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How to Prepare for the ACT Mathematics Test

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In order to prepare for the ACT math test, you need to first understand what the math test really is. The official description is “a 60-question, 60-minute test designed to measure the mathematical skills students have typically acquired in courses taken by the end of 11th grade.” The idea is that you will use reasoning skills to solve practical problems in mathematics.

While you need to know basic formulas and use computational skills to answer the problems, you aren’t required to know complex formulas and perform extensive computation. That said, the more comfortable you are with math, the better you’ll probably do.

For this section you’re allowed to use a calculator, but technically, all the problems can be solved without a calculator. It’s really up to you on how much you’ll need your calculator.

Here are a few steps for preparing for the math test to make test day go as smoothly as possible:

  1. Make sure your calculator is acceptable for use during the test. There are prohibited types of calculators, and it’s up to you to know which type can be used and can’t be used. Go online to read the ACT’s calculator policy.
  2. Familiarize yourself with your calculator long before test time. Test day is not the time to try out a fancy new calculator. You need to understand your calculator before stepping foot in the testing room so you don’t end up wasting valuable time looking for functions or hitting the wrong keys.
  3. Take several practice tests to familiarize yourself with the question format. On test day, you may have an understanding of the actual math, but if you’ve never read a practice question, the language may slow you down. The more practice questions you work with, the quicker you’ll be able to identify what the question is asking — and the fastest way to solve the question.
  4. Study the right material. The math test is broken up into six content areas: pre-algebra, elementary algebra, intermediate algebra, coordinate geometry, plane geometry, and trigonometry. These are areas to focus on. The more formulas, principles, and theorems you can memorize or familiarize yourself with, the quicker you’ll be able to solve each question and move onto the next.
  5. Get comfortable sketching out charts or pictures to help you visualize your answers. Some questions on the ACT are difficult to understand, and a little sketch on your scratch paper can make a big difference. Make sure you know what type of drawings will help you the most, and are adept at finding the vital information in each question.

After you complete these steps, make sure you get plenty of rest the week of the test and eat a good breakfast that morning. Try to keep your stress level as low as possible and get to the testing facility a little early. Then just put your mathmatical knowledge into action!

Test Prep Academy is the premier SAT/ACT services company for high school students. We offer instructional programs and curriculum for students preparing for the PSAT, ACT, and SAT. Learn more about how we help prepare students for the ACT.

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