What Math is on the Digital SAT?

Bonus Material: PrepMaven DSAT Math Diagnostic

Getting ready to take the digital SAT for college admissions in 2024 or later? Many students initially find the digital SAT Math section confusing at first, and with good reason: the math on the SAT might be the same as what you lean in high school, but it’s often tested with questions you’re not used to seeing. 

The digital SAT only has one Math section, which is divided into two modules of equal length. The Math section makes up half of your total SAT score, allowing you to get a maximum of 800 points. Getting a top SAT score absolutely depends on you learning exactly what to expect on the SAT Math section. 

At PrepMaven, we’ve got decades of experience helping students do just that! Our SAT tutors hail from the best colleges in the country and have astounding SAT scores themselves. Maybe even more importantly, they’ve got access to our proprietary SAT curriculum, designed by our co-founder and test prep expert Kevin. 

We’ve collected some of those key digital SAT Math tips in this guide to the math concepts you’ll see tested. Step one of preparing for the SAT Math section is familiarizing yourself with this content: from there, you can start preparing through a mix of review, practice tests, and personalized tutoring. 

One key factor in SAT Prep is your goal score, which depends on what colleges you plan to apply to. Below, we’ve compiled the median SAT score ranges for the top 500 US universities–download it for free and start planning!

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Digital SAT Math Overview
Algebra Concepts and Examples
Advanced Math Concepts and Examples
Problem-solving/Data concepts and examples
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Digital SAT Math Tips
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The digital SAT Math section consists of two identical-length “modules,” with the difficulty of the second module depending on your performance on the first. Here’s a breakdown of the timing and number of questions: 

Math Module 13522
Math Module 23522

The new Digital SAT (for 2024 and beyond) tests exactly the same math concepts as the old SAT. The College Board offers a broad breakdown of what skills are tested and how often, and we’ve organized that information for you below. Later in this section, we’ll dig into more specifics about question types and content: what exactly will you need to know for the Digital SAT Math?

If you’re wondering how this section fits into the rest of the digital SAT, you can check out our post on the digital SAT’s sections and structure here. And, if you want to prepare for the tricky timing of the SAT Math sections, check out our post on SAT timing here!

In the meantime, here is the breakdown of what concepts are tested and how often on the Digital SAT: 

CategorySkills testedQuestions per testPercentage 
AlgebraLinear equationsSystems of linear equationsLinear word problemsLinear inequalities13-15~35%
Advanced MathQuadratic expressionsNonlinear functionsEquivalent expressions13-15~35%
Problem-Solving and DataRatios and proportions PercentagesData distribution and measures of center and spreadProbability Evaluating statistical claims and experimental design5-7~15%
GeometryArea and volumeLines, anglesRight triangles, trigonometryCircles5-7~15

The College Board defines the first category of SAT Math questions as “Algebra,” which might sound like an overly broad categorization. But have no fear: here, we’ll break down what specific concepts and question types are covered by the SAT’s Algebra questions. 

Algebra questions make up roughly 35% of the SAT Math section, meaning that mastering this concept is absolutely essential for a good SAT score. 

Let’s take a look at the “skills tested” by College Board when it comes to Algebra: 

  • Linear equations
  • Systems of linear equations
  • Linear word problems
  • Linear inequalities

You probably noticed a pattern there: Algebra questions on the SAT primarily test linear equations. 

Your first step to mastering the SAT’s Algebra questions is simple: understand y=mx+b. We can’t stress this enough: memorize it or tattoo it on your forearm, but do whatever it takes to ensure that you completely understand everything about y=mx+b. 

Here, we’ll give you a short primer that covers the key things you need to know about linear equations, then move on to show you how to apply that knowledge to a set of real sample digital SAT Algebra problems. 

What you need to know about linear equations for the SAT

So, what is y=mx+b? It’s simply a way of articulating a linear relationship between two variables (x and y). 

What’s a linear relationship? It’s a way of saying that as x changes, y changes in a fixed proportion to it. Put another way, if you were to graph the relationship between x and y, it would always look like a straight line (hence the name). 

A basic breakdown of the y=mx+b formula is that: 

  • X is your input 
  • Y is your output
  • M is your slope
  • B is your y-intercept (or, in other words, the value of Y when X is 0. 

Memorizing this formula is only the very first step to getting a top SAT Math score, however. You’ll be expected to use this basic equation/knowledge to do much more: 

  • Turn word problems into linear equations
  • Turn graphs into equations and vice versa
  • Solve systems of equations 
  • Graph and solve linear inequalities

Below, we’ll show you a few real sample SAT Math questions from the College Board so that you can see examples of how these concepts are tested. 

