ACT Math Skills

Which exact skills will be tested on the ACT Mathematics Exam?

There are six content areas which are covered in the ACT Mathematics test: pre-algebra, elementary algebra, intermediate algebra, coordinate geometry, plane geometry and trigonometry. There will be three sub-scores: Pre-Algebra/Elementary Algebra, Intermediate Algebra/Coordinate Geometry, and Plane Geometry/Trigonometry.

Pre-Algebra/Elementary Algebra

Pre-Algebra (23%) These questions test the student’s knowledge of basic operations with whole numbers, decimals, fractions, and integers as well as place value, square roots, and approximations. Other topics include scientific notation, factors, ratio, percent, and linear equations as well as ordering numbers by absolute value, probability, data collection, and interpretation.

Elementary Algebra (17%) These questions test the student’s knowledge of properties of exponents and square roots, solving algebraic expressions using substitution, understanding algebraic operations, using variables in functional relationships, and the solution of equations by factoring.

Intermediate Algebra/Coordinate Geometry

Intermediate Algebra (15%) These questions test the student’s knowledge of rational and radical expressions, the quadratic formula, absolute value, sequences and patterns, functions, modeling, systems of equations, quadratic inequalities, matrices, complex numbers and roots of polynomials. Oh boy.

Coordinate Geometry (15%) These questions test the student’s knowledge of the relations between equations and graphs (this includes points, lines, polynomials, circles, and other curves) as well as graphing inequalities, slope, parallel and perpendicular lines, midpoints, distance, and conics.

Plane Geometry/Trigonometry

Plane Geometry (23%) These questions test the student’s knowledge of the properties and relations of plane figures (this includes angles and relations among perpendicular and parallel lines) as well as transformations, proof and proof techniques, volume, the properties of circles, triangles, rectangles, parallelograms, and trapezoids, as well as the application of geometry to figures with three dimensions.

Trigonometry (7%) These questions are based on the student’s knowledge of trigonometric relations in right triangles, graphing trigonometric functions, values of trigonometric functions, use of trigonometric identities as well as modeling and solving trigonometric equations.

You will not notice any difference in formatting between the types of questions, although it is much more likely that the more advanced mathematics will entail reading a graph, chart, or drawing. There may be more than one question associated with a graph, chart, or drawing. The test will state this if this is the case. Each sub-score on the ACT is between 1 and 18. Your sub-score does not have a direct mathematical impact on your overall score in any subject area.

One important thing to keep in mind is that the test gradually gets harder from beginning to end. At the beginning of the test, you are more likely to see the Pre-Algebra material. At the end of the test, you are more likely to see the Trigonometry material. Pace yourself accordingly, knowing that you will likely have to spend more time on questions at the end of the test as opposed to the beginning of the test.