What Students Should Know for SAT and ACT Math
Teachers preparing their students for the SAT or ACT Math sections need to know where to focus their attention. Of all of the math concepts in the world, there are only a few major areas that are covered on the tests. By helping students focus on the right concepts in math, you can reduce their overall study time, improve their results and make the math portion as stress free as possible.
Important SAT Math Facts
The SAT has two 25 minute sections for math with 20 and 18 questions each, and one 20 minute section with 16 questions. Some questions are very simple to answer and are a matter of recognizing a specific mathematical concept. Other problems will take a few minutes to calculate.
There are two main question formats on the SAT math portion – multiple choice and student response questions. For multiple choice, students will choose from five different options. For student response questions, students will write in their answer in a provided grid and fill in the appropriate bubbles.
The SAT math section covers basic arithmetic, algebra, geometry, statistics and probability. Don’t worry about needing calculus! The test only covers up to the first semester of Algebra II. According to the College Board, here’s the breakdown of the different sections:
- Numbers and operations (20 – 25%)
- Algebra and functions (35 – 40%)
- Geometry and measurement (25 – 30%)
- Data analysis, statistics and probability (10 – 15%)
Students should focus studies on these math topics. They don’t have to work with imaginary numbers, trigonometry, geometry proofs or calculating very large numbers.
Essentials of the ACT Math Test
The ACT math portion is a 60 minute test with 60 multiple-choice questions. It covers six different math content areas. While the other portions of the ACT test have four possible choices for each question, the math portion has five answer choices.
ACT math questions increase in difficulty as students work through the test. Questions 1 through 20 are the easiest. The medium questions are 21 through 40 and the hardest questions are 41 through 60.
Since the ACT does not have a penalty like the SAT, students should answer every question including the problems that seem purposely confusing, are very long and wordy or have large and complicated numbers.
There are six general content areas on the ACT math test.
- Pre-Algebra (14 questions)
- Elementary Algebra (10 questions)
- Intermediate Algebra (9 questions)
- Coordinate Geometry (9 questions)
- Plane Geometry (14 questions)
- Elementary Trigonometry (4 questions)
For each of these sections, students need to know basic formulas. They need to complete appropriate computations for each of these sections. Calculators are permitted but not required for this part of the test.
Understanding the basics of the SAT math and ACT math portions of the test can help teachers prepare their students. These guidelines can help make test prep for the math portions efficient and effective.
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