Summary of math concepts (no calc section) on SAT Practice Test #1, New Format

There have been many anxious inquiries about the topics covered on the new SAT, especially the non-calculator math section.

Typical of the ETS writers, there are still plenty of fractions to simplify on this test.  There is also heavy emphasis on understanding how functions work and on systems of equations.

The following is a list of categories topics in the non-calculator section of practice test 1:

  1. substitution
  2. adding/subtracting complex numbers
  3. multi-variable word problems- how to assign the variables correctly
  4. function word problems- how to compose a function
  5. simplifying polynomials via addition/subtraction of like terms
  6. simplifying fractions with polynomials
  7. systems of equations
  8. how to predict points when given a point and a slope
  9. rules of combining like bases and their exponents
  10. equating corresponding coefficients
  11. solutions to single variable quadratic equations
  12. similar triangle ratios
  14. simplifying radicals

This shows a new emphasis on algebra II/trig/pre-calc topics.

Download the new SAT practices from the Khan Academy site.  Here are the answers.

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A GRE Vocab List- Straight from an ETS GRE Test

Those of you preparing strategies for the text completion and sentence equivalency questions on the Verbal sections of the GRE must already know that vocabulary study is essential.  Attached is a list of vocab words from the ETS official study guide’s DVD GRE practice test.  GRE words (Word file)

Preparing index cards yourself is better than studying pre-made ones.  Here’s a video on my recommended card preparation method: Index Cards

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GRE prep book review: Official GRE Quantitative Reasoning Practice Questions

ets quant bookBefore I write about this book, I want to stress that it is essential to practice taking the GRE via computer.  You can download the software here.


The 340 page QR practice book is the only math book of its kind by the test writers, ETS.  The introduction offers an overview of the test questions.  There are helpful strategies in the “Test Content”chapter.  It lists tips such as “translate word problems into algebra”, “process of elimination”, “connect to what you know.”

Chapters 3 through 7 offer math practice by type: arithmetic, algebra, geometry, data analysis, then mixed review.  Each of these chapters ends with answers and explanations.  The numbers of problems vary per chapter: 17 in one, 26 in another.

Who would benefit?

This book would be helpful to anyone’s GRE Quant prep.  One should work through it just to know where one stands; these are, after all, real ETS questions, unlike those by test prep companies.  This book is not enough to support a person struggling with math, however.  If one worked on the question with fractions raised to negative exponents in the mixed practice set and got it wrong, one gets a two-line answer that makes use of exponent rules one should already know.  However, those that had no idea what to do with fractions raised to negative exponents are in need of a more intensive prep book that has pages devoted to lessons on math rules.  Perhaps that person would not be sure what to do with other types of similar problems: integers raised to negative exponents, fractions raised to positive exponents, etc…  For that kind of support, I would recommend a test prep company’s book, like those of Manhattan Prep, Princeton Review or Kaplan.

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Video demonstrations of medium math solutions from test 10 in the College Board guide

The March test is in just a few days.  Here are some video demonstrations of medium math problems from test 10 in the College Board guide.  They involve probability, geometry, lines and absolute value.

p. 916 # 4

p. 916 #5

p. 917 #8

p. 917 #9

Good luck on Saturday!  Bring an eraser, pencil sharpener, pencils, charged calcuator, your ticket, ID, snacks and a water!

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Question from a student: how should I work on the four ACT reading passages?

If this is your first practice test, read the passages to get a feel for them.  Then you should try this strategy:

Divide your plan into into non-fiction and fiction/humanities-memoir strategies. The first passage is always fiction, so you will read the passage until you understand the conflict, then go right to the questions.

The last three passages are nonfiction: social studies, humanities and science. You can skip the reading and go right to the questions. The only exception is when the humanities is a memoir- then you treat it like fiction.

This skipping method will help you finish each passage within 8.5 minutes and still give you time to go back and confirm your answers!

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A successful “morning of” preparation to take the Dec 6 SAT

early morning

Yesterday I woke up around 6:15 to start my SAT morning.  I made coffee, grabbed a water, two pieces of chocolate, two Kind bars and half a bagel, and packed those up in my baggalini bag.  I did about five minutes of jumping jacks and running-in-place.  I chose to eat a bowl of chicken-noodle soup in order to get the nutrition without weighing down my digestive system.

I am glad I left extra early: 7:15 for a 7:45 deadline to arrive.  I missed the turn for the school and parked in the most completely inconvenient part of the parking lot for the test location.  I had to work through a byzantine stretch of silent dimly-lit corridors with zero signs posted until I heard the din of teenagers crowded in the main entrance.  Next time, I’ll definitely check out the location ahead of time!

The staff was well-organized and seated us quickly.  My proctor put up a digital timer, so the digital watch with silent timer that I had diligently researched was completely unnecessary.  He allowed the five minute break after every two sections, although he cut it short if he saw everyone was back in the room.  During my breaks I used the restroom, drank a lot of water, sipped coffee, and ate either parts of a Kind bar or chocolate.

I felt physically and mentally strong during the entire test, so I would definitely repeat this morning prep in the future!

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Save Time and Eliminate Possibilities with These Four SAT Math Grid-In Tips

scantronMath is the toughest part of the perfect SAT score goal for me.  The fact is (and you can check this with the scoring guides at the end of the first four tests in the blue book) there is almost no room for error or blanks.  This is in contrast to the Critical Reading where you can leave three blank and still score an 800!

The tips below are specifically about the 18-question math section(s) on the SAT.  Hopefully you’ve noticed that this section is quite different in appearance than the 16 and 20-question sections.  After question 8, it has a grid-in section with no multi-choice answers!

Did you also realize that the order of difficulty is different?  …that there can be no negative answers? … that you must bubble in the answer, but you don’t have to write it in the squares?  … that you should never try to fill-in a mixed number?

Let’s start with the order of difficulty.  This 18-question section doesn’t go from easy to hard in a straight shot like the other sections; it goes easy to hard from 1-8, then easy to hard from 9-18.  What does that mean for you?  That means if number 7 or 8 is giving you the sweats, you should choose to collect easier points (they are all worth the same, you know!) by starting number 9 in the grid-in and come back to those later.

The second point is simple: there is no option to bubble-in a negative sign, so the answer will NEVER be negative!

The third point is for those of you that are always worried about time- and who isn’t?  If you are confident that you don’t need to handwrite the numbers in order to correctly bubble them in, then don’t handwrite them.  It’s only a suggestion to do so, not a requirement.  The writers don’t want to be blamed because you mis-bubbled 1/3 as 1/(space)3 by accident.

Finally, always bubble in the improper forms of fractions instead of their mixed numeral forms (if they are top-heavy).  In other words, don’t try to bubble 53/4 for “five and three-fourths”.  It will be read as “fifty-three fourths”.  Instead, bubble in the improper version: 23/4.

Remember to work with focus and speed on the math, and make sure to time yourself as you practice the blue book tests.  Best of luck on next Saturday’s test!

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