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:
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:
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
the area of this square =
Area of a circle
so the area of this circle must
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
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
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
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.