Understand the Math Portion of the SAT and ACT

Jan 26, 2018 | Smyrna

The SAT and ACT tests are part of the college application process.

Even if your child does well in math in school, investing in your child’s math achievement for the high stakes tests is worthwhile. The difference between a good score and a great score could mean the difference between getting into the college of choice or not. Some scholarships look at ACT and SAT scores to decide who gets awarded money. Many states require all juniors to take one of the tests.  Georgia is not one of those states.

The Math Portion of the Tests

The math portions covers algebra, geometry, problem solving, data analysis computational fluency, conceptual understanding and applications. The end of this article includes a more detailed list of math topics covered. The SAT emphasizes algebra, which challenges many students. Many 10th and 11th graders are taking geometry, or another math strand, when they take the tests. These students may find the math portion of the test difficult because it has been awhile since they used many of the skills required.

Most tests questions are in a multiple choice format. Since the tests are timed, being quick at mental math and having mathematical fluency is a huge advantage. Students with strong mental math skills, will benefit from more time thinking about the best strategy to solve a problem.  Students will also need to have stamina to concentrate for an hour.

The Math Scores

The math SAT score will be a number in the 200 to 800 range. The math ACT score will be a number in the 1 to 36 range. Students will also get a percentile score indicating how well they performed compared to other people who took the test.

A score in the 700s on the math portion of the SAT translates to the 90th percentile or higher. A score in the mid 500’s will be around the 50th percentile. A score 400 or below will be a single digit percentile. A score in the high 20s on the math portion of the ACT translates to the 90th percentile or higher.

Many students take the tests repeatedly to improve their scores. Private tutoring is the most effective way to raise scores. Students who invest in private SAT tutoring see the largest increase in scores. About 11 percent of families choose private tutoring to prepare for the SAT or the ACT.

If your child will take the PSAT, SAT or ACT this spring, or if math has always been a struggle, do not put off getting math help even one more minute. We can help. We teach kids math concepts and skills to tackle complex math problems strategically.

High school students can get help with homework, private tutoring, or take our test prep course right here at Mathnasium of Smyrna. Call today! (770) 436-4949.


Math Topics on the SAT

·         Solving quadratic equations

·         Interpreting nonlinear expressions

·         Quadratic and exponential word problems

·         Radicals and rational exponents

·         Operations with rational expressions and polynomials

·         Polynomial factors and graphs

·         Nonlinear equation graphs

·         Linear and quadratic systems

·         Structure in expressions

·         Isolating quantities

·         Functions

·         Ratios, rates, and proportions

·         Percents

·         Units

·         Table data

·         Scatterplots

·         Key features of graphs

·         Linear and exponential growth

·         Data inferences

·         Center, spread, and shape of distributions

·         Data collection and conclusions

·         Solving linear equations and linear inequalities (in these expressions, x is a constant or the product of a constant)

·         Interpreting linear functions

·         Linear inequality and equation word problems

·         Graphing linear equations

·         Linear function word problems

·         Systems of linear inequalities word problems

·         Solving systems of linear equations

Math Topics on the ACT

·         Basic operations using whole numbers, decimals, fractions, and integers

·         Place value

·         Square roots and approximations

·         The concept of exponents

·         Scientific notation

·         Factors

·         Ratio, proportion, and percent

·         Linear equations in one variable

·         Absolute value and ordering numbers by value

·         Elementary counting techniques and simple probability

·         Data collection, representation, and interpretation

·         Understanding simple descriptive statistics

·         The quadratic formula

·         Rational and radical expressions

·         Absolute value equations and inequalities

·         Sequences and patterns

·         Systems of equations

·         Quadratic inequalities

·         Functions and modeling

·         Matrices

·         Roots of polynomials

·         Complex numbers

·         Graphing and the relations between equations and graphs, including points, lines, polynomials, circles, and other curves

·         Graphing inequalities

·         Slope

·         Parallel and perpendicular lines

·         Distance

·         Conics


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