How to improve Low SAT Math Scores: 9 Strategies

Are you struggling with SAT Math scores between 300-500? You’re not alone – hundreds of thousands of students are scoring in this range. But many don’t know the best ways to break out of this score range and score a 600 or above.

Here we’ll discuss how to improve SAT math score effectively, and why it’s so important to do so. Put these principles to work and I’m confident you’ll be able to improve your score.

In this article, I’m going to discuss why scoring high is a good idea, what it takes to score a 600, and then go into test strategies.

Stick with me – this is like building a house. First you need to lay a good foundation before putting up the walls of the house and pretty windows. Similarly, we need to first understand why you’re doing what you’re doing, before diving into tips and strategies.

(In this guide, I talk mainly about getting to a 600. But if your goal is a 500 or below, these concepts still equally apply).


Understand the Stakes

At this SAT score range, improving your low SAT math score to a 600 range will dramatically boost your chances of getting into better colleges.

Let’s take a popular school, University of Alabama, as an example.

On the 2400 SAT scale, its average SAT score is a 1680. Its 25th percentile score is a 1470, and 75th percentile is an 1860.

On the 1600 scale, the same figures are:

  • 75th percentile: 1240
  • Average: 1120
  • 25th percentile: 980

Furthermore, its acceptance rate is 57%. In other words, a little over half of all applicants are admitted. But the lower your scores, the worse your chances.

In our analysis, if you score around a 980, your chance of admission drops to 35%, or around 1/3 chance.

But if you raise your score to a 1240, your chance of admission goes up to 72% – a really good chance of admission.

For the Math section, this is especially true if you want to apply to engineering or science programs. They expect your math score to be better than your other sections, and if you score low, they’ll doubt your ability to do college-level quantitative work.

It’s really worth your time to improve your SAT score. Hour for hour, it’s the best thing you can do to raise your chance of getting into college.

Curious what chances you have with an 1800 SAT score? Check out our I and 1 session on expert college admissions guide for an 1800 SAT score (equivalent to 1200 on the 1600 scale)



Know That You Can Do It

This isn’t just some fuzzy feel-good message you see on the back of a Starbucks cup.

I mean, literally, you and every other student can do this.

In my work with iCoachU, and many other programs I’ve worked with thousands of students scoring in the lower ranges of 300-500.

Time after time, I see students who beat themselves up over their low score and think improving it is impossible. “I know I’m not smart.” “I just don’t get algebra and I can’t see myself scoring high.” “I don’t know what to study to improve my score.”

It breaks my heart.

Because I know that more than anything else, your SAT score is a reflection of how hard you work and how smartly you study.

Not your IQ and not your school grades. Not how Ms. Huffington in 9th grade said you’d never get geometry.

Here’s why: the SAT is a weird test. When you take it, don’t you get the sense that the questions are nothing like what you’ve seen in school?

It’s purposely designed this way. The SAT can’t test difficult concepts, because this would be unfair for students who never took AP Calculus. It can’t ask you to solve Fermat’s Last Theorem. The SAT is a national test, which means it needs a level playing field for all students around the world.

So it HAS to test concepts that all school students will cover. Basic algebra (solving for x, manipulating equations), data analysis (mean, median, mode), advanced algebra (solving systems of equations, quadratic equations), and geometry (triangles, circles, lines).

You’ve learned all of this before in high school.

But the SAT still has to make the test difficult, so it needs to test these concepts in strange ways. This trips up students who don’t prepare, but it rewards students who understand the test well.

Here’s an example: Find the area of the shaded region below, if the radius of the circle is 5.


This is a classic SAT type question.

The first time you see this, it might be confusing. How do you get the area of each of the shaded corners? It kind of looks like a triangle, but not really because of the curve region.

But you’ve learned all the concepts you need to solve this.

Notice that the shaded area is the area of the square, with the area of the circle punched out. Imagine the square is cookie dough, and the circle is a cookie cutter you punch out.

OK. Now you just need to use the area formulas. The area of a square is side x side, or 10 x 10 = 100.

The area of a circle is πr2, or π * 5 * 5 = 25π.

So the area of the shaded region is 100 – 25π.

This might have been confusing the first time, but the next time you see a question like this, you’ll know exactly what to do: find the area of the larger shape, and subtract out the inner piece.

The SAT math section is full of examples like this.

To improve your score, you just need to:

  • Learn the types of questions that the SAT tests, like the one above
  • Put together the concepts you already know to solve the questions
  • Practice on a lot of questions so you learn from your mistakes

I’ll go into more detail about exactly how to do this. First, let’s see how many questions you need to get right.

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