Are you one of those students who are dreading the SAT, and especially the math modules? Take a deep breath. Yes, the SAT is supposed to test your math knowledge from all those high school math classes. But it’s not as straightforward as that...

**Fact #1: You don’t need to show work. **

This is crucial. Unlike a school math class, where showing work is a must for full credit, no one will actually ever look at how you arrived at the answer to a problem. This is very liberating since it allows you to guess, estimate, and take shortcuts.

**Fact #2: Success on the SAT is about strategies.**

Preparing for the SAT math modules is not only about reviewing the relevant math concepts and problem types. That is important, but it is probably half the work. Why? Because if you solve all problems directly, you will probably run out of time before the end of the module. Instead, preparation involves understanding the structure of SAT problems and using the fact that the majority of them are multiple choice. This gives rise to a number of strategies that save time and allow you to move quickly and successfully through the module. Picking numbers, or using the answer choices are two such strategies. Learning how to use these strategies is as important as reviewing the math content.

**Fact #3: Time management is key.**

What does it mean to manage your time on the SAT math module? At least two things. First, know that math problems are arranged from easy to hard in the module – this means that early on in the module, problems are meant to be solved quickly. If it looks easy, it most certainly is – do not try to second-guess yourself here – just focus and solve fast. The second aspect of time management is to learn to let go – if a problem gives you a hard time, skip it and come back to it only if you have time at the end. Why? Harder problems do not earn you more points. Every correctly solved problem is 1 point of raw score. So… does it make sense to spend a lot of time on a hard problem and maybe run out of time on several problems you could have solved? Most definitely not. Skipping a problem to get to the ones you can solve first is one of the most important things to internalize before you take the test. Your goal is to maximize your score – not solve one particular hard problem.

**Fact #4: The Desmos calculator makes an enormous difference**

Yes, you probably know how to use your trusty TI-84 and are used to it. But… the Desmos graphing calculator that is built into the testing platform is incredibly powerful. Above all, it is fast – you can graph functions or make calculations quickly. If an SAT problem asks “What is the solution to the equation |2x - 5| = 7" you really do not need to solve. Not sure how absolute value equations work? Fine – by all means, let’s review that during your preparation time. But, at the test, all you need to do is graph. Just type the equation in the graphing calculator and look at the graph. Now…can you interpret what you are seeing? If you can, you just solved the equation in 5 seconds. Talk about time management.

In the end, preparation for SAT math is about learning what to expect – the problem types, the way the incorrect answers set traps for you, and your body clock adjusting to the time it takes to complete a module. Two more facts – do not be scared if, as you begin your preparation, you seem to run out of time. Speed comes with familiarity and practice. As you adjust to the test, you also speed up. And finally, the SAT is not a waste of your time. Yes, perhaps you will never again do math quite like that – and math is about thinking, not about being fast. But the test will teach you valuable skills – how to handle the unexpected in the moment, how to approach problems creatively and, often, think outside the box to solve them fast, how to sit in one spot and focus for over 2 hours at a time, and last (but not least) how to meet your anxiety head-on and overcome it. So, it is quite worth taking the time to prepare well.

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