Maybe you’ve just taken your first ACT practice test, or maybe you’ve finally gotten your first official scores back from your online ACT account. You see your ACT Math score, and….
First of all, breathe! There are a lot of things you can do to get that score where you want it to be. Even if you’ve taken the official exam, you can definitely raise your Math score when you retake the ACT.
And you’re not alone. Far from it! Most students report that they found Math to be the hardest section on the ACT.
We say: Hardest? Maybe. Conquerable? Absolutely!
It’s time for an action plan.
In this post, we’ll take a look at some of the lesser known (but still important) skills involved in acing the ACT math section. So whether you’re getting ready to take the ACT for the first, second, third, or Xth time, there should be some helpful wisdom in the following paragraphs.
Making Old (and New) Math Fresh
The ACT Math Test covers A LOT: Pre-Algebra, Algebra, Geometry, and Trigonometry. You might have taken Pre-Algebra in middle school. You might only be halfway through your Trig course. Maybe both are true—but it’s okay! There are ways to fill in these gaps in your knowledge.
For Pre-Algebra, check out some practice questions to test your skills. 12-15 questions on the ACT Math Test test Pre-Algebra, and for most of us, Pre-Algebra was a loooong time ago. Brushing up on those skills is the first step to success. And once you’ve mastered those, move on to some more challenging examples.
For Trigonometry, check out a few basics. Having these skills under your belt will boost your chances of success on the 3-6 Trigonometry questions that appear on the ACT Math Test. 3-6 questions don’t sound like a lot, but they can make the difference. For example, they could take you from a 28 to a 32. See, not so insignificant!
Where Everyone Struggles
Noticing a few trends can also help you with your ACT Math Review. Though you may not have been aware of it when answering questions, there are a few qualities that makes a question ‘hard,’ no matter the type of math involved in the question:
- Questions that have multiple steps.
- Questions that that require you to use a variety mathematical concepts.
- Questions that involve concepts that students are still learning (Ex: Trigonometry).
- Long word problems.
- Questions that ‘look’ easy—but aren’t.
- Word to the Wise: Though ACT Math will have easy questions, anything that ‘looks’ easy between questions 41-60 is probably not one of them!
Now that you know the types of ‘hard’ questions, you can take practice questions you’re struggling with and cross-reference them with this list. For some test takers, knowing ‘why’ a question is hard is the first step to solving it.
Being Mindful in Your ACT Math Review
Though I’ve written before about how perfect practice makes perfect, you need to evaluate how well your studying strategies are working for you. And be honest with yourself!
Adapting your study to the time you have available is also key. Don’t try to cram six months of study into a day. You’ll just get frustrated and end up more stressed than before!
This is another place Magoosh can help. Check out our free study guides, attuned to your scheduling needs:
- The One Week ACT Study Schedule
- The One Month ACT Study Schedule
- The Two Month ACT Study Schedule
- The Three Month ACT Study Schedule
Can you study more than this? Uh, absolutely! Check out the Magoosh ACT blog for literally hundreds of (well-organized!) posts, including challenging math problems, that can help you get your Math score where you want it to be.
See? We know that in just a single week of studying, you can see significant improvement in your ACT Math—if you do it right. And the longer you have to study, the more potential improvement you’ll see.
In the end, having a plan of action, and a good one at that, will give you a leg up on test day. Happy reviewing, ACT Math scholars!
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About 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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