Math is a dreaded subject among students and ACT Math is even more dreading if that was even possible. Solving 60 questions in 60 minutes may seem impossible, but it is not. How, you ask? Well, with a few tips, tricks, and well-rounded preparation, no one can hold back your score. Read on to find out how you can score well on your next exam.
Understand Your Level Of Weakness: Content or Time Management
Knowing your flaws is the key step to ensuring good results. You can only get better scores if you can correct the mistakes that you make. The main issues while doing ACT Math fall into two categories: difficulty in solving the problem or difficulty in solving the problem in time.
If your problem is the former, focus on the concepts you have the most difficulty with. If the latter is your main issue, focus on time management. One way to figure out your issue is to complete a practice test and record your score. If you are still not done in the time limit, continue finishing the paper, taking as much time as you need, and label that score as extra time.
- If your extra time score is <32, you need to work on the content.
- If your extra time score is >32 but your real score <32, you need to work on time management.
- If your extra time and real score are both >32, you have a good chance of a good result. Keep practicing and avoiding silly mistakes (more on that later).
Practice, Practice, Practice!
Math is all about practice, so there is no way around solving practice test questions. There are many online test questions available as well as plenty of books to practice from to improve your chances of better results.
The next important thing to focus on besides practicing is to rectify your mistakes. There is no point practicing thousands of questions if you repeat the same mistake on all of them. Don’t just think about it and move on; note why you made that mistake and what you will do to prevent it in the future. Always review incorrect answers after solving test questions.
Approach Every Question With the Same Method
- Read the question instead of just skimming it. Most students make mistakes at this stage and answer simple questions incorrectly.
- Mark the information provided and the answer choices.
- Solve using one of these strategies:-
- Strategic guess
- Traditional math
- Check that you answered what was asked.
Use Your Calculator To Check Your Work
There is no shame in using your calculator, and in a time pressure test like the ACT, a calculator is a strategic tool rather than a shortcut. Cross check your work with a calculator.
Moreover if you are one of those people who don’t have the best memory while thinking about math equations, a graphing calculator is your best option to both save time and get accurate answers.
Know When the Calculator is Allowed
Check the official ACT website and confirm that your calculator is allowed.
Smartphones or noisy calculators are not allowed, so be sure to get your calculator checked for eligibility. Moreover, make sure to carry an extra set of batteries; a dead calculator can spell a disastrous exam.
Finish With Extra Time and Double Check
The best way to get faster in order to have extra time for revision is to practice so many times that you become fluent in the questions that are asked. Always wear a wristwatch to your exam as you waste time searching for the exam hall’s clock. Time your watch so that you spend only 30 minutes on the first 40 questions and 30 minutes on the last 20 questions. If you take any more time than that, go to the next question and come back later. Your primary target is to get as many points as possible.
When revising, solve your questions another way, working from the solution to the question. Also while answering, mark answers you are absolutely sure are correct; don’t check those during revision. Finally, before the time’s up, check if you have filled in all the bubbles correctly, (check 5 answers at a time, then fill the corresponding bubbles to save time).
Avoid Careless Mistakes
Careless mistakes are the most irritating errors to make, yet we all make them. Here is how to avoid such pitfalls.
- Read the question carefully and mark what is asked, and be careful of unit swaps (minutes to hours and so on); they make a big difference in the answers.
- Calculator entries should be made carefully, a missed parentheses can get you a wrong answer.
- Watch out for trap answers in the options like figures that you get along the steps to the actual answer or negative signs.
- Each question carries equal marks, so avoid making silly mistakes by rushing the easy and medium level problems. Questions get harder progressively, so if you are going to guess, quess on the last 10 extremely difficult questions.
Memorize Common Formulas and Math Facts
This is the most important tip. The ACT math exam tests geometry, algebra, and arithmetic, so there is no way to avoid using formulas. The fundamental formulas are the basics, and a weak basic makes for a poor performance on your exam. The front section formulas are a must-know along with these facts:
- 2 is the smallest prime number
- Calculating slope from two points (rise over run)
- Common right triangles: by angles: 45-45-90 (1-1-√2), 30-60-90 (1-2-√3); and by sides: 3-4-5, 5-12-13
- Formulas for arithmetic and geometric sequences
- Formula for the diagonal of a rectangular prism
Write Down All of Your Problem-Solving Steps
It may seem like writing down steps will waste your time, but it is more helpful in the long run. For example, you will avoid pressing the wrong number in the calculator or answer ‘x’ instead of ‘2x’. You can also use it to review your work quickly during revision.
Keep a Calm Mind
Though it is a difficult thing to achieve in a math exam, it goes a long way to help with a good result. Exam days can be unpredictable. You might wake up late, your car tire might be busted, or the question set is particularly difficult this year. Yes, you might have to skip a question or even two in a row, or you are lacking in time. But you have practiced hard, and you will come back later and complete it. A positive mindset is important or else you will easily crumble, and the exam will go downhill.
Consider Taking an ACT Prep Course
Sometimes, practice isn’t enough, you had a less than helpful math teacher, or you slacked off in geometry. Whatever the case, when you are unable to handle things alone, a helping hand is a lifesaver. So consider an ACT prep course to help find your weaknesses and correct them. They will also provide lots of test questions as well as feedback that will help you improve.
These are some helpful tips to get you started on a journey to a good result. It is important to remember every student is different and learns at their own pace and style. There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to math. Therefore, as a student, you have to figure out what you need to work on and improve your skills.
With enough practice and patience, you will be able to do it; math is not hopeless! Don’t give up, and good luck!