The Math Test is the second section on the ACT. This section is multiple choice, and a calculator is allowed. You have 60 minutes to answer 60 questions. This allows you one question per minute, but some questions will take more time than others. Spend enough time on the easier questions to avoid silly mistakes, but make sure to save enough time to attempt some of the harder questions.
The math section is also generally arranged by difficulty, with the easier questions at the beginning, and the most difficult questions occurring at the end of the test. In general, questions 1-10 will be easier than questions 11-20, etc, but question 1 may not be easier than question 2. Despite the range of difficulty, each question is worth the same amount, 1 point. Knowing this will allow you to budget your time: spend the majority of your time on the earlier questions to attain the most accuracy. For example, if you rush through the early questions and miss one due to a silly mistake, and then come across a question that you don’t know how to do, now you have missed two questions instead of one. Since harder questions are not worth any more than easier ones, it makes sense to ensure that you get as many points as possible from the questions that you know how to do.
The ACT categorizes their math questions into one of six subsections:
We break these subsections down even further to focus on the specific skills necessary to be successful on the ACT Math Section.
When approaching a question, consider asking yourself the following questions:
Some questions will only involve one math concept, while others may require you to utilize a variety of mathematical knowledge. For example, the following question tests on a single concept (greatest common factor).
What is the greatest common factor of 42, 126, and 210?
F. 2
G. 6
H. 14
I. 21
J. 42
To find the greatest common factor, we must list out the prime factors of each number, and then multiply the common prime factors. Prime factors can be found using a factor tree:
We can see that the common prime factors are 7, 2, and 3.
Therefore, the greatest common factor is 7 ✕ 2 ✕ 3, or 42.
However, the question below tests you on two concepts: Rearranging Equations and Linear Equations. You are expected to know that parallel lines have the same slope, and you must be able to convert the equation into slope-intercept form.
What is the slope of any line parallel to the line ?
F.
G.
H.
I. 7
J. 9
Once you know that this equation must be in the form , you can rearrange it by solving for y, resulting in . Since parallel lines have the same slope, the answer would be G.
Write down any formulas you know related to the tested concept. Even if you’re not sure how to solve the problem, seeing the formulas in front of you may cause you to recognize where to plug in the given values to solve the problem.
Convert any information provided in the problem into a mathematical expression or equation. This can be especially helpful with word problems. When students aren’t sure how to approach a problem, they tend to waste time by sitting there and staring at the problem. However, the answer to a question doesn’t usually magically appear before your eyes. By writing down the information provided in the problem, you can help your brain see the problem in a new way.
Similarly, if a shape or image is described but not provided for you, draw a picture of what the question is telling you.
A boat departs Port Isabelle, Texas, traveling to an oil rig. The oil rig is located 9 miles east and 12 miles north of the boat's departure point. About how many miles is the oil rig from the departure point?
F. 3
G.
H. 15
I. 21
J. 225
This question describes a situation, but does not provide a picture of the situation. Simply reading the question, you may incorrectly assume that you must just add the two distances together (9+12=21).
However, after drawing out a picture, you can see that a right triangle is formed, and you will have to use the Pythagorean Theorem to solve the problem.
If you don’t understand the question after following these steps, or you feel that the question will take too long to answer, circle it and come back later, after completing all of the questions that you do know how to do. If you have time left, try to answer the question, and if not, make an educated guess given the information provided. For example, on the question above, since we know that the oil rig is located 9 miles east and 12 miles north from the departure point, it is likely farther away than 3 miles, so we can eliminate answer choice F. Similarly, it is likely much closer than 225 miles away given the provided information, so we can eliminate answer choice J. Eliminating choices that are obviously wrong will help increase your chances of getting the question right.