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Ace SAT Math Without a Calculator: Boost Your Score with Mind-Blowing Mental Math Tricks (2023)

May 7, 2024

Preparing for the SAT or ACT? Boost math skills with these SAT math tips and tricks. Uncover mental math techniques for timed tests, including the no calculator section. Beyond math knowledge, quick arithmetic is your key to success. From adding large numbers to mastering divisibility rules, get set to confidently conquer math sections.

Mastering mental math: techniques for quick calculations

Mathematics doesn't always have to be about lengthy calculations. With the right mental math techniques, you can solve problems swiftly and accurately. Let's dive into some essential strategies that will help you tackle various types of calculations with confidence.

Adding big numbers: simplifying with rounded sums

When faced with the task of adding large numbers, don't get overwhelmed. One effective technique is rounding these numbers to the nearest multiple of ten.

🚀 Example: Add 347 + 591
  • Step 1: Round both numbers to the nearest ten: 347 becomes 350 and 591 becomes 590.
  • Step 2: Add the rounded numbers: 350 + 590 = 940.
  • Step 3: Now adjust for the rounding: We added 3 more than we should have (347 to 350) and 1 less (591 to 590). So, subtract 2 from the result: 940 - 2 = 938.

Subtracting any number from 1000: the reverse approach

Subtracting a number from 1000 might sound challenging, but there's a trick to make it a breeze.

🚀 Example: 1000 - 376
  • Step 1: Subtract each digit from 9. For the hundreds digit, subtract 3 from 9 to get 6. For the tens digit, subtract 7 from 9 to get 2. For the units digit, subtract 6 from 9 to get 3.
  • Step 2: Combine the results and add 1: 1000 - 376 = 623 + 1 = 624.

Multiplying a number by 5: even and odd made easy

To multiply any number by 5, simply divide it by 2 and then add a zero. It works for both even and odd numbers.

🚀 Example: Multiply 87 × 5
  • Step 1: Divide the number by 2: 87 ÷ 2 = 43.5.
  • Step 2: Move the decimal point one place to the right to get the result: 87 × 5 = 435.

Divisibility rules: detecting divisibility on the fly

Determining if a number is divisible by various numbers can save time on tests. Here are some key rules:

  • Divisible by 10 if the number ends in 0.
  • Divisible by 9 if the sum of its digits is divisible by 9.
  • Divisible by 8 if the last three digits form a number divisible by 8.
  • Divisible by 6 if it's divisible by both 2 and 3.
  • Divisible by 5 if the number ends in 0 or 5.
  • Divisible by 4 if the last two digits form a number divisible by 4.
  • Divisible by 3 if the sum of its digits is divisible by 3.
  • Divisible by 2 if it's an even number.

Multiplying and dividing by powers of ten: shaping up with zeroes

When multiplying by powers of ten, simply add zeros to the number. When dividing, move the decimal point to the left by the number of zeros in the power of ten.


When multiplying a number by a power of ten, simply add zeros to the end of the number equal to the exponent of the power of ten.

🚀 Example: 346 × 100
  • Add two zeros: 34600.


When dividing a number by a power of ten, remove digits from the end equal to the exponent of the power of ten.

🚀 Example: 420 ÷ 1000
  • Move decimal three places left: 0.420.

Quickly calculating a percentage: halves and decimal moves

Let's say you need to find a percentage of a number, such as 30% of 80. Rather than diving into complex calculations, you can use a smart estimation method that's surprisingly accurate for most situations.

🚀 Example: 30% of 80
  • Step 1: Halve the numbe twicer: (80 ÷ 2) ÷ 2 = 20.
  • Step 2: The halved number is your approximate percentage. So, 30% of 80 is roughly 20.

This method provides a quick estimate that's often quite accurate, saving you time during tests. It strikes a balance between speed and accuracy, essential in time-sensitive situations.

Squaring a two-digit number ending in 5: a special touch

When squaring a two-digit number ending in 5, follow this approach:

  • Multiply the tens digit by the next higher digit.
  • Append 25 to the result.
🚀 Example: 25²
  • Step 1: Take the tens digit (2) and multiply it by the next consecutive number (3): 2 × 3 = 6.
  • Step 2: Append 25 to the result: 625.

Multiplying numbers that end in 0: focus on the non-zero digits

For numbers ending in 0, focus on the non-zero digits and multiply. Add zeros at the end.

🚀 Example: 420 × 60
  • Step 1: Multiply 42 (non-zero digits) by 6: 42 × 6 = 252.
  • Step 2: Add two zeros to the result: 25200.

Mastering these mental math techniques will streamline your problem-solving process and save you valuable time during the SAT and ACT tests. Practice these strategies regularly to enhance your speed and accuracy in math-related challenges. Now that you've learned these techniques, let's address some commonly mistaken questions to solidify your understanding even further.

A person with clocks on head, surrounded by mathematical numbers and geometric lines, illustrating efficient mental math techniques
Mastering these mental math techniques will streamline your problem-solving process and save you valuable time during the SAT and ACT tests.

Top 5 commonly made mistaken questions

While mastering mental math techniques can greatly enhance your test performance, it's crucial to be aware of potential pitfalls. Here, I'll address the top 5 commonly made mistakes and guide you through their solutions step by step.

1. Misreading digits

One of the frequent errors involves misreading digits in numbers, leading to incorrect calculations. To avoid this, always double-check the numbers you're working with, especially when they are lengthy or complex. Precision is key to accurate mental math.

