# Improving Your ACT Math Score

TOP 5 WAYS TO IMPROVE YOUR ACT MATH SCORE

ACT Math is a real challenge for some test-takers. Sometimes, even students who pride themselves on their math skills can be caught off-guard by the ACT. Below are five tips to help you improve your ACT Math score, whether you’re a “math person” or not.

### TIP #1: BE ATTENTIVE TO DETAIL

Noticing small details is essential to scoring well in ACT Math. So many ACT students will say they missed math questions due to “stupid mistakes.” In these so-called “stupid” mistakes, test-takers see all the information in a math problem, but they fail to properly recognize certain details.

ACT Math loves to test your ability to notice and correctly interpret every number, symbol, word, or graphic in a math problem. As you practice for the test, teach yourself to scan ACT Math questions for small-but-important-details, such as decimal points, math signs, the wording of story problems, and the components of graphs and charts.

### TIP #2: APPROACH MULTIPLE CHOICE QUESTIONS STRATEGICALLY

There is no numeric entry in ACT Math, just multiple choice. The correct answer to each math problem will be right in front of you, among the answer choices. When you’re not sure of the right answer, you can always find the correct response by thinking logically and strategically. Learn how to eliminate incorrect answers, and learn the different ways in which ACT Math likes to trick you with tempting-but-wrong choices.

### TIP #3: RESEARCH GOOD ACT PREP MATERIALS

Not all ACT prep materials are created equal. A good set of prep materials for ACT Math is important—think helpful tutorials, good advice, and useful practice materials. Check the official ACT website for helpful advice, tools, and resources.

### TIP #4: LEARN TO MINIMIZE CALCULATOR USE

Yes, the ACT lets you use a calculator on the test, yet excessive reliance on a calculator can be a trap! Sometimes mental math or estimation can get you to the right answer almost instantly—much faster than you could if you keyed every step into your calculator. Also remember that writing a few problem steps on scrap paper increases your accuracy. It’s pretty easy to hit the wrong number on a calculator keypad, but much harder to actually write down the incorrect number (and reread it a few times without catching it). Always think carefully about whether you really need that calculator, and look for ways to avoid calculator use.

### TIP # 5: KNOW WHAT’S ON THE MATH TEST, AND PRACTICE EVERY SKILL

The #1 mistake students make is not dedicating enough time to all the math topics tested on the ACT. Don’t make this mistake! Especially when there are so many resources guiding you in the right direction.

The five most frequently tested ACT math topics are Pre-algebra, Elementary Algebra, Intermediate Algebra, Plane Geometry, and Coordinate Geometry. Prioritize topics that give you problems, and give the ones that come easily to you a break. With the right preparation, you’ll be that much closer to reaching your target ACT score.

# ACT STEM Report

The ACT recently released a report based upon students interested in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) college degrees. They found that 26% met or were above the STEM readiness benchmark. The STEM score on the ACT is meant to be an indicator of how a student will perform in a first-year college STEM course. More information can be found here: www.act.org/stemcondition

The ACT science section is comprised of data representation, research summary, and conflicting hypothesis based questions. The student gathers required information from charts, tables, and graphs. It's good for the student to know the scientific method as well. The ACT math section tests pre-algebra, algebra I, algebra II, geometry, and trigonometry. The more difficult math questions are usually toward the end and so the student must also focus on pacing.

# ACT Math Breakdown

·         The ACT Math Test is the only ACT test with five answer choices. The English, Reading and Science tests all have four answer choices.

·         For odd numbered questions, students are given the following answer choices: A, B, C, D, and E. For even numbered questions, students are given the answer choices:  F, G, H, J, and K.

·         All of the other sections include D or J as the last answer choice. Don’t confuse the ACT Math E or K answers with D or J!

·         On the official ACT score report, the student will receive an overall ACT Math score between 1 and 36. There will be three subscores as well: Pre-Algebra/Elementary Algebra, Intermediate Algebra/Coordinate Geometry, Plane Geometry/Trigonometry.

·         Most students would have completed all math included on the ACT by the end of 11th grade.

·         The questions progress from easy to difficult. There are 60 questions and students must finish in 60 minutes. A good idea is to limit 30 seconds on the first 20 questions, 1 minute on the next 20 questions, and 90 seconds on the final 20 questions. The last 10-15 questions are usually the most difficult and the student will want to save more time for these. It’s also when the student is the most fatigued on the math section.

·         There are three main types of ACT Math questions: word problems, basic problems, and challenging problems. Word problems are hidden using certain vocabulary. Students shouldn’t be scared, but instead, translate the words into a basic problem. Use the extra space in the test booklet! Basic problems are really short and normally the easiest. These problems are straightforward and to the point. The challenging problems are direct, yet require a deeper level of reasoning. Some might be really short like a basic problem: p2 + q2 = -2pq, what is the value of p?

## Tips for maximizing scores:

·         Go after the easy to medium questions first. These are the least time consuming and it’s still worth one point, just like the difficult questions!

·         Guess on any remaining questions. There is no reason to leave any questions blank. There is no penalty for incorrect answers. With about one minute to go, students should fill out all remaining bubbles.

·         Don’t get bummed out. Students tend to get into a problem then become frustrated. What they thought was easy has turned out to be difficult. It is best to move on and not waste any time doing this. Students are working for just one point per problem.

·         If you finish early, make a second pass on those that were skipped. Focus on the ones that you think may be the easiest to answer. These will be closer to the beginning of the test. Try to eliminate answer choices and make an educated guess.