SSAT Math Strategies

  • Posted By: Brenna O'Neill
  • February 6, 2020

Read Carefully

One of the most common mistakes on the SSAT is misreading a question, usually due to reading too quickly. Be sure to take a few extra seconds on every question to avoid careless errors.

Underline important information

Underline words and numbers indicating the quantities, relationships, and calculations (less than, twice, product, etc.) that you’ll need to answer the question. Words like “not” can be easily missed and completely change what you’re supposed to find in the question!

Check that you answered the given question

For every problem, after you finish solving, look back at what the question was asking you to find. Make sure your answer aligns with the question.

Work Backwards

Take advantage of the fact that the SSAT gives you more information than just a question: it also gives you answer choices, one of which you know must be the correct answer!

For questions with an unknown quantity, you can substitute the answer choices for the unknown quantity to see which is correct. Always start with the middle answer choice to minimize the number of answers you have to substitute.


Estimation is a powerful tool for eliminating wrong answers. For every question, before beginning to solve, ballpark what you think the right answer should be. Think about things like: should it be positive or negative, an integer or a fraction, bigger or smaller than any of the other numbers in the question, and so on. Sometimes the question will even include clues that you should estimate, such as “approximately” or “about,” but even without these words, always estimate first.

Pick Values

Sometimes the math questions you see on the quantitative sections may seem very challenging to solve abstractly. The question may ask how an unknown quantity will change if it undergoes a couple of percent changes, or to solve for one variable in terms of others. In cases like these, it can be helpful to use actual numbers to determine the answer, rather than trying to solve algebraically.

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