Looking for the best tips, strategies, tricks and hacks for the ACT® math section?  Look no further!

If you’re looking to ace your ACT® Test math section, check out my five top tips below:

1. Program your calculator.

Calculator programs can help you run formulas (from the quadratic equation to the midpoint formula) and avoid errors.  Check out our blog on the subject for help or the video below:

The ACT® is very strict on the kinds of programs you’re allowed to have.  You can’t have overly complex problems but can have simple programs that do a function.

Some programs I suggest that you download are:

— The quadratic equation

— A slope solver / slope intercept equation solver

— Distance Formula

— Midpoint Formula

We’ve even created a handy series of our own programs that you can use on the test:

SupertutorTV Calculator Programs

We think these follow the rules that we’ve read, but can’t be responsible for any changes the ACT® may enact to its calculator policy– so it’s your responsibility to make sure these all adhere to the guidelines.

Overall, familiarize yourself with the test as much as you can, whether it’s reading over the section directions,  or taking sample tests. Hopefully these tips were helpful, and good luck cramming for the ACT®!


2. Skip to the Diagram

This isn’t a rule for “always” but “often” you can skip to the diagram in a question on geometry problems and avoid reading the entire paragraph of the question.  If there’s a question mark on the digram– that is universally the element the test will be asking you to solve for.  Often I can do a geometry problem without even reading the question and star it to double check at the end if I have time.  It’s usually best to double check the question itself (at the end of the problem stem), but any diagram information will be as marked.  I.e. if an angle is 90 degrees, it will have a little square, and if an angle is a certain length that length is likely marked.  Sometimes diagrams don’t transfer all information from the question.  In those cases, you’ll need to skim above to learn more details and fill in the gaps– but often skipping to the diagram can save 20-30 seconds on wordy geometry problems.


3. Backsolve

Take advantage of the fact that this is a multiple choice test.  If you don’t see how to do a problem, look at the answers and try process of elimination.  When you see the words “Which of the following” you absolutely must look at the answers in order to do the problem.  Plugging in the answer choices into an expression, or testing them in order to find the “least” or “greatest” value that adheres to a certain condition, can sometimes be faster than trying to come up with an algebraic method that may take time to think up.  Often a little logic can at least get you to 50/50 on questions you’re having trouble understanding.

4. Make up Numbers

One of the most classic standardized test hacks that almost any seasoned tutor will tell you, is that if you have variables in the answer choices, make up a number!

Say you have a problem that says a leopard moves x times as fast as a tiger.  A cheetah moves y times as fast as the leopard.  In terms of x and y, the tiger moves how many times as fast as the cheetah? You can answer it by making up a speed for the leopard and the tiger and a value for x– making up a speed for the other animal and a value for y, figuring out the answer, and plugging the x and y you made up into the answer choices and seeing which one matches your other answer.

Again, if you have variables in the answer choices, make up numbers!


5. Avoid Time Vortex Questions

If you at all struggle with time– and most of you probably do– it’s important you don’t get bogged down on a single question.  If you know what kind of questions take you more time than others, that can be a helpful piece of data to help you navigate the test.  For many of my students, this amounts to:

long or three-part word problems,

sequences/series problems (particularly those not geometric/arithmetic),

“counting” problems (in which you have to count the number of odd multiples of three, write out a pattern, etc.),

and problems that make little sense the first time you read them or that you have no clue how to solve.

Skip these problems and move on– losing a couple of points to skipped questions (always feel free to guess of course) can get you farther along in the test and help you get questions that are less time consuming correct.

If you’re looking for more ACT® help,  check out our FREE ACT® Prep!