SAT Prep – Math Subject Areas

SAT Math Subject Areas

The 2023 SAT Math Test is a broad assessment of the mathematical skills that are seen as essential for post-secondary study regardless of a student’s chosen discipline or eventual profession. Four content areas are included in the SAT Math Test: Heart of Algebra, Problem Solving and Data Analysis, Passport to Advanced Math, and Additional Topics in Math. Students will receive an overall section score of 200-800, a Math Test score of 10-40, and sub scores on the first three content areas that range from 1 to 15. A total of 16 questions on the Math Test also count toward the Analysis in History/Social Studies and Analysis in Science cross-test scores (8 questions each). Cross-test scores are given on a scale of 10 to 40.

Heart of Algebra

Test-takers will see 19 Heart of Algebra questions included among the 58 total questions on the 2023 SAT Math Test. Heart of Algebra questions require students to write and solve linear equations, linear functions, and linear equalities. This question category also includes absolute value expressions, inequalities, and equations in addition to systems of linear equations and relationships between linear equations and lines in the coordinate plane. Students must pay special attention to the context of each question, which can be presented either as a word problem, graph, or written equation.

Problem Solving and Data Analysis

The SAT Math Test includes 17 Problem Solving and Data Analysis questions. Successful performance on these questions requires the ability to infer patterns, calculate probabilities, and recognize relationships using quantitative reasoning skills. Problems are taken from the social sciences, real-life contexts, and scientific research. Some problems require test-takers to make use of quantitative information contained in tables, graphs, or charts. Essential skills for Problem Solving and Data Analysis include the use of ratios and proportions, statistical analysis, and relating graphics and equations to information presented in prose format.

Passport to Advanced Math

Passport to Advanced Math is the subject of 16 SAT Math Test questions. These questions are intended to prepare students for advanced mathematical study in college, particularly in the areas of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). The equations found in Passport to Advanced Math problems are more complex than those that appear in conjunction with Heart of Algebra questions. In general, students must be able to recognize structure and patterns and draw conclusions about context in order to successfully solve Passport to Advanced Math problems. Specific skills include completing operations with polynomials, building quadratic equations and functions, solving radical equations, rational equations, and systems of equations, understanding graphs of functions, and analyzing complex equations in context.

Additional Topics in Math

There are 6 questions on the 2023 SAT Math Test that focus on Additional Topics in Math, specifically geometry, trigonometry, and the arithmetic of complex numbers. Students should be prepared to calculate the area and volume of circles, triangles, and other polygons, use the trigonometric functions sine, cosine, and tangent, and add, subtract, multiply, and divide complex numbers. Additional Topics in Math questions count only toward the overall Math Test score and do not factor into any sub scores or cross-test scores.

Examples of Diverse Subjects on the SAT Math Test

The 2023 SAT Math Test includes questions based on subjects that are likely to be encountered in postsecondary study and in various types of careers, such as scientific research, personal finance, organizational accounting, the arts, education, or demography. Specific examples include questions on:

  • a botany study

  • compound interest in bank accounts

  • annual budgets for state government programs

  • revenue from the sale of concert tickets

  • rates of bar exam passage

  • and population data, to name but a few types of problems students may encounter.

These questions are intended to highlight the relevance of quantitative skills to virtually any area of post-secondary study and are not meant to evaluate knowledge of the specific subjects. All of these problems can be solved through logic and quantitative reasoning. The 2023 SAT Math Test's emphasis on including a larger number of subject areas is one of the most substantive areas of improvement since the 2016 revision for the SAT as an assessment of college readiness. The 2023 SAT is likely to better prepare students for postsecondary study and provide them with the quantitative skills necessary for success in general education courses, as well as classes in their academic major, whether these are primarily related to math and science or not. Students will also benefit from enhanced scoring across multiple mathematical categories, which will allow targeted development of skills that match their academic goals.

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