2. Skipping steps

Skipping essential steps in mental calculations can result in inaccurate answers. Remember, mental math techniques are effective when followed step by step. Rushing through without following the proper sequence might lead to mistakes. Take a breath, and ensure each step is executed accurately.

3. Overlooking negative signs

Neglecting negative signs in calculations can throw your results off track. Pay close attention to whether you're adding, subtracting, multiplying, or dividing negative numbers. A simple sign mistake can lead to entirely different outcomes.

4. Misapplying divisibility rules

While divisibility rules are powerful tools, misapplying them can lead to incorrect conclusions. Ensure you understand the rules thoroughly and apply them correctly. Don't rush through this step; taking a moment to confirm divisibility can save you from errors.

5. Inaccurate rounding

Rounding is a helpful technique, but it can introduce errors if not done accurately. Be mindful of how rounding affects your final answer. Adjustments might be necessary to compensate for rounded values and ensure your result is as precise as possible.

Mastering math and conquering tests

With these explanations, you'll not only clear up common misconceptions but also reinforce your understanding of crucial math concepts. Armed with both techniques and clarity, you're now primed to excel in the math sections of the SAT and ACT. Let's conclude this journey by emphasizing the significance of mastering these tricks and techniques.


1. How to get 800 in maths SAT?

Achieving a perfect 800 on the SAT math section requires a combination of preparation, practice, and strategic thinking. Here's a step-by-step guide to help you reach that coveted score:

  • Understand the format: Familiarize yourself with the structure of the SAT math section. It comprises two subsections: one where you can use a calculator and another where you can't.
  • Master the content: Cover all topics in the math curriculum that the SAT covers. These include algebra, geometry, statistics, probability, and more. Strengthen your foundation in each area.
  • Learn strategies: Develop effective strategies for solving different question types. Understand when to use algebraic methods, when to plug in numbers, and when to use visual reasoning.
  • Practice regularly: Consistent practice is key. Work through a variety of practice tests, official SAT practice materials, and reputable study guides. Time yourself to simulate the test environment.
  • Review mistakes: Mistakes are opportunities to learn. After each practice test, thoroughly review your incorrect answers. Understand the reasoning behind the correct answers.
  • Time management: The SAT is a timed test. Practice managing your time effectively. Don't spend too much time on a single question. Move on if you're stuck and come back later if needed.
  • Simulate test conditions: When you practice, mimic test conditions as closely as possible. Sit at a quiet desk, use the official time limits, and eliminate distractions.
  • Use the calculator wisely: In the calculator section, use it as a tool for complex calculations and data analysis. Don't rely on it for basic arithmetic.
  • Take care of yourself: Adequate sleep, a balanced diet, and staying physically active can positively impact your cognitive abilities and focus.
  • Practice, practice, practice: Repetition is key. The more you practice, the more comfortable and confident you'll become in tackling SAT math questions.

2. How to get a 600 on SAT math?

Scoring around 600 on the SAT math section indicates a solid understanding of math concepts. Here's a roadmap to help you achieve this score:

  • Know the basics: Ensure you have a grasp of fundamental math concepts such as arithmetic, algebra, and geometry.
  • Focus on fundamentals: Review algebraic equations, properties of shapes, and basic trigonometry. Strengthening these basics will significantly boost your score.
  • Practice consistently: Regular practice is crucial. Solve practice questions and full-length tests to become familiar with the types of questions you'll encounter.
  • Use official materials: The College Board provides official SAT practice tests. These reflect the test's content and style accurately.
  • Work on time management: Timing is essential. Practice solving questions within the allotted time to improve your pacing during the actual test.
  • Review incorrect answers: Learning from your mistakes is vital. Understand why you got questions wrong and learn from those errors.
  • Seek help: If you're struggling with specific topics, consider getting extra help from teachers, tutors, or online resources.
  • Stay confident: Believe in your abilities. A positive mindset can have a significant impact on your performance.

3. Is there a no calculator section on SAT?

Yes, there is a section on the SAT that does not allow the use of a calculator. This section aims to assess your ability to perform mathematical operations and solve problems without relying on a calculator. It tests your mental math skills, your understanding of mathematical concepts, and your problem-solving abilities using only pencil and paper.

4. What topics are on the SAT with no calculator section?

The no calculator section on the SAT includes a range of math topics, such as:

  • Basic arithmetic: This covers operations with integers, fractions, decimals, and percentages.
  • Algebra: You'll encounter linear equations, inequalities, systems of equations, and quadratic equations.
  • Geometry: Topics include properties of shapes, angles, area, perimeter, and volume.
  • Data analysis: Interpreting data from graphs, charts, and tables is a significant part of this section.
  • Advanced math: You might encounter topics like exponential functions, rational expressions, and more.
  • Word problems: Many questions present real-world scenarios that require translating words into mathematical expressions and equations.
  • Problem solving: This section assesses your ability to think critically and solve complex problems using logical reasoning.

Preparing for this section involves practicing mental math, understanding key concepts, and becoming comfortable with solving problems using pen and paper.


Congratulations! You've navigated through a treasure trove of mental math techniques that will undeniably elevate your test-taking prowess. By honing these skills, you're not just solving math problems – you're unlocking opportunities for success. Remember, practice makes perfect, so make these techniques a part of your daily routine. As you gear up for the SAT and ACT, don't forget to harness the power of Aha, a leading learning website that employs AI to analyze your strengths and weaknesses. Join the Aha community today and embark on a journey of AI-assisted learning that'll propel you toward your goals. Best of luck – you've got this!

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