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The SAT Math Test: Overview

An overview of what to expect on the SAT Math Test

The SAT Math Test measures your ability to apply mathematical concepts and skills to the types of problems you might see in college and in your career. You'll see one 55-minute section with 38 questions (calculators ok) and one 25-minute section with 20 questions (calculators not permitted).

Types of math

Questions on the Math Test cover a variety of skills under three main areas.
  • Heart of Algebra: focuses on linear equations, systems of linear equations, and the relationships between them.
Heart of algebra example
In 2014, County start text, X, end text had 783 miles of paved roads. Starting in 2015, the county had been building 8 miles of new paved roads each year. At this rate, if n is the number of years after 2014, which of the following functions f gives the number of miles of paved road there will be in County start text, X, end text? (Assume that no paved roads go out of service.)
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  • Problem Solving and Data Analysis: focuses on ratios, percentages, and proportional reasoning.
Problem solving and data analysis example
Time (hours)Number of bacteria
01, times, 10, cubed
14, times, 10, cubed
21, point, 6, times, 10, start superscript, 4, end superscript
36, point, 4, times, 10, start superscript, 4, end superscript
The table above gives the initial number (at time t, equals, 0) of bacteria placed in a growth medium and the number of bacteria in the growth medium over 3 hours. Which of the following functions models the number of bacteria, N, left parenthesis, t, right parenthesis, after t hours?
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  • Passport to Advanced Math: focuses on complex equations and functions typically needed in a STEM-based—science, technology, engineering, and math—career.
Passport to advanced math example
A car is traveling at x feet per second. The driver sees a red light ahead, and after 1, point, 5 seconds reaction time, the driver applies the brake. After the brake is applied, the car takes start fraction, x, divided by, 24, end fraction seconds to stop, during which the time average speed of the car is start fraction, x, divided by, 2, end fraction feet per second. If the car travels 165 feet from the time the driver saw the red light to the time it comes to a complete stop, which of the following equations can be used to find the value of x ?
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These questions also can include additional topics in math, like geometry, trigonometry, radian measure, and complex numbers.
The SAT Math Test presents problems and scenarios that you will find in real life from a variety of fields: careers, science, social science, and other contexts.

What the test looks like

About 80% of the questions on the Math Test are multiple choice. The other 20% are gridded response. The answer to each gridded-response question is a positive number—e.g., positive fraction, decimal, or integer—that will be entered on the answer sheet into a grid like this one.
Example of how to grid in responses.
The Math Test will also include reference information. You may find these facts and formulas helpful as you answer some of the test questions, but to do well, you should already be comfortable working with these facts and formulas.
The reference formulas provided by the SAT
Are you ready to start practicing? Head over to the Math Practice Area and try some problems!


This article was adapted from the following sources:
“SAT Practice Tests” from The College Board.

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