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ACT Tutor Tip: Identifying Types of Math Problems part 1

albuquerque tutor tip math ACT
Learn which types of problems the ACT will put on the math section so you can focus on questions you know and can avoid questions that put you in this situation.  (photo credit: attercop311 via Flickr)

Hey Albuquerque test prep students!

It's probably a safe bet to say that a majority of ACT students (including those from Albuquerque) are the most nervous about the math section.  This is pretty understandable; many students have a severe lack of confidence when it comes to math, in general, and when you add the timing component of the ACT to that mix and it yields a pretty daunting challenge.  However, there are a number of things you can do to make this much easier.  The first and most important is to slow down!  The simple of of taking your time and making sure that you're spending your time on questions you know and guessing on questions you don't know will improve your score.  

Taking this thought a step further, the ACT only has six subjects that they use on the Math section and picking the subjects you're good at and focusing on those can be immensely helpful.

Subject 1: Pre-Algebra

Pre-Algebra is, of course, the easiest of the subjects.  And the reason for that is very simple: Pre-Algebra problems don't have any variables.  But despite that fact, many students still miss a lot these types of questions.  This is usually because of two reasons:  first, because the ACT is who we thought it is, the questions are usually written is a confusing manner, even though the problem itself is easy; and second, students usually take Pre-Algebra in middle school and may not have given these types of questions much thought in five years. Again though, the best way to overcome both of those issues is to take your time and work out each step of the problem carefully.

Subject 2: Algebra 1

Students hate Algebra, which is not surprising.  Algebra marks a distinctive change from all the math that's done before it, it's difficult, it's confusing, and above all, it uses letters instead of numbers.  However, as far as the ACT is concerned Algebra isn't all that bad, because though it does have variables, it only uses simple variables.  Questions from more difficult subjects may throw variables at you with all sorts of exponents and square roots and have variables of variables and several other rather complex things, but the most complicated Algebra 1 questions will get is having multiple variables.  Which of course, can be handled just like Pre-Algebra is: slow and steady and mistake-free.  

Subject 3: Shape Geometry

Geometry has always been the oddball of the math family in that it uses pictures as well as words and numbers to ask us questions.  And that's the reason why Shape Geometry is the easiest subject to identify:  it has shapes.  But since there are tons and tons of shapes to choose from, the ACT has decided to focus on triangles, squares/rectangles, and circles.  While there will be other, less common shapes on the test, there will be very few questions about those, and the shapes change from test to test.  While one test may have a question about cylinders and another about trapezoids, another test may have one about spheres and one about hexagons.  And if you happen to see a question about a shape that you completely blank on, it's no big deal.  Those questions are few enough that they won't make or break your scores.  Unlike Pre-Algebra and Algebra, you may need to go back and review a few things with Geometry.  The most important thing to remember are all of your formulas for triangles, squares/rectangles, and circles, but any of the theorems and rules that you can recall will definitely help.

Obviously these are the easiest and most important three subjects on the math section.  They are also the most numerous on the test.  Depending on the specific make up of your test, you can expect anywhere from 60%-75% of the entire section to be from these three subjects.  So a good understanding of which questions belong to these subjects and how to tackle them becomes even more important.  

This does not mean that the other three subjects, Algebra II, Coordinate Geometry, and Trigonometry, are completely irrelevant though.  So be sure to check back next time as we explore those subjects!

Would you like some more in-depth strategies and techniques on how to deal with the Math section of the ACT?  Or need academic tutoring, test prep tutoring or college consulting guidance? Please contact us here in Albuquerque to discuss ACT Tutoring and other services.   


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