College PrepSATSAT Math

What Is the SAT® No Calculator Section? 6 Tips to Do Well

what-sat-no-calculator-section-6-tips-to-do-well

The Math section of the SATⓇ exam is broken up into two parts: a Calculator section and a No Calculator section. In this article, you will learn about the section that prohibits calculator use.

The Basics

The no calculator part of the SAT Math test contains Heart of Algebra questions, Passport to Advanced Math questions, and some Additional Topic questions. Heart of Algebra questions focus on linear expressions, equations, inequalities, and functions. You can expect questions that ask you to solve linear equations, inequalities, and systems of linear equations. You may also have to interpret linear functions or answer word problems. Passport to Advanced Math questions focus on linear expressions, quadratic equations, word problems, and complex functions. You should understand the relationships between graphs and equations for these problems. Additional Topic questions typically focus on geometry, complex numbers, or trigonometry. Some Additional Topics questions are word problems.

The purpose of this No Calculator section of the SAT Math test is not to test your ability to solve long problems by hand, but to assess your deeper understandings of math. This section of the exam wants to see your problem-solving and math reasoning skills.

Examples

Below are some sample problems that the College Board® provides in their sample test. You should note that a calculator would likely slow you down when determining the correct answer. Your skills with basic arithmetic and your knowledge of various functions are central to completing these questions.

College Board Example: 

This question is an example of a Passport to Advanced Math question. You do not need a calculator to solve the simple multiplication and adding. You do need to know how to solve a linear expression.

College Board Example:

The SAT exam is structured so that the no calculator portion of the Math test comes after the Reading and Writing tests. The calculator test will come after the no calculator test. The no calculator test is 25 minutes long and has a total of 20 questions (15 of which are multiple-choice, and five of which are grid-ins).

Tips to Do Well

1. Reading comprehension is essential. 

Before making a plan for each problem, find out what is being asked of you. Your reading comprehension skills will be essential, especially for word problem questions. Remember that the more difficult questions will be purposefully confusing. Look out for distracting details and hidden steps. 

2. Save time to check your work at the end.

Any extra time to go over those trickier questions can make a huge difference. Sometimes taking another look with fresh eyes can give you a whole new perspective for solving a problem. You can strategize by working efficiently, which can also provide some peace of mind that if a problem is too difficult to solve, you will have time to return to it later. Be sure to note the problems you are unsure of or guess on, and come back to those questions first.  

3. Practice!

Practice problems are important for being comfortable with applying key terms and concepts. As much as you may understand the rules behind solving an expression, applying them in your studies is a practical way to discover your weaknesses. Practice will also display any need for improvement with time management. It is important to practice word problems in particular: their dependence on strong reading comprehension skills means that you should be familiar with their format and style. You can practice these strategies and tips for the No Calculator section of the Math test by using UWorld’s SAT Prep Course. The detailed question explanations are particularly helpful for understanding your mistakes and learning proper steps for similar problems in the future.

4. Show your steps.

Paying attention to the process you use to reach your answer will help catch errors.

5. Your basic math skills should be sharp.

It may seem trivial to practice your skills with addition, subtraction, or multiplication, but it’s still a good idea. You are likely used to relying on a calculator for accuracy. Practice your basics to avoid silly mistakes. 

6. Study concepts and operations. 

Having a strong understanding of algebraic concepts is crucial for the SAT Math test. As you study, be sure that you comprehend why an answer or process is correct or appropriate. Take time to think about why you apply certain steps to solve an equation, expression, or inequality. This section of the exam tends to lean more abstract, and a deeper knowledge of how to work linear equations and systems is key.

You can practice these strategies and tips for the No Calculator section of the Math test by using UWorld’s SAT Prep Course. Our practice exams, detailed question explanations, and performance tracking tools can provide you with an excellent experience for test day. The detailed question explanations are particularly helpful for understanding your mistakes and learning proper steps for similar problems in the future. You can also find out more about your weak points through the performance tracking tools. Try it out to boost your scores!