Common SAT Math Mistakes
17 Common SAT Math Mistakes You Probably Are Committing and How to Fix them
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The math section can be challenging, but don’t worry!
The good news? This is easier to pull off than you think.
How come? Many test takers make careless mistakes that can be easily fixed. With a few tweaks here and there, you will stand a good chance of CRUSHING the test. The makers of the SAT loves to be tricky, and you need to watch out for some of these pitfalls.
Common Mistake #1
Fail to Double Check
Is there really enough time to double check all your answers? We can safely say the answer is yes.
The SAT is gives you the time to double check and process your answers. Sure, it may not feel like it but this is the truth.
Always make sure to check your answers. You might be wondering what we mean by this. You should not go with your first guess. The SAT makers often make answers that seem to be true, but are, in fact, incorrect. Check all the answers, think about why they are wrong or correct.
Sometimes it is easier to cancel out the wrong answers, then finding the correct one.
Common Mistake #2
You get overwhelmed by the question
The SAT can sometimes give you too much info. You have to find what you need and remove the excess.
You can get better at these questions by:
a) Reading closely
b) Clearly identifying the question and the values
c) Allowing yourself time to understand the question
Read the details closely and mark or circle parts of the description as needed. When you understand the question properly, you will definitely find the right answer!
Common Mistake #3
You develop bad habits
If you race through the question, then don’t be surprised if you make mistakes.
Habits matter. It’s normal to feel anxious as the timer counts down. Develop the right habits to properly manage your time and boost your attention to detail.
You don’t need superpowers or super ninja skills.
Reading carefully, entering numbers into your calculator with care or double checking are good habits Learn the right way to approach the problems, and make it a habit.
You need to use what your learn and make second nature.
Common Mistake #4
You run out of time..
Bad pacing can lead to test disaster. If you spend too much time on some questions, you might not be able to answer the rest of the questions. You might even be tempted to guess and this can have catastrophic consequences for your final score.
Work around this common mistake by taking Math section practice tests several times. Keep going over them. Do at least one test daily. Give yourself enough lead time and you’ll be able to read and knock out questions smoothly and efficiently. It all boils down to teaching yourself proper pacing and avoiding getting intimidated by the clock’s countdown.
Common Mistake #5
You refuse to take practice tests seriously enough.
It’s natural for SAT test takers to take practice exams less seriously than ‘the real thing.’ After all, they are busy and have other stuff to do.
The problem is, if you don’t place proper importance on practice tests and refuse to operate with a high enough sense of urgency level, you run the risk of developing a toxic attitude about your test.
Don’t be surprised if you find yourself telling yourself (after every disappointing practice exam result), “this is just practice, I’ll turn on the juice for the REAL TEST!’
Don’t fall for this trap. If you don’t turn on the juice now as you take practice exams, you might not have built enough competence and proficiency for you to CRUSH the real deal!
Common Mistake #6
Refusing to draw diagrams clearly enough.
Some questions can only be answered if you draw diagrams. Don’t think that rushing through a small, incomplete, or badly-developed diagram would help you. In fact, the result you get might be just as bad if you hadn’t drawn one at all!
If you are going to be using diagrams to guide you to the right answer, take the time to make it clear enough for you to understand. Make sure it is the right scale and it all makes sense to you.
Common Mistake #7
Allowing yourself to be intimidated by long question forms and jumping to the ‘stuff that matters’.
If you rush reading through a long form question, you are probably leaving something out. This might be an important enough detail that might make it impossible for you to pick out the right answer choice.
Actually read the long questions. You don’t have to memorize each line. Just make sure you clearly understand them.
Common Mistake #8
You freak out at question formats you haven’t seen before.
Sometimes the SAT would ask a familiar math question in a weird unexpected way. Maybe you’d get a story or you get a table with blank spots. Whatever form it takes, you get so thrown off by the question format that you forget that it is still a math question.
The solution? Keep taking SAT math tests to avoid getting freaked out by unexpected formats. Learn to break these formats down into standard basic equation forms you’re more familiar with. You’ll quickly discover that these ‘weird’ questions aren’t all that weird at all.
Common Mistake #9
Fail to write down steps you process with a calculator.
If you just quickly input numbers into your calculator as you go through steps, it would be harder for you to backtrack if you make a mistake latter in the process. You end up burning precious time. You will also have a tough time finding your mistake, since you did not write everything down.
Document everything by quickly jotting down each step.
Common Mistake #10
Locking in an answer too quickly.
After doing the necessary work and finding the ‘right answer’, make it a habit to read the question again. You might have missed an important detail or understood the question wrong and picked the wrong answer choice.
Common Mistake #11
You are weak on functions.
Many students are completely unfamiliar with functions. Maybe they skipped over them in Algebra class. Sadly, these show up enough times in the SAT’s Math portion that you really have no excuse in choosing to ignore functions.
Hoping and wishing certain types of questions don’t appear has never been a winning strategy.
Brush up on functions and avoid getting that deer caught in headlights look come test time.
Common Mistake #12
If asked to select among answer choices by “Which of the following…” size up all answers.
If you get a “Which of the following…” type of question, don’t just jump on the first option that seems like the right answer.
Actually REASON through each answer choice quickly, explain to yourself why that option is the wrong one. Everything must make sense to you so you can find a better answer instead of just relying on your initial hunch.
Common Mistake #13
Blanking out on formulas.
While the SAT will include some of the most common formulas, it doesn’t list out all the formulas you need to answer all questions given to you.
Make it a point to research all the formulas that historically show up on the SAT. Memorize these using flashcards and test questions.
Common Mistake #14
You try to ‘save time’ by doing mostly number crunching
Stop doing this! When you refuse to write down each line of the problem as you make sense of it and solve it, you end up wasting time when your ‘mental calculation’ doesn’t match any of the answer choices.
Also, mental problem solving leaves you vulnerable to deceptively attractive answers that take advantage of your intuition. These are intentionally included by the test makers to trip you up because these are often mental calculation answers.
Common Mistake #15
You misunderstand the question.
SAT test makers often play with words and if you are in a rush, you miss out on the differences in phrasing. This leads to devastating results.
For example: “increased by (X)” is very different from “increased by a factor of (X)”
Look for the actual meaning. Don’t ‘plug in’ your perceived meaning into the question.
Common Mistake #16
Failing to write out all your steps.
If you don’t write down each step, you might miss one or make a bad assumption and end up with the wrong answer. Lay out each step and do the math. This helps you think more clearly and prevents you from getting ahead of yourself.
Common Mistake #17
You entered numbers too quickly into your calculator.
As powerful as your calculator may be, it can’t read your mind. If you meant to enter in other numbers or you screw up entering one digit, your calculator will come up with the wrong answer.
Usually, your calculator’s answer will not match any of the answer options and you will quickly realize you inputted the wrong numbers.
No biggie? Think again. You have just wasted time calculating the answer and would have to start over again.
By carefully and slowly entering numbers into your calculator, you can save a tremendous amount of time. You may save enough time that you’ll be able to answer all questions or even review your answers.
Keep the 17 common SAT Math section mistakes above in mind so you can 1) spot them in your own work patterns 2) work around them and 3) avoid getting stressed. Ultimately, how well you do on the SAT depends on whether you allow yourself to get stressed. Achieve the right mindset through constant practice. Gain the confidence you need to CRUSH both the test and your competition!