If you find yourself getting overly stressed about the ACT Math section, you’re not alone. For many students, the most stressful part of the SAT exam is the Math section. In a way, it’s intentional. The ACT math test is designed to baffle you and trip you up.
The first thing you should understand and accept is that the ACT math test is intentionally designed to be confusing. The aim of the test is not just to assess how well you know your basic math, but also to evaluate how well you can apply this knowledge to solve more complex math problems.
Every question is framed differently in order to test different aspects of your math knowledge. Most are framed in a way that sets you up to make simple and silly mistakes without you even realizing it.
The best advice you can get for acing the ACT math section is to take some time to first fully understand what the question is asking and then think through your answer carefully before you attempt to work it out or write it down as your final answer.
Many students end up making the same mistakes year after year. Knowing what these mistakes are and how to avoid them will help you score well on this crucial standardized test.
Mistake #1 – Not Knowing Or Not Remembering The Various Formulas
Don’t underestimate the importance of studying specific formulas and other math-related materials when preparing for your ACT math test. The ACT works quite differently from the SAT where you are provided with a list of references and formulas that you can use while answering the test. In answering the ACT math questions, you are required to memorize all formulas in advance and use your judgment in applying them to solve the questions asked.
The best way to learn the formulas is to memorize them. Quizzes and flashcards can be of invaluable help when it comes to rote memorization. Another effective way to memorize the various formulas is by solving practice tests where you attempt to use the right formula to solve different questions. Your score on the test papers will give you a good indication as to how well-prepared you are for the actual test.
Mistake # 2 – Not Pacing Yourself Properly While Answering The Test
There’s no doubt this is a fast-paced test. You get just 60 minutes to answer 60 complex math questions. Many students make the mistake of thinking that allotting 60 seconds per question should allow them to complete the test on time. However, it is not as straightforward as that.
If you have done any ACT math practice tests, you will notice that easier questions are always places at the beginning of the test and they get more difficult as you progress through the test. With that in mind, it is a far better idea to divide the questions into three sets. Allot 30 seconds per question in the first set, a little more time – say 60 seconds – for each question in the second set, and 90 seconds for each question in the last set.
This is not written in stone however. You need to find out what will work best for you and the only way to do this is through trial and error while answering practice tests. After you have solved a few tests, you will have a better idea of the time you need to answer the questions at the beginning, middle and end of the test.
If you are finding yourself running short of time, the key to maximizing your score at that point is to skip those questions that you do not know the formulas or the answers to. Come back to the difficult questions after you have finished answering all others and then either attempt to solve it or guess the answer.
Mistake # 3 – Relying On Your Calculator To Solve All Problems
The ACT math test is designed in such a way that students can complete all answers without using calculators. Although calculators are not necessary, students are allowed to use an approved calculator if they want to. While it’s comforting to know you can use the calculator if you want to, it is advisable not to use it to solve every question. First of all, it will slow you down unnecessarily and secondly, it increases the risk of making careless mistakes.
The best way to reduce your dependency on the calculator is to check your calculator usage during your practice test sessions. If you find yourself using it too much for one particular type of question, it means you need to spend more time mastering that math principle so that your dependency on the calculator decreases. This will help you become more confident and self-reliant and also save you precious minutes when answering your ACT test.
Mistake # 4 – Making Careless Mistakes That Cost You Points
Think of how frustrating it can be to know the answer but lose points anyway because of careless mistakes. Careless mistakes will cost you points and drive down your overall score.
One of the most common careless mistake students make is filling out the answer form incorrectly. You may have gotten all your answers correct but it would be all for nothing if they are filled in wrongly on the answer sheet.
Here’s one way you can avoid this. If you choose to enter each answer as you get to it, you must first check and double check that you are entering the answer in the right bubble. Before filling in the bubble, take another look at the question, locate the corresponding question number on the answer sheet and only then go ahead and fill it in. If you don’t do this and fill in one wrong bubble by mistake, it would have a domino effect on the rest of your answers.
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