SAT Math Section Overview

Acquire all the skills you need to conquer the SAT math! We cover everything by guiding you through test logistics, strategies for improving speed and accuracy, review of tested content, different types of example questions, and other resources that will help you ace the SAT math!
SAT Math Section Overview

📌 SAT Sections 3+4: Math

WELCOME to Fiveable’s math overview! Are you trying to study for the math section of the SAT, but don’t know where to start? Then, you’ve come to the right place! In this guide, we’ll talk about test-taking strategies and types of questions you’ll encounter.

Math is a pretty important topic on the SAT, since it makes up about 50% of the sections on your test. In this study guide, you will learn about logistics, strategies, content, and some overall tips to ace your Math No-Calculator AND Calculator sections.

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⏲️ Logistics of the Math Sections

Format of SAT Math Sections

Section 3 on the SAT is the math, non-calculator section. Section 4 is the math section with a calculator. Check out the table below to see what the format is for both these sections:


Section 3: Math Non-Calc

Section 4: Math with Calc




Total Questions



# of Multiple-Choice Questions (MCQs)



# of Grid-Ins (GIs)



SAT Math Reference Sheet

On both math sections, the first page will be a formula sheet with all of this information, mainly to help you in the Additional Topics Domain, but more on that later. Try to memorize all these formulas because it can save you a lot of time on test day (because of flipping back and forth between pages 📖), but be aware that you will have the reference sheet for the test:

Image Courtesy of the College Board’s SAT Overview PDF

SAT Math: What’s Covered

The College Board has published a list of topics in 4️⃣ categories that you need to focus on to succeed on the SAT! We can break up all of the categories with emojis so make sure to remember them when we discuss strategies:

  • 💙 Heart of Algebra: 19 questions on the SAT

    • Linear Equations

    • Systems of Equations

    • Functions, Notation, + Interpreting Variables

  • 📉 Problem-Solving and Data Analysis: 17 questions on the SAT

    • Ratios, Percentages, + Proportions

    • Reasoning with Data

    • Using Statistics + Probability

    • Modeling Data (Using Graphs, Charts, and Tables)

  • 🔑 Passport to Advanced Math: 16 questions on the SAT

    • Multiplying + Factoring Polynomials

    • Integer + Radical Exponents

    • Quadratic, Radical, Rational, Polynomial, + Absolute Value Equations

  • 📐 Additional Topics in Math: 6 questions on the SAT

    • Plane + Coordinate Geometry

    • Trigonometry

    • Complex + Imaginary Numbers1️⃣1️⃣1️⃣1️⃣1️⃣1️⃣1️⃣

You won’t need to know all of the SAT Domains and be able to recognize 🧐 them on test day, but when you get your score report, you get sub-scores based on these categories. The scale is from 1-15 so you will be looking for a 1️⃣5️⃣ in all of your sub-scores 🎊

🤩 SAT Math Section Tips

Before we jump into the math section in-detail, let’s discuss some general strategies!

  1. 🤔 Read the problem carefully. Don’t just skim the question because you might miss some important details. This will ultimately help you save time as you won’t have to redo any calculations.

  2. 🖼️ Sketch diagrams in the test booklet! Questions regarding geometry and trigonometry are often difficult to answer without consulting a diagram. Also, show your work and write out step-by-step solutions to problems. While your work won’t be graded, it will make it easier for you to spot mistakes and correct them quickly.

  3. 🤓 Memorize common formulas to save time. As we mentioned earlier, College Board provides some formulas for convenience. But, it wastes time flipping to the reference page for every question. Instead, you should try to memorize basic formulas for area and volume.

  4. 🧮 Bring your own calculator to the test. Familiarize yourself with the functions of your calculator by using it when completing practice tests. Work smarter, not harder. Some calculators can solve systems of equations for you. However, do not become dependent on your calculator. Every question on the SAT, even questions on the calculator section, can be solved by hand.

  5. ❎ Use the process of elimination when you don’t know how to solve a question. Since there are 4 answer choices in multiple-choice questions, this method is a quick and helpful way to answer harder questions.

  6. 🏹 Skip hard questions and come back to them at the end. . Every question on the SAT is weighted equally. If you waste your time trying to solve a hard question, you might run out of time to solve easier questions. However, make sure to always put down a random guess since there’s a 25% chance that you will get it right.

  7. 🔁 PRACTICE! The only way to improve your score is through practice. Don’t just memorize formulas, learn how to apply them correctly. When you answer questions incorrectly on practice tests, try to figure out why the correct answer is correct. Sooner or later, your hard work will shine through in your results!

To help you get started, we’ve provided some resources and linked them below.

🖇️ Additional Links + Content Review

Since the SAT covers 3️⃣ whole years of High School Math (Algebra 1, 2, and Geometry/Trig), you need to review a lot of foundational information. To help you out, we linked to some AWESOME 🤩 videos and study guides to help you review all of the math that you need to review to ace the SAT:

Khan Academy—Reviews all of the content through videos and practice questions and breaks the material down into the 4 categories that we just discussed above. Khan Academy also partners with the College Board so that you can sync your current PSAT and SAT scores to help pinpoint your strong 💪 and weak 🐶 areas. Here is a preview of one of their lessons:

Image Courtesy of Khan Academy Heart of Algebra

Ivy Global Math Review—This is a 40-page PDF that describes all of the content on the SAT Math sections. This PDF is awesome because it’s succinct and sectioned into different content areas than the SAT Domains, so you get another perspective 🤔 on the content. The PDF does not cover everything that Khan Academy does, but this does make it easy to work practice ➗ problems and annotate the content sections. Here is a preview of the PDF :

Image Courtesy of Ivy Global Math Review

The Organic Chemistry Tutor’s Math SAT YouTube Review—Helps cram all of the SAT Math content into your brain in 2.5 hours. This review is best for students that are already strong in the math sections or have very little time ⏳ to review for the test. This review has math problems throughout for watchers to practice in all 8 of the mini-lessons in the video 🎦 This review is the shortest on the list and can just refresh you on the most difficult concepts on the test.

Image Courtesy of YouTube

💭 SAT Math In Review

Here is a final review of everything in this guide in a simple bullet-point format:

  • Math is two of the four sections on the SAT exam.

  • The Non-Calc (Section 3) half is shorter than the Calc (Section 4) portion.

    • You will get the same formula sheet ✖️ on both sections, but we recommend memorizing it

    • Both sections have a combination of MCQs and GIs.

  • While strategy is awesome to help improve your score, practice is what makes progress permanent!

  • Content knowledge is also important for the math sections so make sure to learn all of Algebra 2, if possible, before taking your SAT!

    • Make sure to use one of the content reviews to see what you know and what you forget 🤔

  • The SAT is broken up into 4 “Domains” of content so know what fits into the bigger categories to see what to do to improve your score the most



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