Rock The SAT Math Test: The Most Commonly Tested Concepts
In this part, I want to delve into what this SAT Math test really focuses on. If we can find what the most commonly tested concepts are, we can make our studying and prep work that much more efficient and productive.
Here’s what we did:
- We went through the Math Sections of all 4 released tests from College Board and wrote down which concept was being tested for each and every question.
- We came up with a total of 26 concepts that showed up repeatedly across the 4 tests, which totaled to 232 questions.
- We tallied up all the questions according to the concept they tested.
- We calculated the frequency by dividing the number of times a concept showed up across the 4 tests by the total number of questions we looked at (232).
Here are the results:
The Most Commonly Tested Concepts
This table gives us some interesting stats to think about.
But first, I just want to mention that all of this should be taken with a grain of salt for the following reasons:
- This data is only based off of 4 College Board tests – so the sample isn’t really that large, which makes our results less accurate.
- Just because I say “68% of the tested concepts will be from the first 11 concepts” doesn’t mean that that is exactly what you will see on the real thing. It is simply an analysis of what we found to be the case with the 4 released tests from College Board.
- All the percentages are from these 4 released College Board Tests and we are assuming that College Board will test in a similar manner on the real administered tests. So, we are trying to make predictions based off of these stats – nothing stated here is a 100% for sure thing.
- There were a few questions for which it seemed like they were testing a combination of concepts, rather than just one concept explicitly. For this type of question, we used our judgement to decide which concept it was ‘most importantly’ testing.
The first 11 of the most commonly tested concepts:
- The first 11 concepts make up 68% of the questions – which means that for any given math test of 58 questions, 40 of those questions would test these concepts.
- The last 15 concepts only make up 31% of the questions – which means that for any given math of 58 questions, 18 of those questions would test these concepts.
- Out of the first 11 concepts, 6 of the concepts are Heart of Algebra concepts (blue), accounting for 32% or about 1/3 of all tested concepts.
- Out of the first 11 concepts, 3 of the concepts are Problem Solving and Data Analysis concepts (green), accounting for 22% of all tested concepts.
- Out of the first 11 concepts, 2 of the concepts are Passport to Advanced Math concepts (yellow), accounting for 14% of all tested concepts.
The next 7 of the most commonly tested concepts:
I didn’t want to include Function Notation, however, I felt that this concept is sooooo easy, compared to the last 8 concepts, that I might as well include it with this group. So, this next chunk of concepts comprises 20% of tested concepts.
- Questions about circles, part of the Additional Topics category, appear to be the most tested of the Additional Topics concepts.
- 5 of these concepts are from Passport to Advanced Math (yellow), accounting for 14% of all tested concepts.
- Statistics only makes up 3% of all tested concepts.
The last 8 of the most commonly tested concepts:
- 5 of the concepts are from the Additional Topics (red) category.
- 3 of the concepts are from Problem Solving and Data Analysis (green).
- Just 6 Heart of Algebra concepts account for 32% of all tested concepts.
- Combined from above, just 4 Problem Solving and Data Analysis concepts make up 25% of all tested concepts.
- Combined from above, just 7 Passport to Advanced Math concepts make up 28% of all tested concepts.
- 18 concepts make up 88% of all tested concepts. This is equal to about 51 questions out of 58. This gives a raw score of about 690 according to the raw score conversion tables made available by College Board.
- 17 of these concepts make up 85% of all tested concepts. This is equal to about 49 questions out of 58.
- The 11 most common concepts make up 68% of all tested concepts. This is equal to about 40 questions out of 58. This gives a raw score of about 610 according to the raw score conversion tables made available by College Board.
So, what does all of this mean? How can it help you? Well, it really depends on what your specific situation and goals are. If you are in a time crunch, for example, then it might be wise to study the 11 most commonly tested concepts, so, that you can still get a score around 600. And if you have a bit more time, then study the first 18 concepts so that you have a chance at a 700. However, if you do have a lot of time on your hands, then it would be wise to begin with the concepts outlined in this analysis of the 4 released CollegeBoard tests. This would allow you to start doing really well on your practice tests, early in your prep, giving you a huge confidence and motivation boost. Then, you can focus on the rarer concepts, common mistakes, and harder material to go from 700 to 800.
Another thing to point out is that out of all of the Additional Topics concepts, it seems that concepts related to circles are the most important. So, if you really hate geometry and don’t want to bother with triangles and such, at the very least, you should study up circles.
In Heart of Algebra, we were quite surprised to see some topics so heavily tested. For example, systems of linear equations. Each of the 4 tests from College Board had anywhere between 2 to 6 questions on just this concept. Most of the time they gave you both equations, but rarely they asked you to come up with the equations also. Writing linear algebraic equations from word problems is also a big one. The next few heavily tested concepts were ratios & proportions, polynomials, quadratics, and being able to read graphs and tables for things such as trends, max/min points, and specific values. So, without a doubt, do not go into the test without being comfortable with these things.
In terms of difficulty of questions, it seemed that, generally, the difficulty increased as you got further along in the math section. Section 4 (the calculator portion) had more difficult questions than Section 3. However, a lot of the questions in Section 4 could easily be solved without using a calculator. So, depending on how much you rely on your calculator, you may or may not use it much for section 4.
Overall, I believe that the SAT Math test is fair and maybe even easier than the old SAT math. There are no tricks and strangely worded questions. You’ve learned the majority of these concepts in school – mainly Grade 11 Functions. And the questions are exactly as you’ve seen them in school also. I think this familiarity of these questions will help decrease anxiety for many students. If you have done well in math at school, then you will definitely do well on this SAT Math test. If you haven’t, then you’ll have to work a little harder to review all the concepts that you’re weak in and show colleges that you have improved in math by doing well on the SAT Math test.
I hope that these tables and analysis have given you a little more insight into the SAT Math test, making it a little more predictable and less scary. If you find that you are lacking in certain skills, then there are great resources like Khan Academy to help with your review. Our main goal is to use these findings to create the best practice tests we can for students. As College Board releases more tests and we can glean more information from student experiences, our tests will get better and better going into the future. We are going to release our first book of practice tests in early August.
The Perfect Book To Complement You’re Preparation
Here is the Table of Contents for the book:
- About the SAT Math Test
- Most Commonly Tested Topics
- Methods and Strategies
- How to Get a 500+ Score
- How to Get a 600+ Score
- How to Get a 700+ Score
- How to Get a Perfect 800 Score
- Tests 1 – 6
- Full Solutions + Explanations
- Total Pages: 270