Example 1: Solving a linear equation with one variable

First thing first: notice that this is a linear equation! We’ve got one “unknown” variable, and one number we’re trying to solve for. This problem actually ends up being fairly simple–as long as you know what it means for an equation to have “infinitely many solutions!” 

In this case, we’re happy to give you the hint: it just means that you should end up with the same exact equation on each side of the equals sign. If you want to think about it graphically, two equations have “infinitely many solutions” when they are literally the same exact line. 

Example 2: Linear equation with 2 variables

Okay, let’s complicate things a bit: 

Now, you should clearly be able to see how this is a (messy) version of a y=mx+b equation. 

The key to this question is simple: what is the rule for lines with perpendicular slopes? Unfortunately, this is the kind of thing you’ll need to memorize for the SAT. Every SAT will ask you about perpendicular lines, so make sure you memorize that “perpendicular lines have slopes that are opposite and reciprocal.” 

In this case, the slope of the perpendicular line would be positive 3/17. All you need to do is flip the fraction and change the sign. 

Example 3: System of Equations with 2 variables

Often, the SAT will test your ability to work with two equations at the same time, like in the example below. 

This word problem can only be solved by creating two linear equations, and then using one to solve the other. This is a more complex concept: if you’re not sure how to go about it, then you’ll definitely want to dedicate time to reviewing Algebra and how to manipulate linear equations, since these are essential for succeeding on the SAT. 

In the meantime, here are our 5 SAT Math tips specifically for algebra: 

  1. Understand everything about y=mx+b.
  2. Get good at using a graphing calculator for linear equations–it can be a lifesaver!
  3. Practice translating word problems into equations. 
  4. Practice moving between the equation of a line and its graphical form.
  5. Don’t forget about inequalities: they’re tricky, and require a lot of practice to master.

If you find any of these concepts even a little shaky, you need to study up before the SAT! And, if you want a top score, there’s nothing like live help: our expert tutors specialize in helping students identify their weaknesses and overcome them on the journey to a top SAT Math score. 

A smart first step is deciding what SAT score you’re aiming for. Take a look at the free resource below, which contains the median SAT score ranges for 500 top US colleges, and set a target score for yourself!

“Advanced Math” is just as important as Algebra on the digital SAT, accounting for another 35% of total questions. What the College Board calls “Advanced Math” can really be simplified to “non-linear expressions.” 

What this means is that these questions test expressions and equations that don’t fall into the y=mx+b format. For the Advanced Math questions, you’re going to have to master:

  • Quadratic expressions
  • Exponential growth/decay
  • Power equations
  • Equation of a circle

Unlike the Algebra section, there isn’t just one crucial formula to memorize. The questions in this section test a few different kinds of equations. Still, the most fundamental thing to master is the quadratic. 

The standard form of a quadratic looks like this: y=ax2+bx+c.

Look familiar? If not, then you’ve got a lot of catching up to do before you’re ready to take the digital SAT. Even if it does look familiar, however, there are a lot of nuances that you need to get comfortable with before you know what you need to succeed on the Advanced Math questions. 

Here is what you must know when it comes to quadratics on the digital SAT:

  • Different forms of quadratics
    • Standard form
    • Vertex form
    • Factored form
  • Factoring quadratics
    • Regular factoring
    • Factoring by grouping
    • Completing the square
    • Quadratic formula
    • Differences of perfect squares
  • Finding the vertex 
  • Graphing quadratics 
  • Using the discriminant to identify the number of solutions 

Our main advice when it comes to digital SAT Math strategy is to prepare for each of these concepts well in advance. We can guarantee you that you’ll be tested on all of them, which means you should set aside time before test day to master them. 

While quadratics make up most of the “Advanced Math” questions, there are other crucial concepts to study: 

  • Exponential growth and decay equations
    • Setting them up from word problems
    • Solving them 
  • Power equations
    • Graphing them 
    • Solving them 
  • Equation of a circle
    • Interpreting graphs of circles
    • Using completing the square to solve circle equations
    • Finding the center and radius of a circle from its equation

These math concepts aren’t easy, but they are 100% concepts you can study and prepare for. There’s really no excuse for getting surprised on test day: you know what will be on the test, and you can prepare for all of it. The main thing to focus on is ensuring you have enough time and the right resources to study up. 

Below, we’ve pulled a few of the more difficult SAT Advanced Math questions for you to take a look at. Do you know how to solve each of these? Do you understand what concepts they’re testing? Can you spot the shortcuts? If any of these problems give you trouble, it’s probably a good idea to at least check in with an SAT tutor. Often, a great tutor can help you improve your knowledge and score potential in just a few sessions. 

Example 1: Quadratic functions

Example 2: Power functions

Example 3: Exponential growth/decay

Each of the above examples–pulled from real digital SAT Math tests–explores non-linear functions. You need to not only memorize the formulas for quadratic, exponential, and power functions, but also learn how to apply all of those formulas when it counts!

When it comes to actually putting what you know into practice on the SAT, the best place to start is with preparation! Check out our post on how to prepare for the digital SAT here, where you’ll find strategies, tips, and links to the best prep resources!

While the College Board’s “Problem-solving/Data” questions only make up 15% of your total SAT Math score, they’re still worth studying well in advance of your test date. 

We do have some great news on these concepts: while many students struggle with them, data analysis questions actually tend to be fairly easy–if you know what you’re looking for. 

If Algebra tests your knowledge of linear equations and Advanced Math tests your knowledge of quadratics and other nonlinear equations, you can think of this section as basically testing statistical concepts. 

Broadly, these include: 

  • Ratios and proportions 
  • Percentages
  • Data distribution and measures of center and spread
  • Probability 
  • Evaluating statistical claims and experimental design

Practically speaking, however, this section really means you need to get good at understanding ratios/percentages, charts/tables, and statistics. 

Now, you don’t need to take AP Stats or anything like that: the statistical concepts on the digital SAT are fairly limited and basic. But that doesn’t mean you can just wing it either. Even the simplest statistical concepts can trip you up if you’re unprepared on test day. 

SAT Ratios and Percentages Examples

As a first step, make sure you are 100% comfortable with percentages and ratios. Students often struggle with both of these concepts, but the math involved (once you’ve learned the concepts) is quite simple. 

Take a look at the example question below: believe it or not, the vast majority of students get this (simple-looking) question wrong. 

The key to this question–and every percentage question–is just careful set-up! Do you know how to turn this word problem into an equation? If not, it’s time to do a bit of review, or contact one of our tutors. 

The same is true of ratios: the math is easy, but the concept can be super difficult. Do you know how to set up the equation for the example below?

If you’re really good with ratios, you might even be able to do this problem in your head in a few seconds. But if you find yourself struggling to get to the correct answer (which should be D), you’ll want to review ratios before you take the test. 

SAT Charts and Tables examples

Although questions on charts and tables can be tricky, they’re not usually difficult–so long as you know how to read the chart/table, of course!

While most students are comfortable with standard charts and tables like bar graphs, line graphs, and circle graphs, the digital SAT does include a few graphical representations of data that students can find difficult. 

Here are all the kinds of data visualizations you need to be comfortable with on the SAT:

  • Bar graphs
  • Line graphs
  • Circle/pie graphs
  • Scatter plots 
  • Probability tables
  • Histograms
  • Box and whisker plots
  • Stem and leaf plots

Some of these might seem only vaguely familiar, but that’s just a signal that you need to study up. None of these are difficult or complicated: they’re just new concepts you need to familiarize yourself with. Take a look below at a few sample questions. Can you answer each one confidently? 

This is the classic box and whisker plot, which lots of people aren’t familiar with (since it’s not terribly common). At the same time, notice how this question also tests statistical concepts like mean and median, on which we’ll write more in the section below. 

The next example tests your understanding of scatter plots and lines of best fit. You can be 100% sure you’ll see this kind of question on your SAT Math section, since this is one of the most important concepts covered by the test. 

Can you see why the answer should be A? Although this isn’t the hardest scatter plot question we’ve seen (the College Board likes to be tricky with these) it’s a good indicator of the kind of thing you should be comfortable with well in advance of the test. 

SAT Statistics Examples

Many of the SAT Problem-solving/data questions really come down to basic statistics. There are a lot of concepts that fall under this category, but we don’t want you going crazy trying to learn every statistics concept under the sun. Below, we’ll break down the specific concepts you need to master. 

Here’s what you absolutely must know when it comes to statistics on the SAT Math:

  • Measures of center: Mean, median, mode, range, and standard deviation
  • Probability and conditional probability
  • Proper design of experiments and observational studies  
  • Margin of error

It’s not enough to just recognize the terms: you need to be able to apply them to a variety of different questions. Take a look below for some examples from College Board that eat these concepts in different ways. 

SAT Measures of Center example question:

This is a pretty classic question testing three basic measures of center: to answer this one, you’ll need to understand how to find each one, and (if you want to save yourself some time) how to quickly determine which will be the highest and which will be the lowest. 

