Acing the New SAT Math (Digital SAT)

Getting a great SAT score takes planning and commitment. The test is not easy, and you might have to give up some fun activities during the months that you are studying, but the rewards are worth it. Attending your dream school will affect the rest of your life! In this article, you will discover math tips to make your math prep as painless as possible. You’ll read study tips for acing the new SAT Math section, which will help you be at your best on test day.

Acing the Digital SAT Math

Here are the topics we’ll cover:

Let’s begin with the basics: getting to know the structure and format of the digital SAT and the Math section in particular.

Tip #1: Know the Facts About the Digital SAT

The SAT has changed significantly in its new digital format. The test is shorter than its predecessor: 2 hours and 14 minutes, down from 3 hours and 15 minutes. You can now use a calculator (online or your own) for both Math modules. The College Board, the makers of the SAT, also overhauled the Reading and Writing section. Finally, the exam is now computer-adaptive.

Overview of the Digital SAT

The digital SAT, often referred to as dSAT, has two main sections:

  • The Reading and Writing section consists of 2 modules, each of which contains 27 questions and takes 32 minutes to complete. Passages are shorter than passages on the old SAT, and each passage now has only one question. Similar to the old SAT, you will answer questions on usage, grammar, and punctuation.
  • The Math section also consists of 2 modules, each of which contains 22 questions and takes 35 minutes to complete. Multiple-choice questions comprise about 75% of the Math section, and each question has 4 answer choices. You will also encounter student-produced response questions, which give no answer choices; you will type in your answer. If you don’t wish to use your own calculator, you may use an online Desmos graphing calculator.

What Does It Mean that the SAT Is Section-Adaptive?

A section-adaptive test responds to the performance of each student. In other words, no two students will take exactly the same SAT. This feature of the digital SAT allows the test-makers to reduce the number of questions while still accurately measuring the ability of each student. Let’s look at how section adaptivity works, using the Math section as an example.

In Math Module 1, you answer a mixture of easy, medium, and hard questions. After you finish Module 1, the computer scores your responses. If you score about 60% or better, Module 2 will give you harder questions, and answering these questions correctly will give you more points. On the other hand, if your Module 1 score is less than 60%, Module 2 will present easier questions, but correct answers won’t be worth as much.

So, you can see that earning a great score on the first module is extremely important!


It’s important to know the facts about the digital SAT.

Next, let’s review the math concepts you can expect to see on the SAT.

Tip #2: Know Which Math Topics Are on the SAT

To prepare effectively, you must know which topics are on the digital SAT. This allows you to focus your time and attention on studying the right things. The College Board has identified 4 main topic areas that appear on the Math section. We have added subtopics to those 4 main topics:

  • Algebra – linear equations, linear functions, systems of linear equations, inequalities, linear word problems
  • Advanced Math – function notation, functions, quadratic functions (parabolas), factoring and FOILing, higher-order polynomials, exponents, square root (radicals) equations, absolute value, exponential functions, exponential growth and linear growth, systems of equations
  • Problem-Solving and Data Analysis – percentages, rates, ratios, unit conversion, proportions, measures of center, charts and graphs, probability, scatterplots, statistical inference, experiments and observational studies
  • Geometry and Trigonometry – Pythagorean theorem, area, volume, lines, angles, triangles, circles, right triangles, trigonometry

This is not an all-inclusive list, but it gives you a general idea of the breadth of topics that you can expect to see on the SAT.


Each of the 4 main SAT Math topic areas contains several subtopics.

Let’s now discuss an important step in beginning your SAT study.

Tip #3: Take a Practice Exam to Establish Your Baseline Score

You can download 4 free practice exams from the website of the College Board. These are paper-and-pencil tests that provide a total of 216 SAT Math questions, which you can use as your test bank. The practice exams also include detailed answer explanations 

After you create your student account at the College Board website, you should also download Bluebook, the digital SAT testing platform, which has 4 adaptive SAT practice tests available for your use. For your first practice test, choose any one of the 8 free practice tests.

On your practice test, you want to replicate testing conditions as much as possible:

  • take the test in a quiet location
  • allow yourself at least 2.5 hours, including the 10-minute break between the Reading and Writing section and the Math section
  • have scratch paper and your calculator available
  • turn off your phone and avoid any distractions


Make taking your practice exam as realistic a process as possible.

Keep in mind that your goal is to get a baseline score. So, don’t stress while you take the practice test. Remember, you are just getting used to SAT questions, and many of the questions you see may involve skills that you need to sharpen before test day. After you get your baseline score, compare it to your target score. This comparison will give you an idea of how much time and effort you will need to put into your preparation.


Don’t worry about your score on your first practice exam.

Now that you have a baseline score, let’s discuss how to choose the right SAT study materials for you.

Tip #4: Use the Best SAT Prep Materials

So, your first practice test is in the books! Now what? Well, now you’re ready to dive into your actual preparation. But to do so, you need some great study materials. There are many SAT prep books and online self-study courses on the market. It is a good idea to use a resource that will provide both the material you need to learn and the tools you need to make your study time as efficient as possible.

