If you flip through an SAT prep book and look at the type of math it covers, you might come away from it thinking that the math section of the test is going to be too easy to bother studying for — if you’ve done well enough in your high school classes, that is.
I say that because most of the test is based on concepts that most juniors or seniors have had safely under the belt for some time. Algebra? Basic geometry? That’s nothing compared to trigonometry or (for the really high achievers) calculus. So you might be tempted to focus your attention entirely on obscure vocabulary or, worse, just toss that book aside entirely.
Even if you’re not a math nut, that could still be the case, especially since the test covers so much material. If your fundamentals aren’t already rock solid, it’s daunting to have to build them all up in such a short time. You can spend years studying algebra and geometry, so covering all that material in just a few weeks or months sounds kinda absurd.
So yeah, it’s true: SAT preparation isn’t about learning or relearning all of the material that makes up the first few years of high-school math. If you want to know how to study SAT math well, you have to take a step back from the concepts and look at the real SAT along with your reaction to and performance on that test. You’re going to end up using a lot of that review material, I’m sure — revisiting PEMDAS, perusing exponent rules, quizzing yourself on the ratios of special right triangles — but do it through the lens of practice questions. Let your experience with those questions guide you.
Basically, you’re honing in on weak points in your math skills and then drilling the concepts and strategies you need to reinforce those shaky spots. You’re probably not going to deeply study all of the material that the SAT covers. The best SAT prep course will include it all, but you don’t need to go through it in the order given or with equal focus on each area of math. Instead, use experience with practice tests to pinpoint where you’re most likely to make mistakes, and use that to guide you through your studies.
_This post was written by Lucas Fink, resident SAT expert at Magoosh, a leader in SAT Prep. You can learn more about Magoosh on our SAT blog, and you can get $50 off one month of prep here!_