The beauty of algebra lies in the simplicity of one correct answer (and only one!). Not only is the answer to a math question either correct or incorrect, there’s objective reasoning to back it up. Keep these tips and tricks in mind when sitting for the math section of the SAT.

1. Label diagrams

As you read the question, start labeling any given diagrams so the problem makes more sense. Don’t waste time reading the question multiple times waiting for the answer to jump out.

2. Draw a diagram

If no diagram is given, draw one to help you better understand the question.

3. Use Your Calculator

You can plug equations or systems of equations into your graphing calculator to solve more challenging algebra problems. Become familiar with the functions of your calculator, specifically the intersection and max/min functions. But be aware that you cannot use your calculator on section three of the SAT.

4. Plug in the answer choices

Sometimes it’s easier to plug in answer choices instead of working through the algebra, especially when answering relationship between variables questions. Start with the middle number. Since answer choices are always sorted in numerical order, start with the middle answer. If the number is too large, plug in a smaller number or vice versa.

5. Stay confident

Don’t let questions scare you because they look difficult or may cover an unfamiliar topic.

Watch Out, It’s a Trap!

There are several places on the SAT where the test is not only assessing your math skills but your attention to details as well. Standardized tests intentionally include the most common wrong answers in the answer choices to distract you. Follow the below advice so you don’t fall for these traps!

1. Don’t be tempted to answer too soon

Math problems often have multiple steps and multiple answers leading up to the one correct answer. As you are reading the question, underline what it is asking. After solving the problem, return to the question and make sure you have answered that specific question.

2. Check answers to avoid simple mistakes

Plug your answers back into the original equation to confirm that your answer is correct, and you have not made any simple arithmetic mistakes.


It’s easy to substitute a word or two when reading a question too quickly. A question may say which answer choice is NOT a possible solution but our brains are wired to look for the right answer. Be sure to underline these key words.

4. Does your answer make sense?

You might calculate a decimal or fraction answer when only a whole number response would make sense. Ask yourself if the answer makes sense, especially when completing the free response math section.