SAT 2013

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Tricky Tricks for Math SATs

by Oren Lahav

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Extra Strategies and Tricky Tricks to Crash through your Math SATs

This is the second article in my Math SAT Strategies Series. Here we'll squeeze in more specific tricks to help you solve SAT questions.

First things first- define your strategy

You know how teachers always ask you to define your objectives every school year and stuff like that? I hated those. But disregarding those for a moment, it usually is a good idea to define your goals before you start doing something.

Like the SATs. It's critical that you do well on them, clearly, but what exactly are you aiming for? Forget getting perfect, this isn't your regular high-school test. Keep in mind, the average on the SATs is 1500, or 63%. How much are you going to get? Anything above an 80% is an overestimation of your abilities, anything below a 50% is an underestimation.

Now, more specifically- which sections are you going to do well on? Are you a math-guy or an English-guy? Focus on those and don't stress out on the other ones. If you're going for the reading, bust your lower back on going through vocabulary exercises and critical reading practice. If math's your area, do as much math practice as you can.

Now, let's start making your objective a reality

Let's say your aim is an above-average score in the math sections. Sounds nice, doesn't it? But how do you get there?

The most important tip I can give you is totally contrary to everything you know right now- don't finish. Don't even try to. Do NOT run through those first few questions to get to the last ones with plenty of time to finish.

Now you're going: "Huh? What? But if I don't finish, how can I get a good mark? This guy's an idiot".

Here's how you should think about it- answering two thirds of the questions right already gets you an above-average score. So why even bother looking at the last third of the questions when you know they're the toughest (seeing as questions are by order of difficulty)? Take your time and smash out those easy and medium questions, get them right and you're good to go.

In short: Take your time on the first easy questions, forget all about the last, harder ones.

Any tips for the actual questions?

Of course we've got actual question tips. Let's focus on the multiple-choice ones though. A good thing about multiple choice questions is that you got choices, and if you can cancel some out can you then figure out the right one, or at least have high probabilities of guessing it right.

Canceling out choices is an art that's got to be mastered. One technique that's useful mostly on the harder questions is to cancel out those obvious answers, they're usually wrong. If you can get to an answer without reading the whole question, or by just playing around with the numbers without thinking out anything, the answer is probably there to throw you off, so put a line through it and move on. Note that this strategy is opposite when doing the really easy questions.

You can also cancel things out using the general rule- kill the max/min. When your choices are given as numbers, there'll always be a biggest and a smallest answer. If the question asks you for something like "find the maximum distance", you'd automatically want to circle the largest choice, right? That means you can cancel out the largest of the choices. It's only logical.

The final canceling out thing is- "not enough information". On some of the questions, they throw in an extra option of "none of the above" or something like that. Trust me, as I've written a few questions before, it saves a lot of thinking time for the question-writers and most often only throws you off the right track, since if it's a hard question you don't know how to do, it may sound like there's no real way to figure out an answer, right? The "none of the above" answers will most often not be right, so cancel them out.

A few final words on specific math stuff:

- When doing your basic arithmetic, don't forget the order of operations- BEMA, brackets first, then exponents, multiplication and finally addition. That'll keep you from messing up simple stuff.

- When dealing with algebra, some equations and word problems can get nasty. However, you've got choices, right? Plug them in and see which one works. Who needs to do any real calculations when you can beat the system like that?

- When you're given general variables in specific ranges, plug in numbers in that range to see what works. For example, if they say x<2, plug in 1, 0 and -5 to see what happens, and maybe try to locate a general pattern.

- Remember that the test is designed to be possible even without a calculator. If you're getting weird, unfriendly answers where you have to use a calculator, like a quadratic equation that can't be factored nicely for a solution, you're probably off the right track.

Hopefully, these tricks will help get you through to successfully reaching you objectives when writing your Math SATs.

Good luck.

And, on a side note, giving credit when credit's due- most of these tips were discussed in the great book Cracking the SAT, 2008 Edition, printed by the Princeton Review. You should take a look at that book for more tips and practice tests.

Another great resource is The Official SAT Study Guide, which contains 8 practice tests, tips, reviews, and other material prepared by the College Board, who are responsible for the SATs. This book is as thick as a phone-book, but it'll do the job of preparing you for your SATs thoroughly and successfully.

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    llllllllllllllllFri, 09 Mar 2012 00:56:55 -0000

    This is great advice….if you want mediocre score. But honestly, if you want to do exceptionally well, you'd want to learn how to perform well on all the questions which essentially call upon basics you should already know from Algebra I and II. And focus on your area of WEAKNESS, not strength. If you can already get an 800 on the English portions, why would you focus on that instead of a lagging 600 in Math or something you know?

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    moogiTue, 19 Aug 2008 06:03:27 -0000

    I'm seaking 4 the trick to:
    (1) avoid calculation mistakes.
    (2) to make complicated calculations EASY.

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    Avinash ChandraFri, 03 Oct 2008 13:09:40 -0000

    I believe that some practice will make you more comfortable with calculations and cut down on mistakes.

    For avoiding complex calculations - you can try rounding off numbers. For instance, if you need to calculate 39×43, you might as well calculate 40×43 and estimate your answer as a little lesser than what you've got.

    This helps you estimate the answer - usually answer options are far apart and so you should be able to eliminate the wrong ones!

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Last Updated At Dec 07, 2012