How to Pace Yourself on ACT Math

Sixty minutes. Sixty questions. Meet the ACT Math Section. Fast paced? Yes! Here are 3 tips to make the most of those precious 60 minutes.

1) Practice. Practice. Practice.

Yes, you’ve heard it before. Enough can’t be said about the importance of practicing the ACT under time constraints. Before sitting for the ACT exam, work on a few practice exams in a timed setting. To help you maximize your score, it’s crucial that you have a good idea of how quickly you work. A great place to start: download the free study guide from the official ACT website.

Take a few practice tests and assess your performance. Did you have to guess on 15 problems? Or, were you able to complete all of the problems in the allotted 60 minutes? Now’s the time to think about your strategy for test day.

2) Pacing is everything.

Don’t get bogged down on one problem! If you’re stuck–move on. It’s that simple. The best thing you can do to ensure your success on the ACT is to go through the test once, working on the problems that you find easy or manageable. At this stage, if a problem gives you trouble, leave it blank so you can go back to it later. If algebra is your strength and geometry is your weakness, first concentrate on the algebra problems. Your goal is to get as many points as quickly as you can. This will help you gain confidence as you work through the test.

After you’ve taken your first pass through, go back and work on those problems that were more challenging. Make the most of the remaining time, but don’t forget to save a few minutes at the end of the test to bubble in any answers you left blank. There’s no penalty for guessing on the ACT – that is, they don’t deduct any points for incorrect answers so you should answer every question, even if it’s a guess.

3) Know the format of the test.

The ACT is structured so that the difficulty of the questions go from easy to medium to difficult. Here’s a rough breakdown of the test: the first twenty questions are easy, the next twenty are medium and the final twenty are difficult. This is approximate – the difficulty of any one problem also depends on your math strengths and weaknesses. Knowing the difficulty level can help you pace yourself on the test.

If you find you’re stuck on problem #4, you’re probably missing something simple. This question should be quick and easy. On the other hand, if you’re on problem #54 and you answer the question in a few seconds thinking, “this is so obvious,” then you’re missing a key concept. The last problems usually require significant work. It’s to your benefit that you keep these difficulty levels in the back of your mind as you work through the test.

The bottom line: before exam day, familiarize yourself with ACT Math. It’s not enough to just randomly work on some practice problems. Take practice tests in exam-like conditions to determine your pace and strategy for the big day! If you need extra practice, be sure to try the Ready4 ACT app. Good luck!