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 Nov 03, 2021
Three SAT Word Problem Tips

Word Problems within the Math section of your test will come in all shapes and sizes, so we can’t give you a single key to answering all of them. We can, however, give you some tips on how to approach them to make sure you’re giving yourself the best chance at answering them correctly!  

First things first, write things down and/or draw pictures. A lot of students are tempted to try and do too much of the work in their heads. However, even 95% accuracy in their head will keep them from their top score. So, we suggest doing as much work on paper as possible. In word problems, that usually means reading each sentence chunk by chunk and copying important information down on the page in front of you.

Second, use your choices. The choices can give you hints as to what you are supposed to do. Look at what they have in common and what they don’t. Look at what numbers, variables, and symbols are in the answers and how they are organized. These clues can help you start to look at the question from two different ends. On one hand, you are reading the problem, writing it down, and trying to generate the answer. When you are also using the answer choices and the process of elimination, you are doubling your efforts and increasing your chances of finding the best answer.

Third, focus on the next step! Of course, we want to get to the answer, but sometimes the most difficult part of the problem is one of the middle steps. By taking the problem one step at a time, you are increasing your chances of getting those trickier parts of the problem correct. If you were to jump straight to what you think is the last step of the problem and try to answer, it is likely that you will have missed something in the defining step of the problem. Plus, even if you find that you made a misstep along the way, it will be easy to see where you may have gone off course and try something new!

As always, repetition is your friend. The more word problems you do, the more patterns you will recognize, and the more question types you will understand. There is no trick or gimmick here other than just familiarizing yourself with the way the test works! Pairing repetition with an understanding of the math concepts and formulas they are going to test you on is going to help you reach your highest scoring potential.

We hope you found these tips to be helpful, and as always, feel free to ask your own questions and Rob will do his best to answer!