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**Study Diligently in Your Math Classes**

Getting a good score on the SAT isn’t a trick. The SAT does a very good job of testing what

you really know about math. No amount of “guessing (B) or (D)” is going to get you a good

score if your math skills are nonexistent.

Fortunately, your current math class is the one place that you can go where, for no money

out of your pocket, you can build these skills. Even if the curriculum in your current class

is beyond what’s tested on the SAT I — for example, if you’re studying trigonometry, precalculus,

or calculus — staying current is going to help you. (And blowing it off isn’t going

to help your SAT score, your grades, or your readiness for college.)

Look at it this way: If you’re looking to get into college, you need both a good SAT score and

good grades. Studying hard in your math classes will pay off on both fronts.

**Get Good at Doing Basic Calculations in Your Head**

There’s a big difference between knowing something and knowing it cold. Chances are, you

know what 2 + 2 equals without even thinking about it. But do you get thrown by –8 – (–6)?

How quickly can you find the common denominator of and ? Do you feel confident about

your ability to factor 6×2 – 4xy without stress?

In Chapter 2, I list types of calculations that you should be able to do in your head quickly and

without much thought. These include performing operations on negative numbers and fractions,

doing simple percent problems, decomposing small numbers into their prime factors,

finding common denominators, and doing some basic algebraic manipulations.

**Get Good at Using Your Calculator**

Calculators — including graphing calculators and scientific calculators — are allowed on

the SAT, providing you with a great opportunity to save time and avoid mistakes. Although

you don’t want to use your calculator for simple calculations that you could do more

quickly in your head, I encourage you to use it whenever it may be really helpful.

In Chapter 2, I provide a list of the calculator skills I believe are most helpful on the SAT.

These include working with fractions, calculating powers and square roots, solving and

graphing equations, and generating input-output tables.

**Study SAT-Specific Math Skills**

The SAT tests a relatively limited set of skills, such as arithmetic, algebra, geometry, functions

and coordinate geometry, and a smattering of additional topics. (You don’t need trigonometry,

for instance, to do well on the SAT.) And inside each of these broad skills is a related set of

subskills. For example, in geometry, you need to know how to find the area of a triangle, but

you can safely avoid just about everything you know about doing geometric proofs.

You can think of these as the basic toolset that you need to answer most SAT questions. In

Chapters 3 through 7, I break down these skills and subskills. Focusing on strengthening

these SAT-specific math skills is time well spent as you prepare for the test.

**Study SAT-Specific Problem-Solving Skills**

SAT questions are usually quick to solve after you see the “way in” — the math principle or

formula that’s being tested. Some problems are tough because they rely on putting together

two unrelated math ideas together in a novel way.

After you know the basic math skills necessary to succeed, the next skill to attain is becoming

quick at identifying which tools are most likely to help you answer a specific question. In

Chapter 9, I focus on these problem-solving skills, such as determining what a question is

asking and which skills you need to answer it, making diagrams and charts, identifying

useful formulas, and finding a path from the facts you’re given to what the question is

asking for.**Get Comfortable Turning Words into Numbers**

In a sense, word problems are a very specific type of reading comprehension question. You

need to become good at the careful type of reading that allows you to turn information in a

word problem into numbers, symbols, and equations. In many cases, you may find that after

turning words into numbers, the rest of a word problem is a lot easier than it looks, and you

can solve it easily in your head or with a calculator. Check out Chapter 8 for some tips on

translating between math and English.

**Take Timed Practice Tests**

No matter how good your math skills are, you should practice for the SAT with timed tests.

Time pressure adds a dimension to a test that isn’t normally present when you’re studying.

It also forces you to make trade-offs, such as skipping over a problem that looks difficult or

time-consuming.

This book contains hundreds of questions to practice on without the clock running. But it

also includes three full timed practice tests with a total of 162 questions. I highly recommend

saving these questions for when you’re ready to practice under the timed conditions

stated at the top of each test. You can also visit sat.collegeboard.com to get a free,

official SAT practice test from the College **Board.Study from Your Timed Practice Tests**

After you take a practice test, go over the answers you got wrong and find out why. Use the

test to fill in gaps in your knowledge that may be useful on the next test.

Remember, any math skill that showed up on one question is likely to show up on a later

SAT — possibly yours. Furthermore, as you spend time examining SAT questions in depth,

you’ll begin to get a sense of how they’re put together, giving you an advantage in answering

questions you haven’t seen.

**Retake Your Timed Practice Tests**

In studying from the practice tests you’ve already taken, did you really absorb new material?

One way to find out is to take the test again. My advice is to wait a few weeks so that you

forget the specifics of each question. In the meantime, take a few more practice tests and

study those, too. Then go back and retake a test. Your score will almost certainly be better

than your score the first time you took it. But take a good, hard look at the questions you miss

the second time around to be sure you know what you need to know on your SAT date.

**Take the SAT More Than Once**

No matter how prepared you are for your SAT, you’re bound to be a little nervous and

uncertain your first time. But if you take the test more than once, you’ll begin to know what

to expect and be able to plan ahead for it.

I recommend taking the test for the first time as early as you can, just for practice. That

way, you know that your first time taking the test doesn’t have to count, so you can relax

and (dare I say?) have fun with it — or at least minimize your anxiety throughout the

process.

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