act math tips

10 Must-Know ACT Math Tips

For the most part, the ACT math is a lot like most other math portions of 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.

After solving each problem, pick the correct answer from the five given and fill in the corresponding oval on your answer sheet. Solve as many problems as you can in the time allowed. Do not worry over problems that take too much time; skip them if necessary and return to them if you have time.

Check out these posts for top tips in every section! 10 Must-Know Reading Tips10 Must-Know English Tips8 Must-Know Science Tips

Calculator use is permitted on the test. Calculators can be used for any problem on the test, though calculators may be more harm than help for some questions.

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:


           -Pick Numbers

           -Use Traditional Math

           -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

Skip using involved algebraic equations by picking numbers for variables. 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. Start with answer choice C/H unless the question asks for the smallest or largest value.

Tip #4: Translate words into math

Translate the words in the question into math so that you can solve more easily. 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. The ACT test-makers value being 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).

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!

When the ACT does NOT mention “Note: Figure not drawn to scale,” you can use the figure to your advantage!

Tip #9: Recognize “red flags”

Be on the lookout for common trap answers on the ACT. This includes oddball answers and answers that are too small or too big.

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: