How to Get a Perfect 800 on the SAT Math Test
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- Overview of the SAT Math Test
- How Will the SAT Affect My College Chances?
- How is the SAT Math Test Scored?
- How to Get a Perfect 800
- Free Study Resources for the Math SAT
Though some schools are moving away from standardized testing, the SAT is still one of the most popular in the country. Many schools will take your SAT score into account during the admissions process, and a high score can help your chances if your GPA isn’t where you want it to be. Standardized testing can be stressful, especially when you don’t feel strong in a subject. But, you don’t need to be afraid! Follow the tips below, and you will be on your way to earning a score to be proud of. Here’s how to get 800 on the Math SAT.
Overview of the SAT Math Test
Before you can understand how to get 800 on the SAT in Math, you need to understand the test itself. The test is 58 mainly multiple-choice questions, with 80 minutes to complete them. There are 13 grid-in questions, which require you to answer in a free-response format. It is divided into two, the first being Math Test- Calculator and the second being Math Test- No Calculator. The first contains 30 multiple-choice questions and 8 free-response questions and takes 55 minutes. The latter has 20 questions, 15 being multiple-choice and 5 free-response, with 25 minutes to complete this section. Make sure as you are taking the test that you pace yourself, so you don’t feel overwhelmed.
The skills assessed are divided into three sections: Heart of Algebra, Problem Solving and Data Analysis, and Passport to Advanced Math. If you’re looking for how to get an 800 on the Math SAT, these skills are where to start. In the Heart of Algebra section, you will focus on equations, systems, and the relationships between the two. In the Problem Solving and Data Analysis section, you will need to be able to apply ratios, percentages, and proportional reasoning to problems. Finally, in the Passport to Advanced Math section, you will need an understanding of the complex equations and functions typical of STEM careers. For more information about these sections, free response answers, and more, go to The Ultimate Guide to the New SAT Math Test.
How Will the SAT Affect My College Chances?
Since top schools get a flood of applicants every year, standardized test scores are a way to narrow down their decisions. The SAT is used as a screener, meaning that your score is taken into account before any other information about you. Colleges want to see that you are able to handle college-level courses, and your score, along with GPA and class rank, is how they do that. That being said, don’t freak out! We can help! Our FREE chancing engine takes into account multiple factors, including your SAT score, GPA, and extracurriculars. To take advantage of this awesome resource, all you need to do is make a free account! At most big schools, your SAT score, along with these other factors, makes up your score on the academic index (AI). In order to pass through to the next round of admissions, you must earn a certain AI score, and unfortunately, many colleges won’t tell you what that score is. While your AI isn’t the only thing that gets you into the school, it is the first thing that can keep you out.
That said, don’t spend too much time fretting over your score. The more stressed you are, the harder it will be to do your best! While your score is important, and you should definitely take the test seriously, it does not define you as a student, and you can take it again if you need to!
How is the SAT Math Test Scored?
Your SAT is scored on a scale for 400-1600. It’s a little confusing, so we’re going to break it down here:
- Not all versions of the SAT are the same. This is taken into account in scoring, rather than just raw scores.
- Mathematics is scored on a scale of 200-800. It is then added to your Evidence-Based Reading and Writing scores for your overall total.
- Within Mathematics there is a subsection, also called Mathematics. It is scored between 10-40.
- Within that subsection there are the three content areas we mentioned earlier, each scored between 1-15: Heart of Algebra, Problem Solving and Data Analysis, and Passport to Advanced Math.
The SAT also offers percentile rankings. Through these, you are able to see how your scores in each category measure relative to your peers. For every 100 students taking the SAT “X” scored lower than you. This means that “X” is your percentile ranking. You can compare your score and percentiles to the schools you want to be admitted to.
How to Get a Perfect 800
As we mentioned before, the Math SAT is scored between 200 and 800. For most SAT administrations, you cannot miss any questions if you are shooting for that 800. It’s doable! For schools like Harvard, Princeton, MIT, Caltech, and Carnegie Mellon, at least 25% of students scored an 800 on the Math SAT. You can too!
Like I said earlier, all SAT tests are not the same. Some tests are harder than others, and on those hard tests, you may be able to miss one question and still get an 800. However, in most cases, you will not be able to miss any questions.
There is no easy way to score an 800 on the Math SAT. It takes hard work and dedication. But, here are some strategies you can use to get there.
1. Stay Calm
This is the most important tip, and the one most students fail to utilize. Of course, the test is important. You are shooting for a perfect raw score to get that 800. But, you can’t let that trip you up.
If you need to skip a question if you need to skip two questions, do it! Continue on to problems you can solve more easily, and then come back. There is no need to psych yourself out trying to solve hard problems, only to not have time for the easy ones! Stay calm, complete the problems you know, and then come back. They’ll be there waiting for you.
2. Practice, Practice, Practice.
We recommend that all students begin with a formative assessment. If you haven’t taken an SAT yet, we recommend the free College Board Official Practice SAT Test. If you have taken the SAT before, use your score sheet as a guide. After using one or both of these materials, you’ll have your starting point. From here, you can identify your strengths and weaknesses, so you don’t spend too much time studying concepts you already know well. In previous years, over 50% of the SAT math content has consisted of:
- Single-variable equations
- Defining and interpreting linear functions
- Ratios and proportions
- Solving systems of linear equations
- Manipulating polynomials
- Scatter plots and graphs
- Solving quadratic equations
- Coordinating geometry of nonlinear functions
- Exponential functions
While these are the most common concepts and should definitely be focused on, you’re trying to earn an 800. You have to try your best not to make any mistakes. So, you must also test yourself on the less commonly tested areas, like:
- Trigonometry and radians
- Absolute value
- Complex numbers
- Experimental interpretation
- Lines and angles
- Solid geometry
- Systems of equations with nonlinear equations
- Function notation
Because you need to have a wide breadth of knowledge, you should start studying early. I know you don’t want to study now for a test you’re going to take in three months. But, if you’re serious about earning that 800, you need to. You can’t overload yourself with these concepts weeks or even a month before the test. That will only stress you out! There are many resources online for you to practice these skills, including the Practice SAT linked above, and Khan Academy.
3. Work Smarter
It sounds great to say “I studied for the SAT for three hours today, and I made perfect scores on my practice tests!” But, were you practicing concepts you need help with or ones you already know? While it’s great to check yourself, it’s more important to work on concepts you’re having trouble with.
When it comes to multiple-choice questions, don’t be afraid to work backward, It’s not cheating! In some cases, it will be quicker and easier for you to plug answers into the problem, rather than fully working the problem out. If you can do this, it’s a great way to cut down on your time. That way, you can focus on the free response and questions you may have trouble with.
4. Familiarize Yourself with Your Resources
Psss… guess what?
The Math SAT allows you to have references during the test! You read that right- a reference sheet is included at the beginning of every test booklet! You can wipe some of the sweat off your brow now. You know what’s even better than that? The reference sheet is already available to you online!
Make sure you are comfortable with the reference sheet before the test. Don’t spend your testing time scouring it, you should already know what’s on there! Use it while working on your practice tests. Don’t add anything to it, only use what will be available to you on test day. Learn how you can use the equations and diagrams to help you. Practice plugging your answers into those equations, even when you have word problems. Do your best to memorize these reference equations, as well as things that may not be on the sheet. You should know how to calculate slope, some of the common right triangles, and formulas for volume and surface area.
One of your most important resources is your calculator. Make sure you know it well! Try not to use an unfamiliar calculator on test day. Still, do not use your calculator as a crutch, since there is a no-calculator portion. Use it where you can to save time and check yourself, but make sure you know the way to solve each problem without it.
5. Try to Take Your Time, and Don’t Be Careless
Hopefully, by the time you are taking the test, you feel comfortable enough with your knowledge and practice to go in cool, calm, and collected. You know your resources. You’ve practiced common and less common concepts. You’ll have plenty of time. Breathe, and solve.
If you are spending thirty seconds on a problem and are clueless, skip it. You can come back to it later, and go ahead and complete more problems than you know. Rack up as many raw points as you can, then come back for the more difficult questions.
If you find yourself making careless mistakes, slow down for a minute. Think about what you need to solve.
- Double-check that you have entered the information in your calculator correctly.
- Write down the value (ft,. mi,. sq.mi., etc,) that you are solving for.
- Underline exactly what you are supposed to be solving for. Especially in tricky word problems, pulling your attention to the most important parts is crucial.
My favorite thing to do when taking a standardized test is to answer the questions in the test booklet first, then bubble when complete. If you’re afraid you won’t finish in time, don’t do this! However, if you’re comfortable with your time limits, bubbling later and keeping your brain in math mode the entire time is so helpful! It also helps to cut down on careless bubbling mistakes, increasing your chances of a perfect score.
Free Study Resources for the Math SAT
There are hundreds, if not thousands of free tests and resources online.
- The CollegeBoard provides sample questions and a daily practice app.
- Khan Academy, CollegeBoard’s official study partner, offers an abundance of SAT content and strategy for the Math SAT.
- At CollegeVine, we have a complete breakdown of the entire test, as well as other study resources and our chancing engine!