My number one tip for the ACT Math section is actually more of a strategy.
One of the biggest mistakes I see self studying students make is to assume that any time studying is valuable and studying anything about the test will help them improve.
Particularly on the math section, such an attitude can amount to a vast waste of time.
Instead, your best bet on the math section is to first
FIGURE OUT WHAT IT IS THAT YOU STRUGGLE WITH MOST
Then address that area.
In terms of what you struggle with most, I find that most students struggle with one of three issues:
If you struggle with time, first try timing yourself on early questions and really trying to speed up on the easy parts. If you find certain problems to be time consuming, consider reviewing those “rusty” areas of math and brushing up on your skills.
Content is the most obvious problem students have. What I mean by content is that you have particular areas of math you need work on– maybe geometry, or SOHCAHTOA or the Law of Sines and the Law of Cosines. Maybe you forgot how to multiply matrices. If so, you need to find a good ACT math book or an old textbook and drill those rusty areas, or learn areas you’ve never had much exposure to.
If you’re working on content, try to focus on areas you’ve specifically identified as problematic.
Careless errors plague many students, but you can do something about them.
Learn to create safety nets:
◊ Always write down your work, always
◊ Use a calculator when trying to multiply or add two two digit numbers or larger numbers. Give your brain a rest.
◊ Double check your work with mental math estimates
◊ Re-read the question before you put down your answer choice
◊ Ask yourself “does this answer make sense” whenever solving word problems
◊ On tricky problems, mark and come back if you have time
◊ Double check your bubbles after you finish the test– did you shift the bubbles? Skip a line? If you find this is a problem for you, get in the habit of double checking after each page turn.
◊ Mark your answer in the answer booklet before marking the bubble on the bubble sheet– if you’ve already focused on the letter you are less likely to bubble the wrong one on a bubble sheet than if you’re working from memory.
◊ Draw out any geometry problems — do not rely on your mind’s eye
◊ If a problem is tricky, don’t use the first obvious short cut if you’re not sure– do problems the safe way, not necessarily the short way, if you have time
◊ Use your graphing calculator when appropriate to call up functions or graph graphs that help you reduce careless errors (permutations, combinations, solving a quadratic equation, using graphing to solve a system of equations, etc.)
Work on as many real tests as you can!
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