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How to Become an SAT or ACT Math Whiz
By: Gen and Kelly Tanabe

Estimate whenever you can.

If you see that the answers vary widely, use rounded off numbers in your calculations. For example, you can round off 4,867 X 6,732 to 5,000 X 7,000, which would give you 35,000,000. By estimating, you can easily eliminate choices that are not close to 35 million such as 35,000 or 35 billion.

Beware of standard traps.

When test writers design exams, they include a number of traps that catch most students. Don't be fooled. Typical tricks test makers use to confuse you include these: 1) giving more information than you need to solve a problem (which can waste a lot of time), 2) offering incorrect choices that you can arrive at by partially completing the problem or by using the correct information with wrong calculations and 3) giving numbers in the answer choices that remind you of numbers in the equation. Be cautious of answers that seem too easy to calculate, especially at the end of the SAT Math section when the problems are supposed to be the most difficult. On these difficult problems, the easy answers are probably wrong.

Know how to answer the SAT Student-Produced Response questions.

One technique for finding correct answers is to eliminate the wrong ones. As you work on your calculations, remember that there are no negative answers or answers greater than 9,999. If your answer doesn't fit these parameters, then it needs a second look. Also remember that percentages must be filled in as .75 or 3/4, NOT 75.

Get friendly with your calculator.

Use a reliable calculator with which you are familiar and take a backup just in case you need it. And, for goodness sake, be sure you know how to use all the functions on the calculator before the test date! If your calculator is new, try a few practice runs, working problems similar to those you will see on the test—you don't want to break in a new calculator during a timed exam.

About the Author

Gen and Kelly Tanabe
Founders of SuperCollege and authors of 13 books on college planning.

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