Has your SAT math score plateaued at a 700? Are you oscillating between a 650 and a 750? Do you always miss just one question and it’s driving you insane? Here are some tips to push you to a perfect score!
1. Use test-taking strategies.
If you are consistently scoring in the 700s on your math section, you clearly know how to take a math test. Those few pesky missed questions are often not conceptual misunderstandings but avoidable mistakes. To make matters worse, the test writers purposely include common mistakes as possible answer choices. Don’t fall for those traps! Read the question first. Skip all the text and get right to the question so that you can focus on solving for the answer the question requires. Annotate your test and make a mark beside any question where you are not 100% certain. Pace yourself so that you have plenty of time left to double check any questions where you felt unsure. Double check your work with test-taking strategies. If there is a variable in the answer choices, plug a number in and see if it works. If the question asks you to solve for a specific variable, plug in the numerical answer choices into the problem. If you get stuck, use your math intuition to eliminate incorrect answer choices and make an educated guess.
2. Practice, practice, practice!
Do two types of practice – one for content and one for endurance. Content practice should be done regularly: 15 to 30 minutes 5 times a week. The content should challenge you. If you are already scoring in the mid 600s to low 700s, you are clearly confident in your math abilities. By using a product like UWorld, you can filter the practice questions you get and focus on the high difficulty questions. Endurance practice should include taking entire math sections and entire tests. You should alternate between the two every other week. For example, practice 20 min Monday through Thursday and take an entire test on Saturday. Then the following week practicing for 20 minutes Monday through Thursday and taking both math sections back-to-back on Saturday. The content practice will build confidence and speed in areas you are less familiar with, while the endurance practice will help you gain the mental stamina to stay engaged and focused through the 3 to 4-hour test.
3. Get into the minds of the question writers
When you review your work, make sure to read the explanations for ALL the answers, especially on the official practice tests. You may find a way of solving a problem that is faster. You will also start seeing the types of misconceptions question-writers want to test. As you do more drills and take more tests, try to spot the traps in the answer choices. By understanding what types of mistakes people are most prone to making, you can avoid those mistakes yourself.
4. Find resources that are slightly harder than the official test.
Unsurprisingly, I was a huge nerd in high school and on the weekends I regularly took tests for math competitions. I was never very good, so the material was always challenging which allowed me to get comfortable with trying to figure out a problem on the fly or using testing strategies to make educated guesses. The tests also felt harder than the SAT, often just because of the sheer number of questions the examiners gave. While I am in no way recommending more difficult, non-SAT tests during this concentrated period of test prep, using more intensive study materials like UWorld SAT could help push you over the 750 bump. (NOTE: If you are currently consistently testing at a 600, save these harder materials for when you break 700.)
Contributor Bio: Lianne hails from the Harlingen, Texas – a town on the U.S.-Mexico border. After graduating from Harvard with a degree in Economics, she went to New York City where she taught high school math in the South Bronx and tutored students in Manhattan. She is back in Texas getting a dual MBA/Ed.D degree at TCU. This summer, she is working as a market research intern at UWorld. Lianne is passionate about education and wants to share her personal tips and experiences to make everyone more comfortable with high-stakes testing.