ACT Math Test-Taking Strategies

ACT Math Test-Taking Strategies

The math section of the ACT can be intimidating and frustrating. It is mostly due to the severe time constraints of this section. You only have 60 minutes to complete the 60-question math section. It means that you have one minute for each question on the test. The math section tests students with concepts that are mainly in high school, algebra, geometry, algebra II, and trigonometry courses.

Now that you are ready to take the ACT, it is time to learn some tips and tricks to improve your score. So join us.

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1- Read all questions carefully 

The ACT has a way of expressing math questions that seem more complex and confusing than they are, and it may not be clear what you are going to do. It is important to carefully begin the dissecting and interpretation of the question before starting to complete any math. The questions may seem vague at first, but as you work on the question slowly, they may become really simple.

2- Always more than one way to get to the right answer

One nice thing about the ACT math section is that you do not need to show any of your work. Unlike math tests and homework in high school, you are not tested on how to complete math problems. If you can answer them correctly, you are experimenting.

In this case, there is usually more than one way to get the correct answer to each of the ACT math questions. If you arrive at a question that you feel you could comfortably work through a few different ways, consider which will give you the highest probability of arriving at the correct answer. 

3- Don’t rely 100% on your calculator

You are allowed to use a permitted calculator throughout the ACT Math section. But just because you have a calculator does not mean you should always use it. There are times when a calculator comes in handy because it can complete complex mathematical equations so quickly that you need time to work long hours. In contrast, there are times when drawing a picture and building tables, or doing simple mental math, are easier and faster than taking the time to add all kinds of information to your calculator.

4- Leverage your answer options

Sometimes plugin answer options are faster than actually solving the problem.  Additionally, if you are unsure about how you can solve a problem, you may be able to use your answer options for guidance. There may be a question that you do not know how to work with, but you can plug answer options into it. There is no “right” or “wrong” way to get the right answer. It is helpful to remember that working with questions backward is a tool that you will have at your disposal.

5- Use your workspace

Only half of the page in the math section contains questions. The other half is for you to use to solve problems. Be sure to use this space.

Students are usually fascinated by their calculators and never bother to write anything in the workspace. But you can easily forget what stage you are at when you plug things into your calculator one after the other. If you take a second to draw a picture for yourself, make a diagram for yourself, underline important information about a story issue, many problems will be solved much better and easier.

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6- Eliminate unrealistic answers

The ACT math section is multiple choice. It is a great tip that can help you in any part of ACT. You are allowed to write your test booklet, so eliminate the wrong answers. It helps you focus on the remaining answer options and helps you guess if this is what you can guess. It is important in the ACT math section because this is the only test section where you have five answers instead of just four options. It means that you have a 20% chance of guessing correctly. Even by omitting a wrong answer to a question, you change your chances of guessing a correct answer to 25%. If you can eliminate the three wrong answers, you now have a 50% chance of guessing correctly. It is a much better chance than if you do not try to eliminate the wrong answer.

7- Translate the words into math

With each question, translate the words into math to identify and solve the problem more easily.

8- Skip anything difficult

This is a golden rule for ACT math: Use your time wisely. You never want to spend too much time on every question. Each question has the same amount of points. So use your time wisely. The best-case scenario would be to have enough time at the end of the test to go back to the questions you rejected and answer them.

9- Double-check your answer

Always double-check your calculations. It is not uncommon to make a mistake when calculating a problem quickly.

10- Approach every ACT math question in the same way

  • Read the question
  • See the information provided in the question and the answer choices
  • Solve:
    back solve
    pick numbers
    use traditional math
    strategically guess
  • Check if you have answered the specific question you were asked

The math part of ACT can be very intimidating, especially if you do not know what to expect. Most students are not accustomed to being tested on the speed of doing math problems, but with more practice and familiarity and more repetition and practice, this is a part that anyone can do well.

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