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How to Tackle the ACT Math Section

By: Sue Bunn

Something to particularly keep in mind when approaching the math section of the ACT is time. When performing calculations, time can fly. You can get caught up in trying to solve a certain question and fail to recognize that you’ve wasted time that you could have spent on other questions. The section is 60 minutes for 60 questions. The last 20 questions are the most difficult. If math is not your strongest subject, don’t worry because we have strategies to help. There are countless skills and concepts that will help you with this section- understanding mathematical vocabulary, PEMDAS, foiling, Pythagorean theorem

, distributing property, and simplifying equations. The list is endless. In this post, I will briefly be going over mathematical vocabulary. For a greater understanding of the other concepts mentioned, order a copy of our book, Master the SAT, or schedule a tutoring session with one of our math tutors!

Employ your tried and true test-taking strategies.

As we’ve stated in prior posts, our tried and true strategies of test taking will be your best friend for the math section. These include the process of elimination, time management, reading every answer before answering, not getting nervous about the time, and skipping questions if you must. Depend on these strategies to help you during the math section, and you already have a good foundation.

Start with Vocabulary

Your first goal for preparing for the math section should be to make sure that you understand basic mathematical vocabulary. Understanding the meanings of common mathematical vocabulary will be the basis for your success with this section. These include words such as integer, prime, least common multiple, greatest common factor, domain and range, etc. Here are definitions for the most common concepts on the math portion of the ACT.

Integer: Any whole numerical value. This excludes square roots, decimals, etc.

Prime: Any number that can’t be divided by anything besides 1 and itself.

Least Common Multiple: The smallest positive integer that can be divided by the two given numbers.

Factor: One or more numbers that multiply to make a product. Ex: 2 and 11 are factors of 22.

The greatest common factor is the largest number that can evenly divide into two given values. Ex: the GCF for 18 and 27 is 9.

Domain and Range: Domain is the input of an equation and range is the output.

These are only a handful of mathematical vocabulary that will be of use to you on the ACT. Familiarize yourself with other concepts to have a full range of knowledge that you can apply.


Just like with the reading section of the ACT, practicing your math skills will strengthen them, only serving you in the long run with your ACT goals. Math is a skill, like reading, that needs to be practiced in order to stay sharp and comfortable exercising it. It’s like a muscle, in that respect. By practicing your math skills you can feel confident when it comes time to take the ACT test.

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