Preparing for such a lengthy and cumbersome test such as the ACT (or SAT) can be daunting, especially if you are preparing for your first attempt. It can be overwhelming and scary, but it doesn’t have to be! There are plenty of ways to make sure you go in ready to do your absolute best, and come out with a fantastic math score! Here are some excellent tips to succeed at ACT or SAT math.
*Please Note: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links and help support the work of this site. Read our full disclosure here.*
Here are my top 5 tips to succeed at ACT or SAT math:
1. Get good sleep and eat a healthy, protein packed breakfast.
Okay, so this doesn’t really have anything to do with math, and it may sound cliché, but no matter how well you know the material, or how hard you have studied, you simply will NOT do your best if you are sleepy and hungry. Proven fact. So do yourself a favor and go in feeling your best!
2. Only study topics that are actually on the test.
So many students get overwhelmed at the thought of preparing and studying for a test like the ACT or SAT because they assume they must know EVERYTHING there is to know in math. Don’t waste time working on problems or memorizing formulas that will not be needed! You can easily find a list of topics covered in the math section of the test, and then focus only on those types of problems as you prepare. This is especially true when it comes to Geometry and Trigonometry. I have often had students freaking out because they hear Trigonometry is on the test. But in reality, there are only 3-4 trig problems, and they only cover 2-3 trig topics. Make sure you know those topics and types of problems, and you will be fine! Search the web for lists of topics and sample questions, or check out a comprehensive guide such as this: Ultimate Guide to the Math ACT
3. Take a Practice Test. Or Ten.
If you are serious about preparing for the ACT/SAT, and you want to know exactly what types of problems are on the test, you have to practice before hand! There are plenty of places online that offer ACT math practice problems. Do as many as you can, and then check your answers. Then, if there are particular topics or types of questions that you are getting wrong, study them, and practice some more. The great thing about ACT/SAT math is that you can have a really good idea ahead of time what kinds of questions you’ll get. So practice them until you get them all right!
4. Work Smart: Use the Answer Choices
This is possibly the most overlooked, but most useful strategy when taking the test. There may be many problems that are time consuming, or seem overwhelming to you if you had to work them out by hand. You must use the fact that it is a multiple-choice test, however, to your advantage! Don’t waste time trying to write out formulas or algebraic equations when it is possible to plug the answers choices in or use the choices to work backwards. This will not only save you time, it may help you get a correct answer to a question you otherwise would not have been able to solve.
Here’s an example:
The lengths of a triangle are 3 consecutive odd integers. If the perimeter of the triangle is 27 inches. What is the length, in inches, of the longest side?
a) 7 b) 12 c) 11 d) 15 e) 9
While this may seem like an overwhelming question, especially to a younger student, you can use the choices to your advantage. These choices give the following:
a) 7 + 5 + 3 = 15, not 27.
b) 12 is not odd, therefore it is wrong.
c) 11 + 9 + 7 = 27. This gives a perimeter of 27.
d) 15 + 13 + 11 = 39, not 27
e) 9 + 7 + 5 = 21, not 27.
Therefore, the answer must be c.
5. Watch Out For Careless Mistakes.
This is true on any test in any subject, but if you want a good math score, check and double check yourself. One of the easiest careless mistakes you can make is to misread the question. Consider the example above. If you found the shortest side, you would have answered a) and gotten the question wrong. Your goal is to only miss the questions that you genuinely do not know how to solve, and are unable to figure out using the choices.
Okay, so I have one more tip for you, and this pains me to say, because it wouldn’t normally be my suggestion for success in math. But here’s the truth: you will not be given a formula sheet during the ACT/SAT. Therefore, I would suggest that you memorize any formulas you may need. And of course, be sure you know how to use them correctly before you go to take the test!
Want one on one help to do your best on the ACT or SAT math section? Try taking a 6 week boot camp from Mr. D Math! He is a fantastic teacher committed to your success. Find out more at the following links:
- ACT Math Bootcamp (Mondays, Feb. 22-Apr. 4, 2016)
- SAT Math Bootcamp (Tuesdays, Mar. 29-May 3, 2016)
Best of luck!! 🙂
Never Run Out of Fun Math Ideas
If you enjoyed this post, you will love being a part of the Math Geek Mama community! Each week I send an email with fun and engaging math ideas, free resources and special offers. Join 163,000+ readers as we help every child succeed and thrive in math! PLUS, receive my FREE ebook, 5 Math Games You Can Play TODAY, as my gift to you!