Demystifying the New SAT Essay Math Test

Many New SAT Math Test questions are designed to test how well students read and understand mathematical concepts that may be buried inside explanations, situations or examples. Wrong reading of a question inevitably leads to a wrong answer—and the College Board places those predictable wrong answers right there among the answer choices.

All well-written tests are designed to cause a certain percentage of students choose wrong answers—and the New SAT is a very well-written test! That means that it contains traps. Avoid trap answers with close reading of key words in math questions and by ignoring distractive or irrelevant information. Close reading of math questions is every bit as important as close reading of reading or writing questions.  Below are two examples of the kinds of questions found on the new SAT and methods to solve them quickly and easily.

New SAT Book

Practice Question 1:

Q: In a set of numbers: x2, x2+2, x2+4, x2+6, x2+8, what is the value of the difference between the median and the mean.

(A) 0
(B) 2
(C) 4
(D) it cannot be determined

Chyten Solution: A good strategy is to plug in a number for x, figure out both the median and mean, then subtract. A great strategy is to know that in a list of numbers with an odd number of equally spaced terms, the median and mean are exactly the same.  For example, in the set 1,2,3,4,5, both the median and mean are 3.  Thus, the answer is 0 for any value of x: (A).

Practice Question 2:

Q. In the standard (x, y) coordinate plane, if the distance between points (7, a) and (-a, 0) is 13 coordinate units, which of the following could be the value of a?

(A) -7
(B) -5
(C) 5
(D) 7

Chyten Solution: A good strategy to solve this question is to recall that the distance between two points is also the hypotenuse of a right triangle and to solve accordingly. A great strategy is to be on the lookout for Pythagorean triangles (3,4,5), (5,12,13), etc. The number 13 in the question is a clue.  As we often say at Chyten, there are no coincidences on the SAT. At this point, you could solve the question merely by looking at the answer choices to find either 5 or 12 (and doing a brief fact check). Yes, the correct answer, (C), is 5.

While there are other ways to solve these questions, those given above take the least time and give a student the greatest chance of reaching and correctly solving the greatest possible number of questions on the test.

For more information, contact Chyten at 800-428-TEST (8378)