ACT Strategies

Improving Your ACT Math Score

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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.




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.




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.




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.  




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.




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.

Should you need any help raising your ACT math score, please contact us and send a message!


ACT English Test Approach

The English test on the ACT measures a student’s skill level at evaluating an essay. The English test is 45 minutes long and consists of 75 questions. The student is asked to read 5 essays. These essays are about the same length; questions asked are about style and grammar. Each essay contains 15 questions and the style is in line with current high school students. The language should be familiar and not foreign to most students.

Comparison of the content areas tested:


Rhetorical Skills – 35 questions total

Strategy – 12 questions (appropriateness of sentences)

Organization – 11 questions (order of ideas, conclusions, and introductions)

Style – 12 questions (tone and clarity)

Usage/Mechanics – 40 questions total

Punctuation – 10 questions (commas, colons, dashes, semicolons, apostrophes)

Grammar and Usage – 12 questions (idioms, comparisons, pronouns, subject-verb agreement)

Sentence Structure – 18 questions (run-ons, fragments, misplaced modifiers)

On the official ACT score report, the student will receive an overall English score between 1-36. The student will also receive two subscores, each are between 1-18.

The student should take a full-length practice test in order to establish an appropriate goal on the English section. It is the very first test on the ACT and the student has 36 seconds per question.  To score a 20 on the English test, the student needs to answer 43 of 75 questions correctly. With this score, the student is actually above the national average.

Question Types:

Underlined – These questions want the student to look for a potential mistake. However, it may be possible that the sentence is already correct and that there is no change needed.

Boxed – When students see a question that asks about deleting or adding information, this is a boxed question and they are usually rhetorical questions. These questions normally take the student more time to answer. 

Overall – This type of question will ask the student to reflect upon the entire essay. The question could ask about how the essay was organized or structured. The student may have to question the effectiveness of the essay.

Top Ways to Maximize ACT English Test Scores:

·         Answer the questions as you come to them in the passage

·         Make another pass through in order to work on skipped or starred questions (attempt the ones you think you may have the best chance of answering correctly)

·         Use any last bit of time to guess on remaining questions

·         If the time is getting close to the end, put energy towards answering the short underlined grammar questions

·         Don’t pick the first answer that sounds good

·         Never leave a question blank as there is no penalty for answering incorrectly

·         Eliminate answer choices in your test booklet and guess when you need to


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.

·         Work problems backwards. You can plug in answer choices and use them to your advantage. Answers are there for you to use in your arsenal.

·         Utilize the process of elimination. Since there is no penalty for answering incorrectly, guess as best as you can. However, before guessing randomly, work to eliminate answer choices. Eliminating answer choices increases your chance of answering the problem correctly.

·         Use all test booklet white space for figuring. Don’t try to attempt everything in your head!

·         If you know the test, you won’t have to waste precious time reading the instructions on test day.    

·         A couple ACT Math questions, per test administration, usually contain information that is obsolete to answering the question.