SAT Probability example question:

This one’s an open-ended question, which adds to the difficulty. Beware information overload: there’s tons of info in this probability chart (a classic SAT Math trick), but only focus on what you need: contestants who scored a 5. In other words, almost all of this chart past the first column is irrelevant! 

The answer here, if you’re wondering, is 5/7: you simply take the number of students with 5s on Day 2 and Day 3, and divide that by the total number of students who scored 5s. The key is being comfortable enough with probability that you know exactly where to look. 

SAT Experimental/Observational Design sample question

You will always see at least one question that looks like this and tests your understanding of proper experimental/observational design. 

At heart, these questions ask you to comment on a study and decide what kinds of results can be drawn from it. 

This one is a really nasty, tricky question: the answer here is actually A, neither! 

As you might have noticed with all of the above examples, Problem-Solving/Data questions on the SAT often require very little calculation or actual math. But they can be tricky if you don’t know the concepts behind the questions. 

While it’s only 15% of your score, these questions are crucial to master. They can become easy ways to bank up points if you study–or brutal head-scratchers if you don’t. 

Wondering how your SAT score stacks up against other applicants to your dream school? Check out the median SAT scores of admitted students with our free resource, PrepMaven’s DSAT Math Diagnostic.

Accounting for the last 15% of your SAT Math score are Geometry questions. If you’re already dreading these, you’re not alone: many test-takers find geometry questions on the SAT difficult or confusing. But, like all the other question types, you can prepare for these questions!

We’ve actually written a guide just on SAT Geometry questions here because of how notoriously difficult they are, and we’d encourage you to check out that guide if you know geometry is a problem for you. 

In this post, we’ll run through the geometry concepts you need to know, plus show you a few College Board sample questions so you can see exactly what you’re up against. 

The key concepts covered are these: 

  • Area and volume
  • Lines, angles
  • Right triangles, trigonometry
  • Circles

It might not seem like much, but there are a lot of concepts that go into each of these skills (especially when it comes to triangles). 

If we want to expand this list out to think about the specific skills you need to master, you’ll want to be able to check off each of these specific content areas: 

  • Solving for the area of any triangle
  • Trig identities 
  • Inverse trig identities
  • Similar triangles
  • Interior angles of regular polygons
  • Circumference, area, and angle measure of circles
  • Transversals 
  • Volume of regular 3D figures
  • Area of 2D figures like trapezoids, rectangles, parallelograms, squares, and other polygons.
  • Special right triangles

Mastering SAT Geometry means having not only a comprehensive understanding of all these concepts, but also knowing how these concepts get tested by the SAT’s specific question types. Take a look at the examples below: even if you understand the concepts at play, some of these might not be immediately obvious. 

SAT Area and Volume example question

Even if you know how to find the area of a square (which you really should), this kind of problem presents additional difficulties. It’s what we want to get you thinking about in advance of your SAT test date: College Board will always complicate how they test seemingly simple concepts. 

In this case, the key isn’t just crunching the numbers out. What they’re really testing is if you understand the relationship between side length and area for a square. You could do the math on this, creating two squares and plugging in numbers. 

But if you want to beat this question faster, you should do what the SAT wants you to: understand that the ratio of areas will just be the square of the ratio of the sides!

SAT Lines and Angles example question

Again, while this question really just tests transversals, the SAT throws an extra wrench into the works by adding in another equation to work through. 

Still, if you stay cool and just remember your transversal rules (which should tell you that y=122), the rest of the problem should be some straightforward algebra. 

SAT Triangles example question

Another moderately evil geometry question from the SAT Math section. Even if you’re a triangle expert, you might have to read this one a couple times to figure out what exactly is going on. 

The key to this one–and to any SAT Geometry question that doesn’t have an image–is to draw it out! 

Try sketching this triangle out, labeling all of the information, and making sure you’ve transcribed all of the info they’ve given you. Once you’ve done that, think about your basic concepts: what equations do you know about triangles that have to do with a triangle’s height?

It’s a tricky one, but if you’re able to think about this as a 30-60-90 triangle, you’ll be more than halfway there. 

SAT Circles example question

Wouldn’t it be nice if the SAT just asked you to calculate area or circumference? Alas, those days are mostly gone: the digital SAT Math section will make you do a bit more work when it comes to geometry. 

Still, the key will always be going back to your fundamental equations: if you know a circle’s circumference, you should also be able to find its area. If you know the relationship between these arc lengths, you should also be able to figure out the measures of the central angles here (as long as you remember that every circle has 360 degrees.

It’s still a tricky problem, but this one’s a great indicator of what you need to know about circles to ace the SAT Math section.

