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ACT Prep: Practice & Study Guide43 chapters | 347 lessons

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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.

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.

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.

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.

**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

**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

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:

- Rational and radical expressions
- Absolute value equations and inequalities
- Sequences and series
- Systems of equations
- Functions
- Matrices
- Complex numbers

There are two types of geometry questions on the ACT: coordinate geometry and plane geometry. **Coordinate geometry** involves graphing on the coordinate plane and comprises 15% of the test, or 9 questions.

Concepts covered include:

- Graphing parabolas and circles
- Graphing inequalities
- Slope
- Parallel and perpendicular lines
- Calculating distance and midpoint

The other type of geometry, **plane geometry**, involves working with shapes and angles. These questions make up 23% of the test, or 13-14 questions. Many students take geometry their freshman or sophomore year. Even though you may have taken it fairly recently, you probably aren't using many of these geometry concepts in your current math class and may need a thorough review to be successful on the ACT. Both types of geometry questions are spread throughout the test.

Concepts covered include:

- Angles
- Properties of shapes, like circles, triangles, rectangles, parallelograms, and trapezoids
- Volume of rectangular prisms, cubes, and cylinders
- Surface area

Some students are intimidated by **trigonometry**, but the questions on the ACT tend to be straightforward. They're also only 7% of questions, or about 4 questions. These questions tend to be in the second half of the test.

The two main concepts you need to know for the ACT are:

- Trigonometric relations in right triangles, which you may know as 'SOHCAHTOA'
- Graphs of trig functions

Let's review the basics of the ACT math.

You have 60 minutes to answer 60 multiple-choice questions, and the questions tend to get harder as you go along.

The main areas covered are:

- Pre-algebra (13-14 questions)
- Elementary algebra (10 questions)
- Intermediate algebra (9 questions)
- Coordinate geometry (9 questions)
- Plane geometry (13-14 questions)
- Trigonometry (4 questions)

In this lesson, we went over the main concepts that are tested on the exam. This isn't everything you might see, but it is the math that's most commonly tested.

The math section covers a lot of ground, but because the questions are about hard skills, lots of review and practice can make a big difference in your score.

Watching this lesson could help you to name the main areas of the ACT math section. You might be able to interpret the way in which the ACT math section is structured based on the number of questions as well as their format and organization.

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