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ACT Math Strategies

Looking for quick ACT math strategies so you can score better on ACT Math? Try out these solid math strategies on your next practice test!


Easy to Use ACT Math Strategies

  • Don’t let hard questions waste all your time! On the ACT you’ll have 60 minutes to answer 60 questions, so if it seems like any one question will take you over 1 minute to solve, skip it and move on.
  • Write down the important info first. Write down any key numbers, variables, or phrases from the question and write them down on your scratch pad. This is the step most students skip. Don’t just scan the screen and start solving. Forcing yourself to slow down and process each piece of information will give your brain time to sort through it. This may lead you to find a faster way to solve!
  • Plug in the answer choices if you can. Sometimes just doing the algebra will be the simplest way to the get the correct answer, but plugging in answer choices is a great strategy to check your work as you go. Go through the answer choices and plug each one into the question, to see which one is compatible with the given numbers in the question-stem.
  • Use the whole 60 minutes. If you finish early, go back and review the questions re-checking your work. You might have made a couple silly mistakes that could cost you points!


Advanced ACT Math Strategies

  • Pick numbers as much as possible. Substituting abstracts like “x” for easy-to-worth-with integers like “3” and “4.” Keep the numbers small and make sure they are allowed by the definitions in the question.
  • Translate word problems carefully. Make sure you really understand the concepts underlying the question in a word problem. One or two words can radically change the meaning. Don’t rush these challenging questions, even if the math seems fairly obvious!
  • Don’t forget the Golden Rule of Scientific Notation. You can express large numbers and tiny decimals in scientific notation, and you should remember this rule: Positive exponents move to the right. Negative exponents move to the decimal to the left.
  • For percent questions with unknown values, choose 100. This strategy will make the ACT Math much easier and you won’t have to convert back and forth from the actual number to percents.
  • Watch out for extra steps. You may need to find 1/y, instead of y. Or you may be asked about the “ratio of girls in a class to boys in a class,” but have to solve for the two parts of the ratio first. If you don’t write down what the question is asking you to find, you will not see the end goal as clearly.

Employing these strategies on your ACT math section may often seem like common sense, but don’t let their simplicity fool you! Without even knowing more of the actual math concepts, these strategies alone could earn you some big time points. Of course this list of tips and strategies isn’t exhaustive, so let us know in the comments below which strategies help you out the most on test day.


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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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