Hello students and parents:
Whether you have a day, a week, a month or a year, there are some great strategies out there to prepare for the ACT. The math section measures your accuracy and efficiency. Thus, if you cannot work well under the pressure of a clock, there will be difficulty in achieving an elite score. Practicing with a timer teaches you how to pace yourself which is very important. The questions become more difficult as the math test goes on, so answering the early questions quickly will allow you to spend more time on the most difficult questions at the end.
Most students who increase their score by 4-8 points have done a lot of practice tests. However, what really sets these diligent students apart from the rest of the pack is that they really “learned from their mistakes.” Do not fall into the trap of taking more and more new practice tests without learning from the previous ones. You should attempt missed problems a second time, read explanations and watch instructional videos pertaining to your weakest areas. It is foolish to think that the only key to a good score is more and more practice tests. Instead, you should use practice tests as a tool to uncover deficiencies that you can strengthen through targeted practice and skill-building drills.
The math section consists of material from approximately 4th grade to 10th / 11th grade, so it is important to feel comfortable with high school math classes, as well as re-familiarize yourself with middle school and junior high concepts if you have become rusty. These are some of the topics included on the test: arithmetic, pre-algebra, algebra I and II, geometry, trigonometry, probability and statistics. To be more specific, if you are not familiar with some of these terms, it is time to start studying:
algebra: factoring quadratics, quadratic formula, logarithms, improper fractions, mixed numbers, decimals, percentages, ratios, proportions, order of operations, integers, rational and irrational numbers, polynomials, linear systems of equations, inequalities, absolute values, exponents, radicals, mean, median, mode, permutations, combinations
geometry: Pythagorean theorem, graphing, angles, parallel, perpendicular and skew lines, distance formula, midpoint formula, slope intercept form, point slope form, parabolas, scalene isosceles, and equilateral triangles, quadrilaterals, polygons, circles, perimeter, circumference, surface area, volume, prisms, cylinders, cones
trigonometry: SOH-CAH-TOA, sine, cosine, tangent, secondary / reciprocal functions, cosecant, secant, cotangent, unit circle.
If these topics seem scary, don’t be afraid to get support from a professional tutor. You can do this!
Matthew J. Horwich is a private tutor for the ACT/SAT and other standardized tests. He lives in Cleveland, OH and also teaches online throughout the United States.