variables to solve for both. Familiarize yourself with substitution and combination.

6. Exponents. When you multiply two terms with the same base, you can add the exponents. When you divide two terms with the same base, you can subtract the exponent of the numerator from the exponent of the denominator. And when you raise an exponent to another power, you multiply the exponents. Look for ways to simplify exponents by rewriting numbers in terms of their exponents. (Example: 27 = 33.)

7. Linear & Quadratic Equations. y = mx + b is the standard equation for a straight line, or a linear equation, where m is the slope and b is the y-intercept. You’ll need to know how to graph them and how to find the slope, given two points as well as the relationship of the slopes of parallel and perpendicular lines. For quadratics, you will need to know how to factor quadratic equations to find the roots, how to find the quadratic if given the roots, and how to graph a quadratic on a grid, given the equation.

This may look like a lot to learn, but if you start with these “big and shiny” concepts first, you’ll be well on your way to a big improvement in your score.

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