The following are 11 ACT Math strategies from the experts that you should be aware of if you are taking the test
Phone Image
11 ACT Math Strategies from the Experts

11 ACT Math Strategies from the Experts

The ACT math section can be pretty tricky if you haven’t studied algebra in a while. It’s what most of us dread – a timed math exam. The ACT math section has 60 questions for you to answer in 60 minutes, which can be stressful without the proper preparation. 

Thankfully, here at Park Tutoring, we’ve devised some ACT Math Strategies that will help you ace the math section of the ACT and get you closer to your dream school!

However you’re doing your ACT math preparation, it's important that you not only remember the concepts, but also think of how you can do well on test day. On exam day, it's important that you try to minimize extraneous distractions and focus on the test in front of you. 

Here are 11 ACT Math Strategies that will help you aim for a perfect score on the ACT math test:

Know what’s on the ACT Math Exam

This tip might sound simple at first, but once you actually think about it, its probably the most important for your entire ACT math prep. If you study for differential equations because you think they might be on the ACT, you’re severely mismanaging your time, especially if you’re trying to learn a new concept. Furthermore, if you don’t know the format of the exam, you’re doing yourself a great disservice as well. Here’s a basic rundown of what to expect when you take the ACT:

  1. It’s scored from 1-36 like the rest of the exam
  2. You have 60 minutes to complete 60 questions
  3. The ACT generally arranges questions by difficulty so the first 20 are the easiest, second 20 are the middle tier, and last 20 are the most difficult.
  4. You can use a calculator, but make sure you check the ACT’s list of permitted calculators before you go out and buy one
  5. There are no formulas provided!!! Unlike the SAT, there is no reference sheet for you to consult, and you must memorize all the required formulas before the day of the exam
  6. The Math section covers concepts ranging from Pre-Algebra to Trigonometry. Make sure you know what you’re being tested on. If you want to find out in more detail what’s actually on the ACT math section, click here to read our ACT Math Detailed Breakdown.
  7. The ACT is not a math skills test, it’s a math application test. You’re going to see math tested in an unfamiliar way.

Know how to Study for the ACT

Studying for the ACT Math section can be a daunting task, but there are several strategies you can use to help you prepare. One effective method is to practice with ACT Math section practice tests and questions, which can help you familiarize yourself with the types of problems you'll encounter on the actual test. Additionally, learning ACT Math tips and tricks, such as how to approach word problems and how to solve problems more efficiently, can also be helpful. Another important strategy is to review key math concepts and formulas that are tested on the ACT, such as algebra, geometry, and trigonometry. Finally, it can be beneficial to develop effective math strategies, such as writing out the steps of a problem and avoiding careless mistakes, to help you perform your best on test day. By using these strategies and practicing regularly, you can build your confidence and improve your performance on the ACT Math section.

Target Easier Questions First

Like we mentioned above, the ACT ranks its questions by difficulty and as the exam progresses the questions get more difficult. That means that you shouldn’t be spending the same amount of time on each question. While you’re allocated 60 minutes to complete 60 questions, you should be budgeting your time for the questions you won’t be so familiar with. That way, when you come across a difficult question, you’ll have more time to think over your response.

This means that you should try and answer questions 1-40 as quickly as you can to budget enough time for the more difficult questions. Keep in mind that you shouldn’t rush unnecessarily, but make sure that you are able to answer as many questions from the last 20 that you can, if you’re aiming for an extremely high score.

Alternatively, you can budget most of your time on the first 40 questions and try to get a higher score, but this is not recommended if you’re trying to get as close to a 36 as possible.

If you’re taking more than a minute to solve a question, your best bet is probably to skip it and come back to it if you have time. Don’t waste all of your time on answering one question.

Use the Multiple Choice Options!

The ACT is a multiple choice test, meaning that you can plug the answer choices back into the original question to figure out the correct answer. If the answer choices are all number values then you can just check each one to see if it works within the question and you’re good to go!

Keep in mind that this won’t work for more abstract questions or graphing questions that ask for the equations, but for the most part of the ACT, if you’re absolutely stuck then this is a good method to get back on track.

Learn How to Ignore Parts of the Question

Generally speaking, the ACT math section will have a lot of filler text in between the actual meat of the questions. This can include descriptions of unimportant parts of the story, or just general fluff that slows you down. It can be easy to get confused by this, especially if there are a lot of words on a problem, but luckily, you can just cut out most of the unnecessary information and solve the question much more efficiently.

Make Variables More Concrete

Let’s say you’re not the most comfortable working with abstract values. That’s totally fine! You can use simple counting numbers to check your answers. What we mean by this is you can plug in numerical values like -1, 0, or 1, for example, to see which equation answer choices are correct.

Which of the following is always positive for all real negative numbers?

(a) y = x + 1

(b) y = Ix - 41

(c)   y = x 3 +3

(d)  y = 4x - 2

In the above practice ACT question example, we can see that it’s asking which function of x always returns a positive number for all negative real numbers. By plugging in a number like -1 to the equation, we know that only the absolute value function will always return the positive value. 

What’s Really being Asked Here?

The ACT math section can be broken down into three major content areas, each with its own concepts being tested. They are:

  1. Preparing for Higher Math (~60% of all questions)
  2. Integrating Essential Skills (~40% of all questions)
  3. Modeling (~25% of all questions)

The questions you’ll encounter on the ACT will all fall into these three categories. If you want to know more about each individual category, click here to read about the ACT in more depth.

Guessing is not Bad

While studying for the ACT, you might’ve heard that you shouldn’t guess because you’ll be penalized for getting a question wrong. While this used to be correct, it is no longer the case as of 2011. If you’re stuck and running out of time, you should always make an educated guess!

You should always try to eliminate as many answer choices as possible  before guessing in order to maximize your chances of getting the correct answer. However, if you completely do not know, pick one answer and stick with it for all questions.

Figures are not your Friends

At the beginning of the ACT Math test, the instructions make it clear that the figures provided with the problems may not be drawn to scale. This means that you should be cautious when making any assumptions about the figures, such as the size of angles or the lengths of lines.

To avoid making incorrect assumptions, it is important to only use values that are clearly marked in the figure. If you are unsure about the figure, you can also draw your own diagram to help you visualize the problem and work through it more effectively.

Calculators, Calculators, Calculators

Make sure you know what calculators you can use on the ACT! The worst feeling is to get to the testing center only to find out you won’t be able to use your calculator on the exam because it has a forbidden feature! Also in that same regard, make sure you charge your calculator before the exam or bring extra batteries. Or, you can even bring a backup calculator in case everything else fails.

Although you’re allowed to use one, in the case that you forget to bring it or something else unexpected happens, you can solve every question on the ACT without a calculator.

Show your work

You might be tempted to skip showing your work because of the time constraints on the ACT, but trust us, you’ll be much better off if you keep showing your work in an organized manner, 

While you won’t be penalized or rewarded based on your work, its important to keep everything organized in order to make sure you can follow through your steps when finishing up the problem or checking your work. 


ACT math strategies | ACT math strategies | ACT math tips and tricks | ACT math prep | ACT math preparation | math strategies | ACT math test tips | ACT math prep tips | act math exam tips |