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Structure of the ACT Math Section

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  • 0:39 Number of Questions
  • 1:58 Types of Questions
  • 2:20 Pre-Algebra
  • 2:57 Algebra
  • 3:55 Geometry
  • 5:00 Trigonometry
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jessica Bayliss
Learn the concepts tested on the ACT math test and find out about the test structure, including the number of questions, how they're organized, and the question formats.

Introduction

The ACT math section is one of the easiest parts of the ACT to prepare for but also one of the most overwhelming sections because it covers so much material. In this lesson, we're going to cover which concepts are tested and how the test is organized.

The math section is the second section on the ACT, and it comes right after the English. It's multiple choice, and each question contains five answer choices. Like the other sections, there is no penalty for guessing, so you should always select an answer, even if you're not sure if you're right.

Number of Questions

It contains 60 questions, and you have 60 minutes to complete the exam. This averages out to 1 minute per question, but in reality, you should spend less time on the easy questions and more time on harder questions.

I find that the first 30 questions are usually the easiest questions on the test. Questions 31-50 are harder and can contain some tricks. Questions 51-60 are usually the hardest questions on the exam and can be quite difficult to solve.

This isn't true 100% of the time - sometimes question 60 is quite straightforward. However, it's important to remember this breakdown because knowing where you are on the test will drive your strategy. If you're completely stumped by question 1, you're probably missing a simple solution. You should skip it and come back later when you can look at it with fresh eyes. If you're stumped by question 60, that's probably because it's really hard.

Don't get bogged down by the super-hard questions. Every question is worth the same number of points, so it's a better use of your time to move on to the next question or check your work if you're done with the rest of the test. We'll talk more about strategy for the math section in another lesson, but the most important thing to remember is don't get bogged down. If you lose all your time on a hard question, you may not have time to answer the easier question that comes next.

Types of Questions

The ACT math covers concepts that most students learn between 7th grade and junior year. This is a lot of math, but many of the concepts are ones that you've had to use every year. To be successful on the exam, you need to know pre-algebra, algebra, geometry, and basic trigonometry.

Let's look at a more detailed breakdown of the types of questions you'll see.

Types of Questions - Pre-Algebra

Pre-algebra is 23% of the exam, or about 13-14 questions. These questions are usually straight-forward and appear in the first half of the exam. Even though these questions tend to be easier, they also cover material you learned several years ago and may be rusty on. It's important to review the pre-algebra concepts to make sure they're fresh.

The main pre-algebra concepts you'll be tested on include:

  • Basic counting, operations, and ordering numbers
  • Decimals, fractions, and percents
  • Ratios and proportions
  • Factors of numbers
  • Absolute value
  • Basic probability and statistics
  • Linear equations with one variable

Types of Questions - Elementary Algebra

Elementary algebra is about 17% of the exam, or 10 questions. Most students learn elementary algebra in 8th grade or freshman year. So, like pre-algebra, you may be a bit rusty on some of the concepts. Also like pre-algebra, the elementary algebra questions will probably be in the first half of the test.

The main elementary algebra concepts tested include:

  • Square roots
  • Exponents
  • Evaluating algebraic expressions
  • Algebraic operations
  • Factoring quadratic equations

Types of Questions - Intermediate Algebra

With the intermediate algebra questions, we're starting to get into harder questions and more advanced concepts. Intermediate algebra comprises 15% of the exam, or 9 questions.

The main concepts covered include:

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