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Can You Take the SAT Without Geometry?

Posted by Rebecca Safier | Apr 7, 2015 7:03:33 PM

SAT General Info




The math section of the SAT covers four main areas: number / operations, algebra, data analysis / statistics, and geometry. If you've never taken a geometry class or feel it's not your strong suit, is it still possible for you to score highly on the SAT math section?

This article will let you know how much geometry is actually on the SAT and how well you can score with little or no previous knowledge of the subject.

First, how many of the math questions actually ask you about shapes and angles? 


How Much Geometry Is On the SAT?

About 25% to 30% of the math questions are considered geometry questions. This equates to about 15 of the total 54 math questions (44 multiple choice and 10 grid-ins). 

These approximately 15 questions may cover a number of concepts.


What Concepts In Geometry Are Covered?

The questions may cover 

  • Area and perimeter of a polygon (triangles, squares, pentagons, and so forth)
  • Area and cirumference of a circle
  • Volume of a box, cube, and cylinder
  • Pythagorean Theorem and special properties of isosceles, equilaterla, and right triangles
  • Properties of parallel and perpendicular lines
  • Coordinate geometry
  • Geometric visualization
  • Slope
  • Similarity
  • Transformations

Below is an example of an SAT geometry question about surface area and volume of a polygon of medium level difficulty. If you're familiar with how to calculate surface area and volume, then it basically turns into an algebra problem where you solve for x.




The correct answer here, by the way, is (C) 60.

Do any of the above concepts sound familiar? If not, what's the highest score you can hope to achieve on the SAT math section?


What Score Can You Get Without Geometry?

If you skip all of the geometry questions and answer all of the other math questions correctly, then the highest score you can achieve is a 620.

Of course, this isn't a particularly realistic scenario. You can't guarantee you'll answer all of the other questions perfectly, nor will you necessarily be unable to answer any geometry questions just because you haven't taken a geometry class.

Self-studying can go a long way, and some of the geometry questions may even be intuitive and easy for you to figure out. 

To give you a deeper understanding of how well you can score on the math section, let's review exactly how it's scored. First, you get a raw score that consists of one point for every correct answer, 0 points for skipped answers, and -1/4 point for wrong answers. If you answered every single question right, for instance, your raw score would be 54 (one point each for 54 correctly answered questions).

This raw score is then converted to a scaled score between 200 and 800 by a process called equating, which takes into account the scores of everyone who took that test, along with a number of other variables. A raw score of 54 would equate to a perfect scaled score of 800.

So where did I get that number, 620? This chart shows how raw scores converted to scaled scores on last year's SAT. If you were to get 15 geometry questions wrong, and the remaining 39 math questions correct, then your raw score would be 39. As you can see in the chart, a 39 equates to a 620.

Again, since this isn't a very realistic scenario, this chart can give you a better idea of what scores you can aim to achieve on the SAT with little or no knowledge of geometry. I cut it off at 420, but as you know, the lowest score on the math section is a 200.


Raw Score Scaled Score Raw Score Scaled Scored
54 800 35 590
53 790 34 580
52 760 33 570
51 740 32 560
50 720 31 550
49 710 30 540
48 700 29 540
47 690 28 530
46 680 27 530
45 670 26 510
44 660 25 500
43 650 24 490
42 640 23 480
41 640 22 470
40 630 21 460
39 620 20 450
38 610 19 440
37 600 18 430
36 590 17 420


These exact conversions may vary slightly from year to year, but they stay roughly the same. If you're curious about how the Critical Reading and Writing sections are scored (all the sections are a little different) you can check out the scoring charts here.

Now that you have a sense of what topics are covered and how the math section is scored, what can you take away from this information?






SAT Math Section Takeaways

At 25% to 30%, geometry concepts make up a significant part of the math section on the SAT. If you haven't taken geometry in school, it's definitely a good idea to try to learn some of the concepts on your own through your SAT prep.

The geometry questions usually aren't too advanced, so you might be able to get a lot of them right with just a basic knowledge of the concepts and some practice. Seek out some representative questions and you should be able to anticipate and prepare yourself for the ones that will show up on your official SAT.

SAT Questions of the Day can be a great introduction, and full length practice tests are very useful once you have some familiarity with the concepts. With some review of geometry on your own, you can probably enhance your overall math score a great deal.


What's Next?

When are you planning to take the SAT? Depending on your grade, you will likely be aiming for different target scores. Read about what makes a good score for 9th grade, what's good for 10th, and what's a good score for your final SAT score for colleges.

Are you figuring out your study plan for the SAT, or not sure how to fit in test prep with all the other things you've got going on in your life? This article helps you set target scores and plan out a study schedule so you can achieve high scores on this important test.

Are you eventually aiming to get a perfect 800 on the math section of the SAT? This article by a full scorer breaks down how to achieve that elusive 800.


Want to improve your SAT score by 240 points? We have the industry's leading SAT prep program. Built by Harvard grads and SAT full scorers, the program learns your strengths and weaknesses through advanced statistics, then customizes your prep program to you so you get the most effective prep possible.

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Rebecca Safier
About the Author

Rebecca graduated with her Master's in Adolescent Counseling from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She has years of teaching and college counseling experience and is passionate about helping students achieve their goals and improve their well-being. She graduated magna cum laude from Tufts University and scored in the 99th percentile on the SAT.

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