How To Prep For The ACT Math Section

ACT MATH: 60 questions in 60 minutes

The best approach to the math section of the ACT is to break down the various questions into categories.  That way the page doesn’t look like a mish-mash of numbers but rather: two geometry problems, an algebra problem, and a graphing problem.  You need to know several main categories and memorizing a couple of formulas will help down the home stretch. Start reviewing these by working with some ACT practice tests before diving into the real thing.

Basics: Know how to determine the average of something and how to find percentages.  Know how to add and multiply fractions and how to work exponents.

Algebra: This covers questions with “x” and “y” in it.  You should know how to isolate a variable on one side of the equation.  You should also know systems of equations, how to distribute variables, and how to FOIL.


-        Triangles: The most important equation related triangles is the Pythagorean theorem.  This will be incredibly helpful on the ACT.  Also know how to find the area of a triangle.

-        Circles: You should memorize how to determine the circumference and area of a circle.  These equations will be very important for questions on circles.  (To find the circumference: 2πr and to find the area: πr²)

-        Squares/Rectangles: Know how to find the perimeter and area of these shapes.

 Graphing: Know the y-intercept formula, how to find the midpoint of a line.  If you don’t know quite how to graph it on your calculator, draw a quick sketch.

 Trigonometry: There are few trig problems on the math section, but knowing SOHCAHTOA will help solve most of them.  If you can find the sin, cosine, or tangent, you will be doing well.

 Remember, you can use a calculator on this section.  Make sure your calculator checks out, and then use it as much as you want!  There is no penalty for crunching numbers, and it never hurts to double check mental math. If you're still feeling unsure of your skills, try meeting with an ACT Math tutor or reviewing a prep book.