Finding this one a bit challenging? Check out our post on SAT Geometry here, or get connected with a SAT tutor who can teach you everything you need to know to score a perfect 800 on SAT Math by contacting us! 

While the best strategy to lock in a top SAT Math score is to diligently learn and drill all of the possible question types across the four categories of Math questions, there are still some universally useful tips that can help boost your score on test day. 

SAT Math Tip 1: Master the DESMOS calculator

Because the SAT is digital from 2024 on, you’ll have access to an integrated graphing calculator (called DESMOS) that’s part of your testing app. While you can also bring your own calculator, we recommend getting familiar with DESMOS: it’s an incredibly powerful and versatile tool that can help you quickly answer many of the SAT’s toughest questions. 

The last thing you want is to be trying desperately to figure out how DESMOS works as the timer counts down on test day. The good news is that you can practice with DESMOS well ahead of time: this link takes you to the exact same version of the calculator you’ll see on test day. 

Not only that, but DESMOS actually has a detailed guide on how to familiarize yourself with the calculator. That guide is freely available here, and we recommend taking some time to read through it. 

SAT Math Tip 2: Memorize these tie-saving formulas

The digital SAT will provide you with some of the formulas you need to know on an information page, but you should not be relying on it. The SAT time crunch is real, and if you don’t memorize these formulas, you better believe it’ll slow you down. 

Plus, there are some formulas which, while not technically “necessary,” can make difficult questions a breeze. Below, we’ve bullet pointed the most important formulas for you to memorize and understand before your digital SAT test date. 

Must-know SAT Math formulas:

  • Area of a circle
  • Circumference of a circle
  • Equation of a circle
  • Volume of cylinders, cones, pyramids, and spheres
  • The number of radians and degrees in a circle
  • The formula for the interior angle measures of any regular polygon
  • Area of a triangle
  • 30-60-90 right triangles
  • 45-45-90 right triangles
  • Quadratic formula
  • Formula for the vertex of a parabola
  • Discriminant of a quadratic
  • Sine, cosine, and tangent

SAT Math Tip 3: Double-check what the question wants

Pretty much everyone will tell you to do this, and with good reason: just about every student will miss at least one SAT Math question because they didn’t double check what the question was asking for. 

Sometimes, it’s as simple as seeing which variable the question wants you to solve for. Do they want x, or y, or z? Or (as the digital SAT often does) do they throw a curveball and ask you to solve for something like (2x) instead? 

Other times, the SAT is even trickier about this. They may present information in one unit (like minutes) but then ask for your answer in another unit (like hours). If you don’t double check that, you’re bound to get the question wrong even if you do all the math perfectly. 

In the past, on the paper version of the SAT, we’d tell you to circle or highlight or underline the key part of the question. Now, on the digital SAT, we’d advise you to just make sure that you work in a “double-check” step at the end of each question before you pick an answer and move on. 

It’ll only take a second, but it’ll mean the difference between being right and being wrong. 

Knowing what you need to know is the first step to excelling on the SAT Math. But it’s not just about having a list of concepts to study: you want to make sure you’re comfortable with the digital SAT’s structure, timing, and scoring. 

Fortunately, we’ve done the hard work for you: we have guides written on the digital SAT’s format, on the timing of the test’s sections, and on how to best prep for the digital SAT.

Check out those posts to make sure you’re as prepared as possible for the test. Because the SAT is standardized, there should be no surprises for you on test day; it’s all a matter of giving yourself enough time to do high-quality, consistent SAT prep. 

But if you’re really targeting a top SAT score and find yourself stuck below that 1500 mark, the best way to break through that plateau is with one of our SAT Prep coaches. They’re not just stellar test-takers themselves: they’re trained to help you master the test, relying on a cutting-edge curriculum and resources developed by our co-founder Kevin Wong. 

We’ve also had our experts analyze and review 40 different SAT tutoring services, ranking the top 15 online SAT tutoring companies you can work with. Check out that review here!

Good luck, and happy prepping!

As you start your test prep journey, be sure to keep your end goal in mind: what’s a good SAT score for your target schools? There’s no easier way to find out than by downloading the free resource below, which contains the median SAT scores for 500 top US universities!

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Mike is a PhD candidate studying English literature at Duke University. Mike is an expert test prep tutor (SAT/ACT/LSAT) and college essay consultant. Nearly all of Mike’s SAT/ACT students score in the top 5% of test takers; many even score above 1500 on the SAT. His college essay students routinely earn admission into their top-choice schools, including Harvard, Brown, and Dartmouth. And his LSAT students have been accepted In into the top law schools in the country, including Harvard, Yale, and Columbia Law.