SAT no calculator Quant section


Before knowing how to handle “no calculator” section, we need to know what topics can we expect and how many questions can we expect from each topic:

According to the CollegeBoard, the Math No Calculator section tests two major categories: Heart of Algebra and Passport to Advanced Math, along with problems that fall under Additional Topics.  These categories focus on concepts such as solving linear equation, linear inequalities, functions, quadratic equations, graphs, geometry, and complex numbers, among others.


Content Categories Number of questions Percentage
Heart of Algebra 8 40%
Passport to Advanced Math 9 45%
Additional Topics 3 15%

Here are 4 Steps to succeed on the NO calculator section:

Build your basic Calculation Skills:

You need to know how to add, multiply, divide and subtract two numbers quickly. While doing these operations do not add, multiply or subtract completely, just concentrate on the units place of the numbers which will help you to quickly select the options without complete calculation. For division it will be the opposite case, you have to concentrate on the first digit on the left hand side.

Example – 1

235 + 524 + 758 =

Generally we tend to add all the three numbers but just add the units digit of the three numbers and check which option is matching. Here when we add 5, 4 and 8 then we get 17. Check which option is ending with 7.

Example – 2

25648 – 56814

We know that we are subtract the larger number from the smaller number that means one of the answer choices should have negative sign, now just take units digit of the numbers which is 8 and 4 and subtract them. Now check which option is have last digit 4.

Example – 3

122 x 23

Instead of multiplying the whole number just multiply the last digits of the numbers which is 2 and 3 and check which is giving you 6. If there are two options then go to the next digit which is tens digit.

Example – 4

23458 11

Instead of dividing the whole number, just divide the first two digits of the number by 11 i.e divide 23 by 11 and check how many time is it divisible. Now it is divisible 2 times that means the first digit of the options should be 2.

Simply as much as possible

You may find a complicated quadratic equation or simultaneous linear equation. Try to simplify as much as possible, like taking some constant common from the entire equation so that the complicated equation turns to a simple equation.

For Example:

3x2 +57x + 102 = 0

3(x2 + 19x + 34) = 0

x2 + 19x + 34 = 0

Now this equation is easy to solve when compared to the previous equation.

Pick numbers instead of working with variables

Some questions on the SAT will be on variables. Whenever we have variables in the question stem or in the answer choices start picking numbers that correspond to each variable rather than working with the variables themselves. Picking numbers will help you to reduce your time and improve the odds of arriving at the correct answer without confusion.


If x and y are odd integers, which of the following must be and even integer?

(A)   x(y – 2)

(B)   xy + 4

(C)   (x + 2)(y – 4)

(D)  3x + 5y

Tip: Whenever you find percentages in the question, you better pick 100 as a base number so that you will not have complicated calculations.

Know your basic formulae and their properties

You have to be very strong with basic formulae and with the properties of topics such as Algebra, Geometry, Trigonometry and Quadratic equations. Create a list of formulae and the properties and make sure you revise at-least once a day to ensure that conceptual gaps don’t cost you on the day of the test.

To know more preparing for the math section of the SAT, read our post on how to master math on standardized tests.

Karthik Sunkara loves watching movies and also spending time with friends and family. He is an aficionado of all thing mathematical and spends a lot of his time creating test prep questions that challenge even the most proficient students.