Create Your Personalized 30-Minute Math Workout for SAT/ACT


Last fall, I reduced speed reading to a 20-minute course, courtesy of Tim Ferriss’ advice (Four Hour Work Week, Times Bestseller). Now I’m reducing the essentials of the math prep to a few potent steps.


You can begin these steps in just 30 minutes or less. Here’s how —


  1. Six minutes: Content knowledge is power. Therefore, identify and understand the content of the SAT Math and ACT Math, so you can optimize your study time. Acknowledge the areas that you are weakest in. Then obtain 3×5 index cards so you can write math formulas and rules you don’t know. So here’s the scoop on content:


Math Topics on SAT:


  •    Algebra + functions, 33%
  •    Geometry/coordinate geometry, 29%
  •    Data, statistics, 14%
  •    Number theory + percents, 24%

Math Topics of the ACT:


  • 19 algebra questions = 31%
  • 23 plane geometry + coordinate geometry = 38%
  • 14 pre-algebra = 23%
  •    4 trig questions = 6%


  1. Nine minutes: Scrutinize the Table of contents of the Official Collegeboard SAT , or Real ACT by Peterson. Highlight with color your weakest math topics. Next, make a plan to read and study those pages within the next 5 days. Don’t wait too long — your motivation may wane.


  1. Five minutes: Find about two dozen 3×5 index cards, and fasten them with a band or collect in an inexpensive box. These cards will be used by you to write all the new and forgotten math rules and formulas. Eventually, you can stick these cards on a kitchen wall, and commit them to memory each day.


  1. Nine minutes: Finally, study the following strategies. If you need clarification, refer to a popular SAT or ACT review book, or work with a seasoned tutor. These tried and true strategies are taught by 90% of the high end tutoring companies found on the internet.


  1. ANALYZE the Answer Choices (eliminate poor answers first).
  2. BACKsolve the Answer Choices (Use the answers given and plug them into the problem.)
  3. PIN Numbers (Choose a simple number, such as 1 or 2, to replace the variable.)
  4. SPLIT the Question into Parts
  5. DIAGRAM (visualize) the Question and draw the figures.
  6. If you can eliminate 1 or 2 answers, guess on the SAT. For the ACT, always fill in an answer, because there is no penalty for guessing.
  7. For the ACT, try the middle value first. Solve the problem. If it’s too big, cross off any numbers that are larger than the one you tried. Then, try the remaining answers.
  8. For both SAT and ACT, read all words of the problem carefully. Underline/circle what the problem asks you to solve.


Theresa Yin-Michna, M.A. has taught over 2,000 hours of test prep. She enjoys seeing her students succeed. Ninety-three percent of her students were accepted at one of their top 2 colleges. Visit her at, or

About admin

Theresa Xia Michna, M.A. has prepared students for the SAT/ACT/GRE/GMAT exams for over a decade. Most recently, she has led STEAM workshops in schools in Westchester. STEAM enriches the study of math, engineering, technology, through an appreciation for artistic problem solving. She is truly delighted to be able to merge the creativity of math with so many other skills. She also coaches students in college essays through her specially designed College Application Essay Workshops. A published writer, she has written English curriculum at the United Nations, Vienna, been an adjunct at Manhattanville College and Pace University, and taught English at the American International School in Vienna, Austria.
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