SAT / ACT Prep Online Guides and Tips

Expert Guide to SAT Grid-Ins: 5 Key Tips

Posted by Dora Seigel | May 25, 2016 8:00:00 AM

SAT Math

 

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If you’re planning to take the SAT, you may have heard of this strange question type known as grid-ins. You probably know that there are multiple-choice questions and an optional essay, but what are grid-ins? Problems that require you to draw pictures or graphs, perhaps? The reality is grid-ins are almost identical to multiple-choice questions; they just don’t provide answer choices.

This guide will explain what grid-ins are, discuss where they appear, outline how many appear on the SAT, and provide tips on answering them. 

 

What Are SAT Grid-Ins?

Grid-ins, also known as student-produced response questions, are questions that don’t provide you with possible answer choices

While regular multiple-choice questions look like this:

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Grid-in questions look like this:

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As you might have guessed, these are called student-produced response questions because they require you to come up with the answer on your ownno possibilities are provided for you.

They’re also called grid-ins because you need to grid in the correct answer on your answer sheet. For a typical multiple-choice question, you’d simply bubble in A, B, C, or D to answer the question. For a grid in, you’re provided with a grid such as the one below. 

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The slash represents a fraction line, and the period represents a decimal point. You then write the answer in the four slots provided and fill in the corresponding bubbles beneath. Below, I’ll provide some examples of how to grid in responses.

If an answer doesn’t take up all four spaces (such as 8, 17, or 347), you can start it in any column. For example, if the answer is 201, either response below is correct:

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If an answer can be written in fraction or decimal form, you grid it in either way. For example, there are three acceptable ways to grid ${2}/{3}$.

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Where Do SAT Grid-In Questions Appear?

These questions only appear on the SAT Math section in both the no-calculator and calculator portions. They will always appear at the very end of these two parts after the multiple-choice.

 

How Many Grid-In Questions Are There?

There are 13 total grid-in questions. There are five in the no calculator section and eight in the calculator allowed section. As I mentioned before, they always appear at the very end of the section, so they’ll be questions 16-20 in the no calculator section and questions 31-38 in the calculator section.  

 

How to Grid-In Answers Effectively: 5 Key Tips

To ensure you answer grid-in questions correctly and to save time on the actual SAT, you should familiarize yourself with the rules now. That way, you won’t have to read the instructions during the test.

Here are the five key tips regarding grid-in questions:

  1. Mark no more than one circle per column.
  2. There are no negative answers (since there is no way to bubble in a negative sign).
  3. You’ll never include pi in your answer; you’ll use a decimal. For example, 3π would be written as 9.425.
  4. You can write answers as fractions or decimals, but you cannot use mixed numbers. For example, $3{1}/{2}$ would need to be grid in as either 3.5 or ${7}/{2}$ since the grading machine will read $3{1}/{2}$ as ${31}/{2}$.
  5. Some questions will have more than one answer (they’ll typically tell you that in the question). Only grid in one answer. For example, if you’re asked for one value of x, which makes $(x-1)(x-3)=0$, then the answers are $x=3$ or $x=1$, and you’d have to choose to grid in either 1 or 3.

 

SAT Grid-In Example Questions

Let's look at a couple of example questions to see how these questions work on the actual test.

 

Example 1

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Answer Explanation: Since Wyatt can husk at least 12 dozen ears of corn per hour, it will take him no more than ${72}/{12}=6$ hours to husk 72 dozen ears of corn. Since Wyatt can husk at most 18 dozen ears of corn per hour, it will take him at least ${72}/{18}=4$ hours to husk 72 dozen ears of corn. Therefore, it could take Wyatt 4 to 6 hours, inclusive, to husk 72 dozen ears of corn.

As I mentioned, when there are multiple answer possibilities, you simply choose one to fill in. In this case, it would be easiest to grid an integer such as 4, 5, or 6. However, you could also useany number between 4 and 6, inclusive, such as 4.5, 4.7, 5.2, etc. I'd advise against griding in non-integers whenever possible as it'll take longer, and there's a higher risk of making an error. 

 

Example 2

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Answer Explanation: The question told us that Jessica made an initial deposit of 100 dollars into her account, and the interest on her account is 2 percent compounded annually. We will use this given information and the compound interest formula to figure out how much money Jessica has after 10 years. 

The compound interest formula is $A=P(1+{r}/{n})^(nt)$, where: 

  • P = principal amount (the initial amount deposited)
  • r  = annual rate of interest (as a decimal)
  • t  = number of years since initial deposit.
  • A = amount of money accumulated after t years, including interest.
  • n  = number of times the interest is compounded per year. 

In Jessica's case, A is what we're trying to find, $P=100$, $r=0.02$, $t=10$, and $n=1$ because the interest is compounded once per year (annually). So,

$$A=100(1+0.02)^(10)$$

$$A=100(1.02)^(10)$$

$$A=121.899$$

After 10 years, Jessica’s deposit is worth $121.899$ rounded to the nearest tenth of a cent.

In Tyshaun's case, A is what we're trying to find, $P=100$, $r=0.025$, $t=10$, and $n=1$ because the interest is compounded once per year (annually). So, 

$$A=100(1+0.025)^(10)$$

$$A=100(1.025)^(10)$$

$$A=128.008$$

After 10 years, Tyshaun’s deposit is worth $128.008$ rounded to the nearest tenth of a cent. Jessica’s initial deposit earned $21.899$, and Tyshaun’s initial deposit earned $28.008$. Therefore, to the nearest cent, Tyshaun’s initial deposit earned $6.11$ dollars more than Jessica’s initial deposit.

As I mentioned, when gridding in, you cannot include any units. In this case, you'd need to ignore the dollar signas mentioned in the question.

 

Example 3

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Answer Explanation: Since the radius of the circle is 10, the circumference is $2πr=20π$. The full circumference of a circle is 360°. Thus, an arc of length $s$ on the circle corresponds to a central angle of x°, where ${x}/{360}={s}/{20π}$, or $x={360}/{20π}s$.

Since $5<s<6$, it follows that ${360}/{20π}(5)<s<{360}/{20π}(6)$, which becomes, to the nearest tenth, 28.6 < x < 34.4. Therefore, the possible integer values of x are 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, and 34. 

As I mentioned, when there are multiple answer possibilities, you must choose one to grid-in. This question explicitly asks you for only one possible integer value, so make sure you select either 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, or 34.

  

Review 

Grid-ins only appear in the SAT Math section at the end of the no-calculator and calculator sections. They require you to produce a responseno answer possibilities are provided for you. Remember these five key tips when answering this style of question:

  • Mark no more than one circle per column.
  • There are no negative answers (since there is no way to bubble in a negative sign).
  • You’ll never include pi in your answer; instead, you’ll use a decimal.
  • You can write answers as fractions or decimals, but you cannot use mixed numbers. 
  • Some questions will have more than one answer (they’ll typically tell you that in the question). Only grid in one answer. 

  

What’s Next?

Need additional help preparing for the SAT? Check out our ultimate SAT study guide. Taking the SAT soon? Learn how to cram for the test.

Unsure how to prepare for test day? Learn what to do the night before the SAT, and read the rules and regulation.

Not sure where you’d like to go to college? Learn how to do research right. Once you know where you’d like to apply, learn how to pick an SAT target score.

 

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Dora Seigel
About the Author

As an SAT/ACT tutor, Dora has guided many students to test prep success. She loves watching students succeed and is committed to helping you get there. Dora received a full-tuition merit based scholarship to University of Southern California. She graduated magna cum laude and scored in the 99th percentile on the ACT. She is also passionate about acting, writing, and photography.



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