ACT Math

Introduction to the ACT Math Test

The ACT Math test is the second section of the ACT. It is the longest test in terms of time, so it is important to not allow fatigue to hurt your performance on the test.

Although many consider the ACT Math test to be the most difficult section of the ACT, it is graded the most leniently, so you can miss more questions and still get a good score. Nevertheless, make sure you do not make careless mistakes and try to get as many questions as possible correct.

The ACT Math Format: Structure and Timing


Below you will see a chart that provides an overview of the Math test format. This chart includes how long the Math test is, how many questions are on it, how it is organized, and how long you have for each question.

Overview of the Math test format

Total Time Number of Questions Organization Time per Question
60 minutes 60 questions Questions go from easier to harder, although easier questions may be scattered throughout the test about 1 minute per question (less than 1 minute for earlier questions, more than 1 minute for later questions)

Although many students run out of time on the ACT Math test, if you are familiar with the math concepts tested, you may finish early. In any case, because there is a 10 minute break after the Math test, we highly recommend that you work for the entire 60 minutes, checking over answers you were unsure about if you have extra time. This may help you gain a few extra points and maximize your ACT Math score.

Because the ACT Math test is the “hardest” out of all four tests, it is graded the most leniently. Nevertheless, focus on getting every possible question correct to maximize your score. Stay diligent throughout the test and make sure you do not make silly mistakes.

The ACT Math Test Content: Math Concepts Tested

The ACT Math test covers more concepts than any other section of the ACT. Although there are tricks to solving unfamiliar problems, the ACT Math test is designed so that students who are not at a certain level of math proficiency will not do well on the test. This is why it is vitally important that students work hard in their high school math classes and actually learn the concepts being taught.

Below is a chart that lists out all the math concepts you need to know for the ACT Math test. Many of these math concepts show up in similar ways year after year, so knowing both the concepts and how they typically appear on the ACT Math test will be great preparation for the ACT test.

The Specific Content of the ACT Math Test

Algebra


Pre-Algebra (23% – about 14 questions) Elementary Algebra (17% – about 10 questions) Intermediate Algebra (15% – about 9 questions)
  • Basic operations using whole numbers, decimals, fractions, and integers
  • Place value
  • Square roots and approximations
  • Concept of exponents
  • Scientific notation
  • Factors
  • Ratio, proportion, and percent
  • Linear equations in one variable
  • Absolute value and ordering numbers by value
  • Elementary counting techniques and simple probability
  • Data collection, representation, and interpretation
  • Understanding simple descriptive statistics
  • Properties of exponents and square roots
  • Evaluation of algebraic expressions through substitution
  • Using variables to express functional relationships
  • Understanding algebraic operations
  • The solution of quadratic equations by factoring
  • Understanding of the quadratic formula
  • Rational and radical expressions
  • Absolute value equations and inequalities
  • Sequences and patterns
  • Systems of equations
  • Quadratic inequalities
  • Functions
  • Modeling
  • Matrices
  • Roots of polynomials
  • Complex numbers
  • Geometry

    Coordinate Geometry (15% – about 9 questions) Plane Geometry (23% – about 14 questions)
  • Properties and relations of plane figures, including angles and relations among perpendicular and parallel lines
  • Properties of circles, triangles, rectangles, parallelograms, and trapezoids
  • Transformations
  • The concept of proof and proof techniques
  • Volume
  • Applications of geometry to three dimensions
  • Graphing and the relations between equations and graphs, including points, lines, polynomials, circles, and other curves
  • Graphic inequalities
  • Slope
  • Parallel and perpendicular lines
  • Distance
  • Midpoints
  • Conics
  • Trigonometry

    Trigonometry (7% – about 4 questions)
  • Understanding trigonometric relations in right triangles
  • Values and properties of trigonometric functions
  • Graphing trigonometric functions
  • Modeling using trigonometric functions
  • Use of trigonometric identities
  • Solving trigonometric equations
  • To learn or review these math concepts, check out Math.com. They have a lot of great review material and practice questions to help you learn or brush up on your math skills for the ACT.

    Next Step

    The next step in your ACT Math test preparation is to learn the strategies for taking the Math test. To learn the best ACT Math test strategies, visit the ACT Math Prep: Strategies for the ACT Math Test page.