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Study Guide for the Mathematics ACT

— State: West Virginia Department of Education
Updated on May 1, 2014

ACT Study Guide

Many students take the ACT test more than once. Because it is based on the skills learned in your high school mathematics courses, the more courses you have taken, the better you should score. Questions are included from algebra, geometry and trigonometry. Formulas will not be given on the test; students are expected to know basic formulas and computation methods. Since the test is based on skills, it is very possible to improve an ACT score through practice and review. The following resources may be used to better understand and prepare for the ACT test.

Test Taking Tips

Although content knowledge is a key to succeeding on standardized tests, certain other skills will also help a student do well. Eating a good breakfast and getting plenty of sleep the night before the test are two strategies that will often help a student on any test.  Another strategy that is specific to the ACT is answering each question, as there is no penalty for guessing. West Virginia students had this advice to give following the May 2008 test: “Practice using your calculator,” “Practice solving math problems in one minute since there are 60 problems to complete in 60 minutes.” Many other strategies are available. Some strategies selected from the cited resources are listed here. Many more are included within each resource. Read each question carefully.

  • Answer the easy questions first. (Preparing for the ACT, published by ACT, is available from guidance counselors. You may also get it online: http://www.act.org/aap/pdf/preparing.pdf. It includes practice tests, strategies, and expectations for the day of the test.)
  • Use your calculator wisely.Encourage your inner artist.
  • Know the instructions for each subject test. 

Recent test takers in West Virginia gave the following tips:

  • Eat  a good breakfast; get plenty of sleep
  • Do not get nervous
  • Do not spend too much time on one question and check your answers
  • Know your formulas and know how to use your calculator

Practice Test Questions

Students that are more familiar and comfortable with the format and expectations on a standardized test will be more successful on that test. Therefore, test practice with items and format similar to the ACT is beneficial to the test taker. The following resources provide such practice. TestPrepPractice.net (http://www.testpreppractice.net/ACT/Free-Online-ACT-Practice-Tests.aspx) provides free online practice mini-tests. Problems will be graded and correct answers given, but no explanation of how to do problems. ACT (http://www.actstudent.org/sampletest/index.html) lists practice mini-tests. Answers are checked item-by-item with solution analysis given. Peterson’s Planner offers a free online practice test as well as many other resources. Tests may be graded as completed, with correct/incorrect, responses compared to right answers, and time information is given, as well as test sub-scores. (http://www.petersons.com/mypetersons/code/mypetersons.asp?sponsor=1&path=ug.gs.using Princeton Review will grade the full length online practice test after completion, giving item-by-item results with category of question given. You can also see results classified by category, which should help pinpoint strengths and weaknesses. All four ACT test areas are included. (http://www.princetonreview.com/college/testprep/testprep.asp?TPRPAGE=244&TYPE=ACT-PRACTICE-TEST)  4Tests.com (http://www.4tests.com/exams/examdetail.asp?eid=13) provides practice tests that are graded with solutions given after completion.

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