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

Use the test booklet as your scratch pad.

Circle important numbers in mathematical problems. Cross out wrong answers as you eliminate them. Use the white space in your booklets to do calculations. The test graders are not judging you on how much you can do in your head, so mark up your test booklet as much as you want. Your test booklet itself can be an important tool for acing these tests.

If you can't get the answer, move on.

Don't spend too much time on any one question. Mark ones you can't figure out, and come back to them if you have time at the end. Smart time management is just as important in attaining high scores as knowing the right answer. You need to make sure you spend the time answering all of the questions that you do know how to do. Don't let the clock steal valuable points by wasting too much time on difficult questions.

Draw it out.

Sometimes it's useful to draw a diagram in your test booklet to help visualize a problem. Don't worry about creating a precise drawing but do write in the numbers that apply to the problem; for example, label the sides of the triangle 3", 4" and 5" if that is what you are given. Seeing the illustration of the problem may help you remember the theorem that is critical to the solution. A rough diagram can help shed some light on the nuances of the problem and may help you to select the correct formulas to use in your calculations.

Final Thoughts ...

For the lucky few, the math section is a cake walk. But for the rest of us (who are reading this guide) the math section is a combination of knowing our algebra and geometry and having a solid testing strategy that includes knowing how to manage the clock and guess intelligently.

And what about the answer to the sample problem at the beginning of this guide? Here's the answer: JoJo had three times as many jelly beans as Junior. If Junior had n jelly beans, then JoJo had 3n jelly beans. JiJi had two times as many jelly beans as JoJo, which is 6n jelly beans. All their jelly beans added together equal x, meaning n + 3n + 6n =x or 10n=x. Keep in mind that the question asks how many jelly beans Junior had. Since he had n jelly beans, we could divide 10n=x by 10. This would result in n=x/10. Answer: D. (Kelly had to explain this one. Gen was still stuck trying to figure out why we should even care how many jelly beans any of these unfortunately named people had.)

About the Author

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

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