Look for a course that includes a study plan, a weekly schedule of activities, an error tracker, a formula sheet, and plenty of practice problems. Yes, you could do all these things yourself, but your job is to study, not to organize your studying. You have limited time available for preparing, so choose a resource that allows you to make the best use of your study time.


Search carefully for the best SAT prep resource.

Next, let’s discuss the ideal way to go about your SAT Math preparation.

Tip #5: Master One Topic at a Time

If you want to crush the SAT Math section, you need to be ready for anything and everything that could appear on the exam. The best way is by using topical studying.

Here’s the thing: having only a passing acquaintance with the material covered in the Math section of the SAT is not sufficient. You need a comprehensive mastery of the concepts that will be tested. Therefore, you should focus your attention on learning on a more specific and topical level.

For instance, you need to give each area of study—like arithmetic preparation, algebra preparation, parabola preparation, or statistics preparation—its own undivided attention. To put it another way, limit your attention to just one SAT Math subject at a time. You can learn precise mathematical hints and tactics relating to each individual math topic if you engage in such topical learning.

For instance, when you study problems involving percents, you will learn about percent-specific concepts, such as “percent of,” percent discount, and percent change, to name a few. Before you move to the next math topic in your study schedule, ensure that you are completely comfortable with any kind of percent question that the SAT could throw at you.


Use topical studying to ensure that you have studied and mastered each SAT math concept.

Tip #6: Practice, Practice, Practice!

Topical learning is a great way to learn SAT Math concepts. But learning is one thing; making sure that what you learned sticks is another! So, to ensure that you solidify your learning, you must perform topical SAT Math practice. In other words, after you learn a new topic, do lots of practice questions on just that topic until you’ve mastered it.

Don’t make the mistake that many students make. They think that reading the material and answering a few questions means that they are ready to answer any SAT question that they encounter. Yes, reading the material is important. But even more important is answering enough practice questions that, no matter what the SAT throws at you, you are ready!


Once you learn a math topic, engage in practice to validate your mastery.

Now that we understand how topical study and practice should work, let’s discuss the importance of memorization.

Tip #7: (Some) Memorization Is Mandatory

The digital SAT provides a SAT math formula sheet, which is actually quite useful albeit limited in scope. It gives area and volume formulas for geometric shapes, along with the ratios of special right triangles and the Pythagorean formula. Beyond those, you’re on your own to recall the many formulas that you need for success in SAT math.

It’s pretty much a requirement to memorize formulas such as the quadratic formula, the percent change formula, the midpoint formula, and the slope formula. In addition, there are shortcuts and stepwise procedures that you should memorize as well. A great way to memorize them is to use flashcards. Let’s discuss how.


It’s important to memorize many key concepts and formulas for SAT math.

Creating and Using SAT Math Flashcards

There is not a one-size-fits-all approach to making a deck of flashcards. You can create the cards manually, or you can use an app. You also don’t have to limit your flashcards to formulas. Instead, create a flashcard for anything that you think will be helpful for you.

Also, if you miss a practice question during your studying, create a flashcard of the solution or procedure. This helps you avoid making similar mistakes in the future. For example, let’s say you did not properly identify the maximum value of the parabola with the equation:

y = -x^2 + x + 6

You could make a flashcard that contains the steps for finding the maximum value when you see a quadratic equations:

  1. The vertex of a parabola is either a maximum or a minimum value.
  2. The negative coefficient of x^2 means the parabola opens downward, so the vertex represents a maximum value.
  3. To find the x-value of the vertex, use the formula -b / 2a.
  4. Plug the answer from step 3 into the equation to find the y-value. This y-value is also the maximum value of the parabola.

Thus, you can put on your flashcard the exact steps you need to follow to solve this problem type. Doing so will help you ensure that you correctly solve similar problems in the future.


Create a personalized deck of flashcards to help you memorize key concepts and formulas.

Next, let’s discuss the importance of revisiting topics you’ve already learned.

Tip #8: Review Is Key!

As we’ve discussed, topical learning and practice are crucial for mastering each SAT Math topic. However, as time passes and you learn more and more, keeping everything in your brain for quick recall may be challenging. Thus, you must incorporate weekly review sessions into your study plan.

One great way to review is to use your flashcards. Flashcards are great because they allow you to fit in study sessions even when you are not officially studying. You can use them while you’re waiting for the bus or in the waiting room at the doctor’s office.

Another great form of review is doing mixed problem sets on past topics. Let’s say it has been over a month since you last saw percentage and ratio problems. In that case, completing a 20-question quiz on those topics would be a good idea. The results from that quiz will clearly show you whether there are any knowledge gaps in those topics, and thus which areas you need to improve in. Revisiting previously studied topics helps limit the losses that might occur as you move through your study plan.


Doing mixed problem sets and reviewing flashcards are a great way to review previously learned topics as you move through your study plan.

