The ACT mathematics test: 6 tips for test day

The ACT mathematics test is one of four multiple-choice tests students will encounter on ACT test day (along with the optional writing test, if they signed up to take it). This test measures the math skills students have typically gained at school up to the beginning of grade 12.

The test contains 60 questions, and students will have 60 minutes to complete them. Students may use an ACT-approved calculator on the test, but it is not required. It covers math skills related to real and complex number systems, algebra, functions, geometry, and statistics and probability, and how well students can synthesize and apply their understanding of these concepts to solve complex problems.

Here are six tips students should keep in mind while taking the ACT mathematics test:

1. Use the calculator wisely.

All of the mathematics problems can be solved without a calculator. Many of the problems are best done without a calculator. Use good judgment in deciding when, and when not, to use a calculator. For example, for some problems students may wish to clarify their thoughts on the question before they begin using a calculator to do computations.

2. Solve the problem.

Students may wish to glance over the answer choices after reading the questions. However, working backwards from all five answer choices can take a lot of time and may not be effective.

3. Find the solution among the answer choices.

Once students have solved the problem, look for the answer among the choices. If students’ answer is not included among the choices, they can carefully reread the problem to see whether they missed important information. Pay careful attention to the question being asked. If an equation is to be selected, check to see whether the equation they think is best can be transformed into one of the answer choices provided.

4. Make sure to answer the question.

The solutions to many questions on the test will involve several steps. Make sure the answer accounts for all the necessary steps. Frequently, an answer choice is an intermediate result, not the final answer.

5. Make sure the answer is reasonable.

Sometimes an error in computation will result in an answer that is not practically possible for the situation described. Always think about the answer to determine whether it is reasonable.

6. Check the answer.

Students may arrive at an incorrect solution by making common errors in the problem-solving process. If there is time remaining before the end of the mathematics test, it is important that students reread the questions and check answers to make sure they are correct.

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