Strategies for the SAT Math Level 2 Exam

Instructor: Yuanxin (Amy) Yang Alcocer

Amy has a master's degree in secondary education and has taught math at a public charter high school.

If you are about to take the SAT Math Level 2 exam, this lesson will teach you test taking strategies you can use specifically for this test. You'll also learn when you should use elimination and when you shouldn't.

The Test

You and your friend are about to take the SAT Math Level 2 exam in a couple of weeks. So, naturally, you are starting to get a little bit nervous and cram information into your head. You want to get a good score on this test as it will determine which colleges and universities you can apply to. The closer your score is to the perfect 800, the better.

Use strategies to take the SAT Math Level 2 test
sat math level 2 strategies

Well, in addition to cramming enough information into your brain, you and your friend also need to take advantage of different test-taking strategies. You don't always need to work every single problem out in order to solve it. Sometimes, just using a bit of intuition and common sense can help you find the answer without actually having to write out a formula and then solving it.

Let's take a look at some strategies you can use.


The first is called the strategy of elimination where you strategically look at your answer choices and get rid of the ones that are not correct. If you aren't able to quickly solve the problem, then this method may be faster.

What you do with this method is you begin by choosing a possible answer, then you go ahead and plug that answer into your formula to see if it is the right answer. If not, then you can eliminate that answer. Sometimes, if you choose a possible answer strategically, you'll be able to eliminate several wrong answers with one check.

Take a look at this example.

Say you have this problem.

One particular lecture hall at the school has seats of different colors. Each row has 35 seats. One particular row has 3 more purple chairs than blue chairs. How many blue chairs does that row have?

(A) 7

(B) 10

(C) 13

(D) 16

(E) 19

While you could set up a formula to solve this problem, it would actually be faster to use elimination to find the correct answer. Since your solutions are in ascending order, you can pick the middle choice to test first. If this middle choice gives an answer that is less than what you want, then so will the choices before it since they are even smaller.

So, testing out the middle answer, C, with 13 blue chairs, you add 3 to your 13 to find the number of purple chairs and then you add that to 13 to find the total number of chairs in the row. You get 13 + 16 = 29. Hmm. This number is less than the required 35 seats in each row. This means that C is not a choice, neither is A or B. You have just eliminated three of your choices. You are left with either D or E.

Next, you can try checking the next answer of 16 for D. You again add 3 to get your number of purple chairs (16 + 3 = 19). Then you add that to your 16. You get 16 + 19 = 35. Aha! That's what you want and you have found your answer. Now you can move on to your next problem.

Plugging In

For some problems, when you can't easily solve nor eliminate your choices, you can try plugging in numbers to see which answer gives you the right one. The types of problems that are best suited for this strategy are problems with variables.

For example, take a look at this problem.

If a and b are odd numbers, which of the following must also be odd?

(A) a - b

(B) a + b

(C) ab - 1

(D) ab

(E) 2ab

If you knew your basic rules of multiplying and adding odd numbers, you'd be able to find your answer pretty quickly. But if you didn't, you could simply plug in some numbers to find the right answer. The problem says that both a and b are odd numbers, so you could try the numbers 1 and 3 for a and b respectively. When you use this method, stick with smaller numbers as they are easier to work with. Next, you plug these numbers into your possible answers and you'll be able to spot the right answer.

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