Let’s now discuss how important it is to regularly study SAT Math material.

Tip #9: Study SAT Math Every Day

Here’s the thing about SAT studying: it can be grueling! It takes time away from your normal activities with friends and family. In the grand scheme of things, I understand why you may want to choose other aspects of your life over SAT studying. So it’s important to keep in mind that your dedication, motivation, and discipline will bring you either closer to or further away from your SAT goal.

So, to make sure you are always moving toward your goal, don’t let more than a day or two pass without studying SAT Math. Sure, I get it: if you study hard for a few weeks straight, then you may want to give yourself a cheat day. Just don’t let one day turn into two or three days! If you must, pull out your flashcards for a quick review session, even when you don’t feel like studying. Keeping your SAT prep front and center will ensure that you are making constant progress toward your SAT goal.

Keep your eyes on the prize! The time you spend studying to get a great SAT score is an investment that will pay big dividends for the rest of your life.


Even when you lack motivation, make sure to study every day.

Next, let’s discuss when to incorporate practice tests into your SAT study.

Tip #10: Take More Practice Tests Near the End of Your Prep

So, you did all the topical learning and practice we recommended, you studied your flashcards, and you kept up with your review. This is great news! But you have a final step to take. The final step of your SAT studying is to take the remaining practice exams to assess your overall progress and to prepare for the rigors of test day.

So, take the remaining 3 pencil-and-paper SAT practice exams. Since taking a practice exam is quite taxing, try to space the exams between 3 and 5 days apart. Also, try to take each exam when you are fresh and well-rested. These paper-and-pencil exams will help you see if you have studied effectively.

But also, you will want to take as many practice exams on the Bluebook app as possible. You need to familiarize yourself with taking the test on the actual testing platform. So, practice answering the questions, reading the time clock, using the online Desmos calculator, and entering answers to the student-produced response questions.

After you complete each practice exam, make sure you analyze any incorrect questions, as well as any questions you correctly guessed on. If you find any major knowledge gaps, review your prep materials to fill in those gaps.

Ideally, since you’ll have been studying hard, your scores on these practice tests will be close to your desired SAT score. So, after taking the practice exams, you should be ready to rock test day and put the SAT behind you!


Take the remaining SAT practice exams, including those on Bluebook, prior to test day.

Let’s wrap up by reviewing the SAT math study tips we’ve covered.

Acing SAT Math: In Summary

In this article, we’ve covered a lot of information and advice. Following every tip will help you get the best score possible on the SAT Math section. Let’s take a look at the 10 SAT Math tips that we presented:

  1. Know the Facts About the Digital SAT
  2. Know Which Math Topics Are on the SAT
  3. Take a Practice Exam to Establish Your Baseline Score
  4. Use the Best SAT Prep Materials
  5. Master One Topic at a Time
  6. Practice, Practice, Practice!
  7. (Some) Memorization Is Mandatory
  8. Review Is Key!
  9. Study SAT Math Every Day
  10. Take More Practice Tests Near the End of Your Prep

Frequently-Asked Questions (FAQ)

What Math Is on the New SAT?

In general, the same topics are on the new digital SAT as were on the old test, with one exception. The topic of imaginary and complex numbers is not on the exam. Thus, you can expect to see the topics that we outlined in Tip #2 in this article.

How Many Math Questions Are on the New SAT?

The Math section has 2 modules that each contain 22 questions, so you’ll answer 44 total SAT Math problems. You have 35 minutes to complete each module. Multiple-choice questions comprise about 75% of the Math section, and each question has 4 answer choices. You will also encounter student-produced response questions, which give no answer choices; you will type in your answer.

What Is a Good Math Score on the New SAT?

First, you should know that experts do not anticipate any changes to the score percentiles between the old SAT and the digital SAT. A good overall SAT score is generally considered to be at about the 75th percentile. In 2023, the College Board published data indicating that the overall score in the 75th percentile is 1200. Their data also show that a Math score of 600 is in the 75th percentile of Math scores.

How to Study for the New SAT Math?

As I discussed in this article, topical learning is the single best study strategy. When you use topical learning, you concentrate on one topic at a time. You live, eat, and breathe just that topic until you have mastered it. Only after you successfully answer lots of practice problems on that topic should you move to the next topic. Rinse and repeat. By the end of your topical studying, you will be ready to get a great SAT score!

How to Increase SAT Math Score?

There is no shortcut or magic formula for increasing your SAT Math score. If you read and follow the tips in this article, you will get off to a great start. Also, read this article containing tips you can use if you are motivated to get a perfect 800 score on the SAT Math section.

What’s Next?

By now, you know how important the SAT is for getting into a good school or competing for scholarships. We’ve provided 10 tips for getting a solid start to your SAT Math preparation, but finding the time to do adequate preparation can be a problem for many students. Read this article that gives you useful math tricks, tips, and strategies for studying for the SAT when you have a demanding schedule.

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