act math tips

10 Must-Know ACT Math Tips

The ACT Math Test is a similar to the math portions of many standardized tests. Even so, the ACT math has a few surprises, especially if you are more familiar with the SAT. Here, we’ll go over ACT math basics and tips so you’ll be prepared for what’s in store.

Timing:  You are given 60 minutes to answer 60 questions. That’s pretty easy to remember, but don’t think that you should allot one minute for each question. Like most math standardized tests, the difficulty range on the ACT math is relatively wide: practice answering the easier questions quickly so you’ll have adequate time to answer the tougher ones.

Directions:  The instructions on the math portion are relatively long and detailed. Don’t waste time reading them on the day of the test. Get to know them now.

Choose the correct solution to each question and fill in the corresponding bubble on your answer sheet.

Do not continue to spend time on questions if you get stuck. Solve as many questions as you can before returning to any if time permits.

You may use a calculator on this test for any question you choose. However, some questions may be better solved without a calculator.

Note: Unless otherwise stated, you can assume:

  • Figures are NOT necessarily drawn to scale.
  • Geometric figures are two dimensional.
  • The term line indicates a straight line.
  • The term average indicates arithmetic mean.


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Here are our top 10-must know ACT Math tips to help raise your score on ACT test day.


Tip #1: Approach every ACT math question with the same method

  1. Read the question
  2. Look at the information provided in the question and the answer choices
  3. Solve:
    1. Backsolve
    2. Pick Numbers
    3. Use Traditional Math
    4. Strategically Guess
  4. Check to make sure that you answered the specific question that was asked.

Tip #2: Pick Numbers to avoid complicated algebra on the ACT

Avoid using algebra by picking numbers for variables. Arithmetic is almost always easier than algebra! Picking numbers is especially helpful for number properties questions. Pick numbers that follow the rules of the question and are small and easy to work with. Avoid picking 0 or 1 because they have special properties.

Tip #3: Backsolve to save time on the ACT

You can backsolve when you see integers in the answer choices. The answer choices are arranged in numeric order, so start with answer choice C/H unless the question asks for the smallest or largest value. Let the answer choices work for you!

Tip #4: Translate words into math

Translate the words in the question into math so that you can solve more easily. Take it one word or phrase at a time. Remember that “of” means to multiply.

Tip #5: Know number properties

Recognizing number properties will save you time on test day. Number properties rules include odds and evens, prime numbers, and the order of operations. You can pick numbers to help you remember the rules.

Tip #6: Understand ACT math relationships

Know the difference between values, ratios, and percents. A ratio is a relationship between numbers. Make sure you’re able to move easily between percents, fractions, and decimals.

Tip #7: Know your triangles

You must know the 30-60-90 and 45-45-90 rules. The ACT does not provide this information at the beginning of the math section like the SAT does, so be sure to memorize this information ahead of time. Also look out for Pythagorean triplets (3:4:5 and 5:12:13 and their multiples); these will save you time on Test Day!

Tip #8: Find common shapes

Find common shapes on the ACT to help you break complex figures into simple polygons. Look in particular for triangles; they’re full of valuable information.

Tip #9: Recognize red flags

Be on the lookout for common trap answers on the ACT. Watch out for answers to steps along the way to the final answer. Be careful with negative signs!

Tip #10: Make sure your calculator is allowed on Test Day

Check the official ACT website to make sure the calculator you plan to use on the ACT math section is allowed.