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Kristin Fracchia

TuesdACT Video: Top 3 Tips to Improve Your ACT Math Score


Hey TuesdACT fans, heads up! Pop quiz coming in hot.

Approximately how long is a new, standard, unsharpened #2 pencil?
A. 7 centimeters
B. 7 inches
C. 7 feet
D. 7 yards

You may not know the exact length of a standard pencil, but I bet you could take a REALLY good guess among the above answer choices just by using a little common sense. But so often we forget to use this common sense on the ACT Math test. We get caught up in our calculations and forget to measure our answer against the original problem to see if it checks out. Let’s say an $80 dress is on sale for 20% off. if you do the math and get an answer of $96….well that sounds like a really bad sale to me. That couldn’t possibly be the answer, so don’t pick it. And that’s why being realistic is my first tip to help you improve your ACT Math score.

Tip 1: Think Realistically

So many of the ACT word problems are based on real-world situations, and they usually present realistic scenarios, so make sure the answer you get makes sense in the context of the problem. Thinking realistically also applies in a slightly different way to the geometry problems on the test. Unlike the SAT, you aren’t likely to see figures that are not drawn to scale. So even if you don’t know how to solve a problem, you can use visual estimation to narrow down the answer choices, sometimes even to the correct answer, without doing any work at all.

Tip 2: Use the Answer Choices

On every single ACT question, the correct answer is literally sitting right in front of your face. You just have to pick it out of a multiple choice lineup. This means you can do things on the ACT you can’t do on a lot of school math problems, such as plug in answer choices to see which one works. So don’t forget about working backwards. There are so many questions on the test that are just begging to be solved this way.

Tip 3: Move Quickly

The questions on the ACT Math test aren’t exactly arranged easy to hard. They do tend to get more advanced in concept as you move through the section, but most students find there isn’t an exponential increase in difficulty level. If you just studied identities in your trig class, for example, you might find question 59 to be easier than question 12. This means you can’t let yourself get stuck on any one problem. Make quick decisions to skip and come back to problems if there is time. It’s a real shame to spend 3 minutes wrestling with a question you ultimately will get wrong and run out of time to see a problem you could absolutely get right.

Check out the video for more on how to improve your ACT math score by following these top tips!

About Kristin Fracchia

Kristin makes sure Magoosh's blogs are chock-full of awesome, free resources for students preparing for standardized tests. With a PhD from UC Irvine and degrees in Education and English, she’s been working in education since 2004 and has helped students prepare for standardized tests, as well as college and graduate school admissions, since 2007. She enjoys the agonizing bliss of marathon running, backpacking, hot yoga, and esoteric knowledge.

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