Good day, ACT scholars! Today I’m going to talk about something I know you’ve avoided exploring for some time: ACT math topics. The ACT Math section can be scary. Seriously, If I had to take the ACT Math Test right this minute, I would freak out.
But don’t let my first reaction scare you. It doesn’t mean I can’t guide you through the test’s content. Just don’t ask me how to do any of it, and we’ll be fine. In this article, I’ll explore the 5 most frequently tested ACT Math topics, and provide you with tons of resource links to help you expand your mathematical knowledge. First, a disclaimer: This list does not cover trigonometry questions. If you want to know the basics, this is the article for you. If you’re shooting for a 36, please check out our trig posts.
As the prefix ‘Pre’ implies, Pre-Algebra questions are the most basic (and easiest) of all ACT Math topics. As questions go from easy to hard on the test, you’ll see these questions first. Here are a few skills Pre-Algebra questions require you to know:
- Multiplication and division
- The difference between mean, median, and mode
- Fractions, percentages, and decimals
This topic may seem easy at first glance, but don’t become overconfident. Practice these ‘easy’ questions – like this probability one below – to make sure there are no gaps in your knowledge.
Things are starting to get a little bit harder now. The ACT Math Test switches from Pre-Algebra to Algebra questions when it asks you to substitute values. Though you may not see an ‘x’ in the problem, substitution and plugging in numbers to solve equations define Elementary Algebra questions.
Here are some other Elementary Algebra skills that you will definitely need to know:
- Factoring and Unfactoring
- Turning word problems into equations before solving them.
- Multiplying Binomials (FOIL-ing)
These questions will be some of the hardest (and most time consuming) questions on the test. You won’t see any Intermediate Algebra word problems. These questions will require you to know the following:
- Quadratic Equations (and the quadratic formula)
- Systems of Equations
- Functions (and Compound Functions)
Start learning these even before registering for the ACT test! Test your skills on this intermediate algebra problem below, featuring the quadratic formula in its problem. How you solve it is up to you!
Plane Geometry covers the simpler concepts contained within Geometry, probably things you learned in the first few months of your 10th-grade Geometry class. As nearly a full quarter of ACT Math questions on the official test are Plane Geometry questions, it’s essential to know the following ACT math topics:
- Basic Vocab: Line, Line Segment, Ray, Midpoint, Bisect
- Isosceles, Right, and Equilateral Triangles
- Pythagorean Theorem
- Special Right Triangles
- Area of Triangles and Polygons
- Finding the Area of Circles and Squares
- Measuring Volume
- Diagonal Length
- Rectangles and Parallelograms
Again, even though these are the ‘easier’ topics, make sure you know them all. Though it’s understandable to miss a really hard question, it’d be a shame to miss an easy one. Try out this isosceles triangle sample problem to see how sharp your skills are.
Is there a line graph and/or coordinate plane? If so, that’s a Coordinate Geometry question. Besides these two hallmarks of Plane Geometry, have the following down pat:
- Parallel/Perpendicular Lines
- Parabolas and conic sections
- Ellipses and Circles
Refresh your knowledge of coordinate geometry, by clicking on the video lesson below. In it, a Magoosh ACT expert will walk you through circles in the x-y plane.
P.S. For a review of the math topics tested on the ACT, check out our free ACT ebook for all you need to know about math and everything else!
P.P.S. We have this great printable ACT math formula sheet you can tape to your mirror!
That’s all for now, ACT Scholars. See you next time, and remember to carry the one!