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What Kind of Math Is on the SAT?

by Kristi Roddey, Demand Media

    The math section of the Scholastic Aptitude Test includes 54 questions in all. Forty-four are multiple-choice, and 10 are grid-in questions. Grid-in questions require you to fill out a grid with four boxes and a column of ovals beneath each box. You solve the math problem and write your numerical answer in the boxes above the grid. Then you shade in the corresponding ovals below. You may use a calculator for the math portion of the SAT.

    Numbers and Operations

    These questions include word problems dealing with percentages, ratios and proportions. You also need to know about integers and their properties; rational numbers; counting techniques; sequences, including exponential growth; sets; and elementary number theory. Twenty to 25 percent of the math questions will be on numbers and operations. SAT instructions will always give you the information you need to solve these problems. For each sequence question, you won't be asked what the sixth number in a sequence is without first being told, for example, that each term in the sequence is two less than twice the number before it.

    Algebra and Functions

    Algebra questions make up 35 percent to 40 percent of SAT math questions. You will need to be able to substitute and simplify algebraic expressions, and solve algebra word problems. You should also be able to identify the properties of exponents, and be able to solve for linear equations and inequalities. Other topics include quadratic equations, rational and radical equations, equations of lines, direct and inverse variation, absolute values, and concepts of algebraic functions.

    Geometry and Measurement

    Figures that accompany geometry and measurement questions provide information to solve the problems. Figures are drawn to scale, except when the problem states otherwise. Twenty-five percent to 30 percent of SAT math questions are about geometry and measurements. Topics include the Pythagorean Theorem and properties of the different kinds of triangles (equilateral, isosceles and right), properties of parallel and perpendicular lines, slope, transformations, coordinates and similarity. You will also need to be able to determine the area and perimeter of a polygon; the area and circumference of a circle; and the volume of a box, cylinder and cube.

    Data Analysis, Statistics and Probability

    Ten to 15 percent of SAT math questions involve data analysis, statistics and probability. These questions will test your understanding of graphs and tables. You will also need to be able to determine the mean, median and mode of a set of data and calculate the probability of a specific outcome. Remember that you can express probability as a fraction, decimal or ratio.

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    About the Author

    A professional writer and editor, Kristi Roddey began freelancing in 1999. She has worked on books, magazines, websites and computer-based training modules, including South Carolina Educational Television's NatureScene Interactive, "Planted Aquaria," "Xtreme RC Cars" and online courses for Education To Go, Inc. Roddey holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from the University of South Carolina.

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