ACT / SAT Math Section Tips and Tricks

Flickr user Michael Himbeault

As you head into the ACT or SAT, you may be worrying about the math section, especially if the subject isn’t your strong suit. These tips and tricks will help ensure you do better on that dreaded section.

Understand Your Mistakes

When you’re taking the practice ACT or SAT before you take the real deal, you’ll absolutely want to check your answers. However, you don’t want to stop at “correct” and “incorrect.” Go a step further, especially in the math section.

Why did you get that math problem wrong? Did you use the wrong equation? Did you simply just go through it too fast and got the question correct once you understood the problem? You want to understand exactly why it’s wrong. Continuing to another practice test without knowing the “why” won’t help you get it right the second time around.

Fill in the Gaps

We all have weak and strong points, even when it comes to our best subjects. Taking the practice test and looking over your mistakes can help you understand exactly where those gaps are. The practice exams also show you exactly what you can expect on the test. What questions are you continually getting wrong or simply don’t understand?

It’s time to study those topics. It could be you need a refresher on basic algebra, or you have an issue with scatterplots, or geometry just isn’t your thing. Now is the chance to study those topics that you’re weaker on. Take practice problems from offline or your school textbooks, or even find examples of similar questions from other practice SATs and ACTs. You may also want to ask your math teacher for a little assistance to make sure you get it right on the real exam.

Check The Answers

During your practice SAT or ACT (or the real thing), checking the answers and using process of elimination can be a very helpful strategy. This is great for any subject during the tests, but it can be a true lifesaver if you’re stumped on a math question.

Take what you know about math and apply it to the answers in front of you. Are there questions that simply don’t make sense? Cross them out and work from there. It won’t work for every math question, but it may just get you that extra boost you need in that particular section. This strategy can also help you if you just really run into a calculation you’re not positive on.

(If you use this strategy on a practice exam, make sure you’re still understanding why that particular answer is correct!)

Studying and knowing your weaknesses ahead of time can give you plenty of confidence as you head into the math section of the SAT or ACT. Understand your gaps and study those particular problem areas until you’re sure you got it down. These are also great tips for the rest of the sections. Taking practice exams to understand the math section and what you’re up against can truly prove helpful.

Interested to see how your ACT / SAT scores affect your admission chances to the colleges on your list? Check out College Raptor’s free match tool to find out!

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