Better, Smarter, Faster
Better, Smarter, Faster
Time management separates the students who kick major hindquarters on the Math section from those who merely do okay. If you take two students of equal skill in math, but give one a few extra minutes on an SAT Math section, who’s gonna get a better score? The kid with more time.
You might be thinking, “Yeah, but no one’s going to get more time.” While no proctor is going to come along and give half the room 28 minutes on a section and hold the other half to 25, there is one person who can give you more time on a Math section: you!
Math Shortcuts
On the SAT Math, how much time you spend on a problem depends less on how much math you know and more on how you approach the problem. Take a look at the following example:
Which has a greater area, a square with sides measuring 4 cm or a circle with a radius of the same length?
One student, we’ll call him Bob, might solve this problem algebraically: Plug 4 into the formula for the area of a square and then the area of a circle. Area of a square so the area of this square = Area of a circle = so the area of this circle must be . is obviously bigger than 16, so the circle must have a larger area than the square.
But another student, we’ll call her Melanie, might choose a faster approach by quickly sketching the square and circle superimposed.
Bob and Melanie know the same amount of math, but because Melanie took the faster approach, she gave herself more time to work on other questions, a distinct advantage. A few more questions like this one, and Melanie will score considerably higher than Bob, even though the two of them know basically the same amount of math.
What Melanie did, essentially, was find a shortcut. Though she knew the same math that Bob did, Melanie found a way to answer the question more quickly. This doesn’t make Melanie better at math, but it does make her a little bit better at taking the SAT.
The important question is, How can you learn to be more like Melanie? You need to do two things:
  • Be prepared. You’re not going to find a shortcut for a problem unless you know how to work it out the “long” way. An ability to find shortcuts is an expression of how comfortable you are with the math you know. Familiarity breeds shortcuts. The more you practice, and the more you look over the practice tests you take, the better you’ll become at finding shortcuts.
  • Be on the lookout. Be aware that there are shortcuts out there just waiting to be found. If you can invest a second to survey the question and think about a faster way, you’ll be well served.
This is not to say that you should go into every question searching for a shortcut. A shortcut won’t always exist. If you’re on some blind quest for a shortcut, it might end up taking longer than the obvious long route to solving the problem.
Shortcuts are more common on SAT questions that cover particular SAT math. As we teach you the math you need to rock the SAT, we also point out the shortcuts you need to really rock the SAT Math.
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