ACT Math Tips

Before exam day:

  • Start reviewing and preparing early, particularly if math is not your subject! This test covers material that you have learned over several years at school, so make sure that you have not forgotten the concepts that are listed on the skills page. Take practice ACT Mathematics tests to get a feel for the types of questions that will be on the test and to pinpoint areas of weakness. For example, if you struggle with the trigonometry questions, focus your time on practicing those topics.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help! Unlike some other subjects, math is very difficult to learn without the help of an experienced teacher or tutor. Consider joining an ACT prep course, which will help you learn about the math topics that will be on the exam. You can also ask a teacher for extra work and help, or you could hire a private tutor. You can also search the internet to find videos of math lessons given by teachers.
  • Review and practice all of the skills addressed on the test. Even if you think it sounds easy, it doesn’t hurt to go over every concept. If it is something you have learned years ago and not applied very often, it is likely that you have forgotten aspects of what is required to be successful. You do NOT want to sit down on test day and discover that you have forgotten one of these skills!
  • Practice with the calculator that you will be using on test day. Check and double check to be sure that the calculator is acceptable. You don’t want to be stuck without it when it counts! Learn how to use the functions and how to apply them to the types of questions which will be on the exam.

On exam day:

  • You only have about one minute to answer each question. Take advantage of the fact that you are permitted a wristwatch with which to keep the time and pace yourself accordingly. If you are stuck on a question, skip over it and continue with the test. If you have time, return to it later and make an educated guess. Remember, the test begins with the easier material and gradually becomes more difficult, so try to save yourself more time for the questions near the end of the test.
  • Some students prefer to begin the test with the more difficult material and to save the easier questions for the end. If you feel this way, you may want to skip ahead to the final ten questions of the test and work your way back. If you do decide to do this, be careful not to get mixed up on your answer sheet!
  • Some students will quickly ‘pass over’ the test the first time and complete the questions that they find are easy and straight forward. After that, they will return to the questions which they find more difficult. This is another strategy that can help you focus on your strengths and still give you the time needed to tackle questions that are more difficult. Just make sure you don’t spend too long ‘passing over’!
  • Don’t be afraid to make an educated guess! There is no penalty for guessing on the ACT. Try to eliminate answers that are obviously incorrect and guess the one you think might have the best chance of being the right answer. Don’t leave any question blank!

Ask a Question