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ACT Math

How the ACT Math Section Works

The ACT Test is actually made up of 5 mini-tests: English, Math, Reading, Science, and Writing. The ACT Math Test is always the second test and is always 60 minutes long with 60 questions. Concepts tested include arithmetic, algebra, coordinate geometry, plane geometry, and (unfortunately) trigonometry.

The math concepts get harder as you progress, so timing is an important part of the test. As you proceed, you must make sure not to spend more than 2 minutes on any single question, or you risk falling behind. Once you are in the middle of the section and begin to encounter more challenging concepts, make sure you don’t let any one question bog you down. You’ll need a little extra time to handle those challenging questions at the end, so make sure to move through the first third of the test quickly and confidently but don’t rush yourself. If you run out of time at the end and don’t have time to come back to it, make sure to fill in something on your answer grid. There is no wrong answer penalty on the ACT, so you definitely want to make sure to answer every single question!


ACT Math Strategy

In terms of general strategy, when you read each Math question, don’t just automatically reach for the calculator and start crunching numbers. Sometimes taking a few extra seconds to consider the best approach to solve a problem will actually save you time in the long run. Many Math problems on the ACT can be solved in a few different ways and often one way will be much faster.

Start looking for opportunities to Backsolve and Pick Numbers when you practice and remember, the smart ACT Math test-taker excels in both time-management and strategy! Try a quick practice question that is a great example for picking numbers!


Try A Math Practice Question!

C individuals pledged to pay equal contributions so that a charity’s goal of $x could be reached. If d of the contributors failed to pay their share, which of the following represents the additional number of dollars that each of the remaining individuals would have to pay in order to allow the charity to reach its goal.

(A) dx/C

(B) x/C-d




Here, since we have so many variables (“C”, “x”, and “d”), this problem gets much easier if we pick concrete numbers for these. Let’s say C = 2, x = 10 and d = 1. If 2 people are raising $10, then they’d each pay $5. But if 1 fails to pay, then the other person must pay the full $10. The “additional number” would be $5.

For (E): (1)(10)/(2)(2-1) = 10/2 = 5. Correct!

Remember, be thoughtful and deliberate when reading each question stem. Look for patterns and shortcuts. If you are stuck on a problem and can’t find a way to approach it, study the answer choices. Eliminating four wrong answer choices is just as effective as finding the right answer!

About Magoosh ACT

Magoosh is a company of passionate educators, located in Berkeley, CA. We are here to provide you with everything you need to prep for the ACT, SAT, GRE, GMAT, and TOEFL! Be sure to follow us on Twitter @Magoosh.

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