Top 5 Tips to Improve your ACT Math Score

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ACT Math is a real challenge for some test-takers. Sometimes, even students who pride themselves on their math skills can be caught off-guard by the ACT. Below are five tips to help you improve your ACT Math score, whether you’re a “math person” or not.

Tip # 1: Be attentive to detail

Noticing small details is essential to scoring well in ACT Math. So many ACT students will say they missed math questions due to “stupid mistakes.” In these so-called “stupid” mistakes, test-takers see all the information in a math problem, but they fail to properly recognize certain details.

ACT Math loves to test your ability to notice and correctly interpret every number, symbol, word, or graphic in a math problem. As you practice for the test, teach yourself to scan ACT Math questions for small-but-important-details, such as decimal points, math signs, the wording of story problems, and the components of graphs and charts.

Tip # 2: Approach multiple choice questions strategically

There is no numeric entry in ACT Math, just multiple choice. The correct answer to each math problem will be right in front of you, among the answer choices. When you’re not sure of the right answer, you can always find the correct response by thinking logically and strategically. Learn how to eliminate incorrect answers, and learn the different ways in which ACT Math likes to trick you with tempting-but-wrong choices.

Tip # 3: Research good ACT prep materials

Not all ACT prep materials are created equal. A good set of prep materials for ACT Math is important—think helpful tutorials, good advice, and useful practice materials. Check Reddit for helpful advice and suggestions from other students, and browse trusted ACT blogs for information-packed reading.

Tip #  4: Learn to minimize calculator use

The next time you practice ACT Math, I suggest you play a little game: pretend that you get charged five, maybe ten dollars every time you use your calculator. This turns calculator use into a real decision, doesn’t it? And it should be a real decision!

Yes, the ACT lets you use a calculator on the test, yet excessive reliance on a calculator is a trap! Sometimes mental math or estimation can get you to the right answer almost instantly—much faster than you could if you keyed every step into your calculator. Also remember that writing a few problem steps on scrap paper increases your accuracy. It’s pretty easy to hit the wrong number on a calculator keypad, but much harder to actually write down the incorrect number (and reread it a few times without catching it). Always think carefully about whether you really need that calculator, and look for ways to avoid calculator use.

Tip # 5: Know what’s on the math test, and practice every skill

The #1 mistake students make is not dedicating enough time to all the math topics tested on the ACT. Don’t make this mistake! Especially when there are so many resources guiding you in the right direction. Explore a list of the five most frequently-tested ACT math topics. Prioritize topics that give you problems, and give the ones that come easily to you a break. With the right preparation, you’ll be that much closer to reaching your dream ACT score!

For nearly ten years, David Recine has been teaching students ranging from K-12 to university grads. He is a test prep expert; writing articles for Magoosh that cover everything from tricky SAT vocab words to complex ACT math topics. You can read more of David’s awesome blog posts on the Magoosh High School Blog.




Why Dominating the SAT is Like Climbing Trees

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This post was written by Chris Lele, resident SAT expert at Magoosh, a leader in SAT Prep.  For more SAT resources, check out Magoosh SAT vocabulary flashcards and the Magoosh SAT Blog!

Imagine a massive tree, its diffuse branches stretching to the heavens. The tree’s green canopy of leaves is bedizened with luscious fruits, from the very lowest branch (you can reach out and pluck a fruit) to the highest (you’ll have to crook your neck just to spot them). But there is another special thing about this tree: each fruit is exactly the same; the ones that get the sun’s full warmth are no different in size, shape and flavor than the those shaded by branches looming overhead. The name of this tree? The SAT tree.

The SAT tree

So how does the tree of SAT work? Well, clearly you’re not going to get any vitamin C from these fruits. But what you will get is the following: the same number of points. That’s right: the easiest question on the SAT is worth the same number of points as the hardest question. In other words, the fruit on the very lowest branch, the one you can basically just reach out and grab, is just as juicy, just as Vitamin C laden, as a fruit that will require you to scale eighty feet of sap ridden trunk, before you have to Spiderman your way to the edge of a creaking branch.

So which one would you go for first? That’s right—that’s the exact mindset you want to bring the SAT. Do the easy questions first, leaving the hard ones only if you have time. (For other similar tips check out this SAT lifehacks infographic).

Let’s take a walk out on to the branches

You might be wondering how you know which question is easy and which one is hard. Well, for the most part the SAT has made it pretty easier for you. The higher the number within a given question type, the harder the question. The first Sentence Completion? That’s the fruit you can reach out and grab. The Sentence Completion with SAT vocabulary like pusillanimous, lugubrious, and byzantine? Well, that’s some spidey stuff for you.

The only area in which you don’t know the difficulty of the question based on numbering is in the SAT Reading Comprehension section. So the first question you can get can be a mind-bender, a cakewalk, or anything in between. That said, you can get a sense of the general difficulty by looking at the passage. If it’s long and abstract, well think of it as a thorny tree, one that you should only return to once you’ve clambered up more arboreal-ly friendly terrain.

Tree climbing takes practice

This all sounds great in theory, but to really use this knowledge to your advantage you must apply it. Try a Critical Reading section in which you skip the last two Sentence Completions. Or, if it is the section with two medium passages, one that is notably more difficult than the other, do the easy one first. And remember that you don’t get extra points for finishing the test—so don’t just blitz through the tough passage and then bomb every question. Slow down, skip a couple of tough questions (based on if they seem tough), and do your best on the ones that you feel you can answer correctly.

With enough practice, you should find become better at navigating the sections so that you are picking the low-hanging fruit before scaling up to the higher branches. And even if you try for the fruit at the very top, don’t worry. There’s one more special thing about this tree: you can’t fall off of it.




18 Unexpected SAT Tips from Our Friends at Magoosh SAT Prep

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You can’t avoid it. Every SAT prep checklist has it, and every SAT prep tutor will tell you to do it: STUDY! Yes, we all hate to have to do it, but it really is the key to your success on this (and every) standardized test.

But, the fact is, even after you’ve studied all you can for the SAT, you’re not guaranteed success. You might have heard stories of a classmate who crumbled under the pressure of studying for the test, or who slept right through his alarm on the morning of the test, or who ran out of energy and collapsed right on top of her desk during the test. It really could happen to anyone!

Before you panic about the chances of this happening to you, we’ve got good news! Our friends at Magoosh SAT put together an SAT lifehack infographic to make sure you safely avoid any test-day nightmares. The infographic includes study tools and tips you probably didn’t consider before but that are crucial to keeping you sane all the way up to your test date. So, take some time to browse this list of SAT prep lifehacks and master the 18 unexpected tips you’ll need for a higher SAT score!

SAT Lifehacks: 18 Unexpected 

Tips for a Higher SAT Score

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