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5 Keys to Scoring a 30 on the ACT Math Section

Scoring a 30 or above on the ACT Math section is no easy feat; it takes a lot of preparation and practice! In this post, we’ll share with you 5 Key strategies to scoring a 30 or above on the ACT Math section. These strategies are tried and true, and tend to be very effective for students that we have helped prepare for the ACT exam.


  1. Time Management v. Content Weakness

The first strategy is a high-level strategy used to hone in on whether your greatest weakness on the ACT Math section is time management or content weakness. The first step to diagnosing your weakness is to take a diagnostic practice exam where you time yourself. If you find that you have run out of time, but still have questions to answer, continue answering them; just make sure to record the amount of time it took you to complete the diagnostic exam. Once you have finished the diagnostic exam, score your exam. While scoring your exam, pay attention to two things:

  • The types of questions that you missed. Did you have a hard time answering geometry questions or word problems correctly? If so, note the content that these questions draw on and design a study plan to review the specified content and concepts that you experienced difficulty with.
  • How many questions you answered after the 60-minute time limit. Remember, the ACT Math section has 60 questions and a 60-minute time limit. If you answered more than 5 questions after the 60-minute time limit, you know that time management is your greatest weakness. On average, you should be spending about a minute per question. There will be some easy problems that you’ll be able to answer in 10 seconds, which will give you more time to spend on the harder questions.

To improve on time management or to strengthen content weakness, reviewing the material and completing multiple practice problems in a timed setting is key! It’s a slow, and sometimes grueling process, but the end result is worth it!

  1. Try to resolve each problem you answer incorrectly before looking at the correct answer

Now that you’ve scored your diagnostic exam, go back to all the questions that you answered incorrectly and try to resolve them. It is important to understand all your mistakes and to resolve each math question until you get the correct answer. The more you understand the question and how to answer it correctly, the more likely you are to answer a similar question correctly on the first try in the future! It is important to understand your mistakes or the reasons you answer a problem incorrectly to prevent the same mistake from occurring again.

  1. Eliminate careless mistakes

Making a careless mistake on the ACT Math section can be quite costly, and can be the difference in a score of 29 versus a score of 30 or higher on the ACT Math section. Following these three strategies will help you prevent making the most common careless mistakes.

  • Underline keywords and what the problem is asking you to solve. It is so easy for the ACT makers to trick you into solving a problem that wasn’t asked in the question. Underline keywords and what the problem is asking you to solve will ground you in the question and will help ensure that you are answering the correct question.
  • Be careful with calculator entry. A missing parenthesis or adding units before dividing them (Remember PEMDAS/BODMAS) can lead you astray.
  • Write down units or values that you are solving for. For example, if a problem asks you to solve for x+y, write down x+y on your scratch paper as you solve the problem. Again, this strategy will keep you grounded in the question and ensure you answer the question correctly.
  1. Memorize all common math facts and formulas

A wide range of math content is covered on the ACT Math section, including Pre-Algebra, Elementary & Intermediate Algebra, Coordinate & Plane Geometry, and Trigonometry. Most high school students will have covered this material by the end of their junior year, so the math content should be familiar to all test takers. However, we recommend that you spend some time reviewing and memorizing basic formulas and math facts. Just knowing common math formulas and facts will save you time on the ACT Math section! If you tend to incorrectly answer geometry based questions, take the time to research and study common geometry formulas and facts, either using online sources or using your math textbook. Then, test yourself by practicing many practice problems. Drilling yourself on common math facts and formulas will give you great practice for solving similar problems on the ACT Math section, and it will equip you to quickly solve the 60 questions on the ACT Math section!

  1. Practice, Practice, Practice!

The only way to track progress, content retention, and to practice key test-taking strategies on the ACT Math section is to complete many, many practice problems. While completing practice problems or practice tests, make note of problems that you are unsure about. When grading your practice problems or practice test, pay attention to problem solutions for problems that you marked as ‘unsure’ and problems that you missed. This step is important! You need to know how to properly answer questions that you missed, or that you were unsure about and guessed on so that you correctly solve a similar problem in the future. Once reviewing the problem solutions, go back and resolve every problem that you answered incorrectly. This step will help to determine whether or not you truly understand how to solve the problem. This strategy is time-consuming, but it will result in an increased ACT Math score!

Banke Abioye is a Managing Tutor with MyGuru and frequently helps students prepare for High School & College Entrance Exams.