It’s pretty much inevitable that at some point during your SAT, you’re going to look at a problem and think, “Nope. Not happening.”
Or maybe it will be a few moments after, which can be even more frustrating—you work through what seems like the best way to attack a problem, but then after a good minute or so of work you’re still nowhere near an answer and don’t know what you’re even trying to do anymore.
What you do at that point is key, because the SAT is timed, after all. Every moment you spend looking blankly at a question is a moment gone to waste.
That’s part of why SAT math isn’t really like the rest of the math you do in school. One of the most important skills in the math section is knowing when to guess. That’s one thing you don’t really get from math class.
The principle is pretty simple: if you’re just starting to answer a question and you don’t know what to do, spend ~15 seconds exploring (don’t worry too much about the exact time, but realize this step has to be quick). Rework any equations you have. Label any measurements of a figure that you can infer. Write out the first elements in a series or look for other patterns.
And if, after exploring, you don’t know what to do next, don’t go back to square one and re-live your frustration. Instead, look first at whether there are any answer choices you can definitely rule out. Then circle the question in your test book, select a your best guess the answer sheet (this is why ruling out any answer choices you can is so important), and move on to the next question. Remember that every question in a section is worth the same, so it’s key that you give yourself enough time to get right every question that you can get right. Only after you’ve done that should you resume chewing your pencil and loathing that roadblock question.
As a side note, though, if you find yourself getting stuck on SAT math questions often but, at the same time, really think you know all the material that you need to for the test, then you might want to take a stab at the ACT instead. There’s a huge overlap between the tests, but there’s also a pretty subtle difference in SAT vs ACT math: the ACT tends to be a little bit more straightforward, so knowing the material is enough to answer most questions—it’s less often that you need to figure out subtle twists like what the SAT might throw at you.
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