The Non-Calculator section contains twenty questions to answer in twenty-five minutes. This section covers algebra and graphing including: linear equations, systems, functions and inequalities; interpreting and solving quadratic equations, polynomials; interpreting linear, quadratic and exponential graphs. Success on SAT Math comes down to 3 important steps:

Reading the Question Closely: as obvious as it sounds, this is how most errors occur. It is crucial to underline key question words and ensure you answer what the question asks.

Write Out Your Work: mistakes in SAT Math working catch out both high-level and elementary mathematicians, so always write out each step of your working and double check your arithmetic as you go. Watch the negatives!

Use Techniques: the College Board is not testing how skilled a mathematician you are; they are testing how well you can apply lateral thinking and reasoning to maths questions. To this end, traditional maths methods are not the most efficient ways of answering the questions. A-List has developed proprietary maths techniques that circumvent traditional algebra and  help you find the correct answer quickly.

Let’s look at some examples:

If you have variables in a question (in this instance, X), you can use a technique called Plug-In.

Step 1 of Plug In: give the variable a number (e.g. x = 2)

Step 2 of Plug In: do the problem with that number

            If X = 2 then our fraction becomes = =

Step 3 of Plug In: match the number you get ( for X= 2.

       2 when X is 2. Incorrect


       2+4 = 6 when X is 2. Incorrect


       2 – = 2-  =  =   Incorrect


       2 + 1 – = 3 –  =  =   Correct!

Over 40% of the test can be solved using this plug-in technique. If we take the problem above: the variable is “X”. It does not matter what number “X” is as long as it remains constant throughout the equation.

Let us look at another example, this time using our “Backsolve” technique:

If a question contains the words, “value”, “what is”, or “which of”, you can utilise the backsolve technique, which involves reverse engineering the answer choices to help you.

We have the clue word “value” so know that we can use backsolve.

Step 1 of Backsolve: select the middle value answer e.g. C) 25, and make that the answer. So x = 25.

Step 2: work through the problem with that answer and see if it works.

            If x is 25, then  +  + 3 = 5 + 3 = 8

            Does that match the other side of the equation? The other side is , which is 8. Yes, it matches! Our answer is C.

Using techniques like plug-in and backsolve allows you to work through a great number of questions correctly.

We hope you have found these tips helpful. To see the biggest improvements, consider employing an expert tutor to help you. Go to our Meet Our Team page to discover our talented tutoring team!


How to Succeed on the SAT Math Non-Calculator Section
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