College PrepSAT

What’s Tested on the SAT® Math Section?

Format and Question Types

When you are preparing to take the SAT exam, it is crucial that you get familiar with the format of questions, concepts, and skills tested on the SAT Exam. 

The SAT’s math test has two sections: a 25-minute section with no calculator and a 55-minute section during which you may use a calculator. The SAT’s math test focuses on topics that apply to a range of majors and careers.

Most of the questions are multiple-choice, but some of the questions are called grid-ins. The grid-in problems will require students to fill in their own answers instead of bubbling in from a list. 

The calculator section of the exam consists of:

  • 30 multiple-choice questions 
  • Eight grid-in questions 
  • Some grid-in problems that link together (these are called “Extended Thinking Questions”)

The no calculator section of the exam has:

  • 15 multiple-choice questions 
  • Five grid-in questions

There are four categories of questions:

  • Heart of Algebra
    • These problems will focus on linear expressions, equations, inequalities, functions.
    • You will be asked to solve linear equations, inequalities, as well as systems of linear equations. You will also be asked to interpret linear functions.
    • Some heart of algebra questions deal with graphs or word problems.
  • Problem Solving and Data Analysis
    • These problems will focus on quantitative reasoning. It will ask you to work with ratios, percentages, rates, and information from graphs and tables. You will find that the Problem Solving and Data Analysis problems tie in closely to circumstances in the real world.
    • These problems may ask you to work through multiple steps or evaluate the relationships between graphs, tables, and data through equations and probabilities.
  • Passport to Advanced Math
    • These problems focus on nonlinear expressions. To perform well, an understanding of the structure of an expression is necessary. You will use quadratic equations, solve word problems, and interpret or build complex functions.
    • These questions will ask you to recognize the relationships between graphs and equations. You will use factoring to solve equations, apply basic algebra to rational and polynomial expressions, and simplify in this section of the math exam.
  • Additional Topics
    • These problems will only make up about 10% of the exam. You can expect questions about geometry, complex numbers, and trigonometry. 
    • These questions are sometimes word problems. 

Practicing each type of question is important when preparing to take the SAT. UWorld’s SAT Prep Course has plenty of sample problems from each question type to help you feel prepared and confident for your SAT Exam. Check out our performance tracking tools to see which questions types need the most improvement before your next exam.