Linear Word Problems

Many students turn the page on their Section 3 of the SAT, see a huge block of text, and are filled with dread at the sight.  With just a little bit of practice, however, you’ll be able to see right through these problems.

Linear word problems are word problems that use words to describe a linear relationship. The first step of any linear word problem is determining that the words are describing a linear relationship.


Constant rate: Linear word problems will occasionally use the term constant rate. If something is changing at a constant rate, this means the slope is a number and doesn’t change, so this is a line! 

Equations to a power of 1: Some linear word problems will have an equation in the question or the answer choices. If the equation(s) has two variables that are both to a power of 1 (like in \(y=mx+b\)) then this is a linear word problem.

There are three types of linear word problems, and now we’ll identify each one and the strategy you should use to ace them.

The three types of linear word problems can be grouped by what you see when you look at the answer choices:

  1. Some numbers
  2. Some equations
  3. A bunch more words