ACT Math

What do you need to know about prepping for The ACT?

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The ACT Math section tests students’ skills in basic math concepts, ranging from elementary-level pre-algebra through high school trigonometry. Students who do well on the ACT math section are not necessarily those who do the best in math class, but those who can read carefully, understand the question, and follow their own intuitive way through solving the problem.

There are a number of things the ACT does differently in their math section in contrast to high school math classes. First, the questions are multiple choice, lending a hint of sorts on some questions. Second, they often take a simple concept and word the question in a new way, turning a problem students have succeeded on many times into a struggle. Third, the ACT often only presents some of the information needed to solve a problem or diagram. Flexible thinking and careful reading are rewarded on this test.

The ACT math test is a 60-minute, 60-question test. The questions start out easier, increasing in their difficulty. Here is a list of the areas and topics of math students should expect to see:

Elementary math and pre-algebra (24 questions)

  • Integers, decimal numbers, and number line understanding
  • Absolute value
  • Rational vs. irrational numbers
  • Basic operations (add, subtract, multiply, divide)
  • Order of operations
  • Multiples
  • Factors
  • Fractions
  • Exponents
  • Square roots
  • Proportions, ratios, percentages

Intermediate algebra and coordinate geometry (18 questions)

  • Simple probability
  • Permutations and combinations
  • Statistics (mean, median, mode)
  • Charts, tables, graphs
  • Using variables to express relationship
  • Solving equations with one and two variables
  • Linear equations and their graphs
  • Polynomials
  • Factoring
  • Quadratic equations
  • Inequalities
  • Radicals
  • Imaginary numbers
  • Complex numbers
  • Sequences (arithmetic, geometric)
  • Matrices
  • Functions

Intermediate algebra and coordinate geometry (18 questions)

  • Angles
  • Triangles, parallelograms, rectangles, squares, trapezoids
  • Perimeter
  • Area
  • Volume
  • Translation, reflection, rotation
  • Points on a line or plane
  • Circles
  • Trigonometric identities
  • Trigonometric functions
  • Trigonometric graphs
  • Unit circle
  • Degree/radian relationship

Because the concepts tested are limited and known, studying math in preparation for the ACT is an effective strategy. Students should begin with a review of the scope and sequence of math subjects, noting any formulas or ideas with which they are unfamiliar. At this point, some review and practice with the concepts will help strengthen these weaknesses and prepare students to think independently (even creatively) when they meet them on the test. Once they have reviewed the list of math topics, practicing with real ACT test questions is the best way to prepare for the test.

Prepstar ACT courses and private tutors will help students see the different facets of the math section and create a strategy that builds on their strengths, helping them do their highest quality work. Rather than race through from start to finish and hope for the best, our practice feedback, along with helpful content review, will give them the tactics and understanding they need to succeed at the ACT-style questioning they’ll see on the test.