ACT Math Study Guide
When it comes to applying to college, high school students across the United States (and some other countries) will generally have to contend with one of two standardized exams: the SAT or the ACT. While the ACT has witnessed less “popularity” than the SAT, it has begun to catch up as of recent years. In fact, the ACT exceeded the SAT in terms of its amount of test takers back in the year 2011.
Every college and university across the United States accepts the exam as a part of potential student applications. This alone makes it a viable alternative to the SAT. The contents of the ACT closely match what high school students in today’s world typically learn throughout their final four years of compulsory education. This includes all four core subjects: Science, English, Reading, and Mathematics.
The information on this page will pertain specifically to the ACT Mathematics test.
How Will the ACT Mathematics Exam Be Formatted?
The Mathematics exam serves as the second portion of the ACT, coming just after the English exam. Much of its contents will involve concepts students have already learned throughout middle and high school, such as algebra.
This subtest will be approximately 60 questions long. Test takers must complete all questions on the exam in exactly one hour (60 minutes). All questions featured on the ACT Mathematics exam are multiple choice, and fall under one of the following “reporting categories.”
Modeling is the smallest reporting category on the ACT Mathematics exam, accounting for no more than 27 percent of its contents. It deals with the test taker’s comprehension of and capabilities with mathematical models as a means of interpreting and working with higher concepts.
The Integrating Essential Skills category addresses earlier forms of math, such as different types of expressions, rates, different methods of recording numbers, percentages, medians, proportions, averages, area, volume, and surface area, among many other concepts. The reporting category makes up 40 to 43 percent of the Mathematics exam.
Preparing for Higher Mathematics focuses closely on all of the specific mathematical disciplines test takers were likely exposed to throughout their academic career thus far. This section of the exam is the largest, taking up 57 to 60 percent of its contents. A total of five subjects fall under this category.
- The subject of Statistics & Probability deals with taking and measuring data. Test takers will be expected to display their skills by drawing numerical conclusions based on hypothetical situations and accompanying data; working with plots, tables, and other forms of data in order to look for trends; and finding values such as probabilities and means.
- Number & Quantity involves the test taker’s understanding of numbers—integers, irrational numbers, rational numbers, and similar principles. Test takers will also be expected to display their comprehension of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division, as well as graphs, quadratics, radicals, and polynomials.
- The Geometry portion of this category addresses many of the common principles of the subject. Test takers must utilize their knowledge of trigonometry, calculate areas, work with models of different shapes and dimensions, and solve word problems.
- Functions predominantly involve problem-solving with graphs and variables. Some questions may also involve equations to varying degrees; other questions may require answers formatted in function notation (or, in other words, with variables included).
- The Algebra category aligns very closely with the principles test takers learned when they first began studying advanced mathematics. This category’s questions will involve equations of various different formats (matrix, polynomial, and linear), as well as working with rational expressions, interpreting and creating their own expressions based on polynomial properties, and observing and interpreting graphs.
Are Calculators Allowed on the ACT Mathematics Exam?
The Mathematics portion of the ACT exam is the only subtest where test takers may use calculators. Test takers may use their own calculators from home; however, certain calculators are not allowed. To be safe, students should stick to graphing, scientific, or basic calculators. Administrators at the testing site may check calculators to ensure certain features are not installed or enabled, and test takers may be asked to disable certain functions on their calculators prior to taking the exam.
How Does Scoring Work?
The ACT operates on a scoring system that numbers between 1 and 36, with 1 being the minimum and 36 being the maximum. Each subtest is graded on this scale, then the composite scale is calculated based on the average of all four test scores. Test takers will also receive a “subscore” for the Mathematics exam, which numbers between 1 and 18.
The Math portion of the ACT exam also falls under another, separate scoring category known as “STEM.” This category averages the test taker’s Science and Math scores together.
Students will receive approximately one point for each correctly answered question. Incorrect answers are not penalized, so students should feel free to guess answers to questions they are unsure about. As of the year 2017, the average score on the ACT Mathematics exam sat at 20. While there is no minimum passing score on the exam, test takers may want to aim toward earning 20 or more.
Test results are released two weeks after the initial testing date. Should a student decide they are unhappy with their score, they can opt to take a retest.
Is the ACT Mathematics Exam Available Year-Round?
The ACT is available to students throughout the majority of the year—or, more specifically, in February, April, June, July, September, October, and December. Testing dates are fewer outside of the United States, and are only available in the months of April, June, September, October, and December. Tests are always administered on Saturdays.
Students must pay to take the ACT exam; the full cost varies based on which version of the exam the student wants to take. Taking the exam with the Writing portion included costs $62.50. The test in its base form costs $46.00.
How Can Students Best Prepare for the ACT Mathematics Exam?
The Mometrix Test Preparation team has prepared numerous study resources to help high school students who are due to take the ACT in the near future. Here on this page, students can access the official Mometrix ACT Math study guide and ACT Math practice test.
The study guide is meant to give students a thorough explanation of how the exam will work, going through each reporting category and subject the test will address. The practice test is meant to give students hands-on experience with the ins and outs of the exam.
ACT Study Guide
ACT Test -- Home