Thomas Broderick

5 Most Frequently Tested ACT Math Topics

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. All those ACT Math concepts to learn…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 concepts and the topics they cover. I’ll also provide you with tons of resource links to help you expand your mathematical knowledge.

A quick 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.

Basically, all other ACT Math concepts fall into one of five categories:

  1. Pre-Algebra
  2. Elementary Algebra
  3. Intermediate Algebra
  4. Plane Geometry
  5. Coordinate Geometry

Let’s take a closer look at the topics that fall under each of these math concepts.


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 topics Pre-Algebra questions require you to know:

  • Multiplication and division
  • The difference between mean, median, and mode
  • Fractions, percentages, and decimals
  • Probability

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.

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ACT math topics probability

Elementary Algebra

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 concepts that you will definitely need to know for ACT Math:

ACT math topics FOIL method

Intermediate Algebra

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 test you on the following concepts:

  • Quadratic Equations (and the quadratic formula)
  • Systems of Equations
  • Functions (and Compound Functions)
  • Logarithms
  • Matrices

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

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.

ACT math topics isosceles triangle

Coordinate Geometry

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 concepts down pat:

  • Midpoints
  • Parallel/Perpendicular Lines
  • Slope
  • Y=mx+b
  • 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.

ACT math topics coordinate geometry practice

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! Then, test your skills with this ACT math practice!
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!



  • Thomas Broderick

    Thomas spent four years teaching high school English, social studies, and ACT preparation in Middle Tennessee. Now living in Northern California, he is excited to share his knowledge and experience with Magoosh’s readers. In his spare time Thomas enjoys writing short fiction and hiking in the Sonoma foothills.

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