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Can You Give me a Math Prep Strategy?

Dear Mike: My reading and writing scores are pretty good, but can you suggest an overall strategy for increasing my math score?



Dear Blake,

Here’s an outline that should help.


An Outline for Improving Your Math Score

Of all SAT sections, math is perhaps easiest to improve upon (writing is a close second). Obviously, because every student is different, significant increases can take a few weeks or several months. But no matter how long it takes, getting there requires several key ingredients. In later posts, I’ll try to elaborate on any items that may require further detail, but for now, here’s an outline:


1. Be VERY familiar with the test

A. Know which concepts are tested (and ensure that your fundamentals in these areas are solid)

B. Know how the test is laid out

C. Get comfortable with the timing and pacing of the test (take several full-length, timed practice tests, preferably in an actual classroom with a proctor)


2. Learn to be meticulous and systematic

A. Force yourself to read questions extremely carefully

B. Learn to attack questions one piece at a time

C. Train yourself to write down ALL of your work


3. Learn and master the most important SAT-specific techniques and strategies

A. Learn how to spot questions on which throwing in numbers may be safer and faster than the “school” method (this is where an experienced tutor comes in especially handy)

B. Know when geometric figures are drawn to scale so you know when you can base your answers on how things (angles, lengths, areas, etc.) look in the figure

C. Know when to guess and when to skip


4. Have a pacing plan: know how many questions you need to hit, miss, and skip to achieve your goal

Note: Remember that unless you’re going for 700 or above, you should not be trying to answer all of the questions!



A. Take as many timed sections as possible

B. Take as many full-length, timed practice tests as possible

C. REVIEW, REVIEW, REVIEW: track the types of mistakes you’re making and figure out how to avoid them in the future (another place where a good tutor can really help)



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