How to Improve Your ACT Math Score

Student writing on paper preparing to improve the ACT Math Score
May 18, 2022
About the ACT Math SectionHow Are You Scored on ACT Math?Average ACT Math ScoresHow to Improve Your ACT Math ScoreFAQs: How To Improve Your ACT Math


Reviewed by:

Rohan Jotwani

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 5/11/22

The ACT is a standardized test commonly used by colleges in USA and Canada to assess applicants for undergraduate admission. It is one of the two most popular tests for high school students to take for college applications, with the other being the SAT. The ACT intends to measure how well students have learned high-school-level courses, especially the prerequisites for entry-level college courses. 

The ACT is composed of four subject tests and one optional writing test. The four subject tests include:

This article will give you help on how to improve your scores for the ACT Math test.

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About the ACT Math Test

The ACT Math Test is designed to measure and assess the mathematical knowledge, skills, and abilities that students have typically acquired in courses taken up to the beginning of grade 12. It  covers mathematical topics that are prerequisites to successful performance in entry-level college courses.

The Math Test of the ACT is divided into three main sections: preparing for higher math, integrating essential skills, and models. The preparing for higher math section tests your understanding of mathematical concepts, and how well you perform calculations and mathematical operations. Integrating essential skills test your ability to apply your mathematical skills and knowledge in realistic scenarios. The model section tests your ability to interpret, analyze, manipulate, and use various kinds of mathematical models.

Preparing for Higher Math 

This section tests the student’s basic  understanding, knowledge, and skills of mathematics learned in high school, with more emphasis on upper-year topics, concepts, and practices. This section is further divided into five sub-sections: 

Integrating Essential Skills

This section tests how well you can apply your math knowledge and skills to  more complex and realistic questions. These questions are  non-routine compared to  the previous section. They may require you to combine  various  concepts and practices (sometimes unrelated to each other) to  get the answer. Therefore, you need to have flexible thinking and a solid understanding.  Good mathematical abilities are required to decide which concepts and practices are needed for you. Experience in the real world is also  necessary for the questions  in this section. 


The modeling section isn’t a separate section that contains its questions, but it is instead  a category of all the questions that can be found in the previous two sections  involving mathematical models and modeling. At its core, these  questions test your understanding of models and your ability to produce, interpret, comprehend, evaluate, and improve models. These models will also correlate to the appropriate concepts mentioned in the previous two sections.

How Are You Scored on ACT Math?

Like the other sections, the score of your ACT Math ranges between 1 to 36.  It is determined by the number of questions that you answer correctly. This means there are no penalties for guessing. 

In the previous section, you can see that the ACT Math is broken down into different sections and sub-sections, each of which takes up different parts of the ACT Math test. Therefore, each section  weighs differently in respect to the final overall score of the math test. The breakdown is shown as the following:

  1. The “Number & Quantity” sub-section questions take up about 7% to10% of the final score
  2. The “Algebra” questions take up about 12% to 15% of the final score
  3. The “Functions” questions take up about 12% to 15% of the final score
  4. The “Geometry” questions take up about 12% to 15% of the final score
  5. Questions in “Statistics & Probability” take up about 8% to 12% of the final score

Average ACT Math Scores

In your score report, you can  find information about where you land amongst  others who took the test with you. Your score report contains a US Rant and a State Rank. Each tells you what percentage of test-takers you’ve outscored in the states or your state, respectively. 

The average ACT Math scores for each year are different. In 2021, the national average for the ACT Math test was 20.4. One relevant statistic that is more consistent is the benchmark score. These measurements determine how ready a test-taker is to begin a college education. The  benchmark scores for each subject are like how much is required for a student to have an expected chance to do well in the related subject.

If your score is at or above the benchmark score for any subject, you will likely do well in the first-year college courses in the corresponding subject area. More specifically, you will have about: 

How to Improve Your ACT Math Score

Now that we have covered  important things to understand about the ACT Math test and score, let’s jump into  specific ways  you  can improve your performance on the ACT Math test.

Know What The Test Covers

Familiarizing yourself with the content of the ACT math test will  help you  learn what you need to prepare for specifically. Below is a list of some essential concepts, skills, and practices for each section of the ACT Math test. One key  aspect to remember is that you should never neglect the basic concepts! You might think the fundamentals are easy, so you don’t need to spend a lot of time  studying them, but forgetting the basics is a sure-fire way to make mistakes that could have easily been avoided. 

Without further ado, here is a compilation of everything crucial for you to know in the ACT Math test.

Preparing for Higher Mathematics

Number and Quantity




Statistics and Probability

Integrating Essential Skills

Search The ACT Website

The ACT website provides helpful information for test preparation, which includes guides, online lessons, and practice tests. Some of these tests are  full length, and can serve as effective ACT simulations. The website itself offers a few free tests, but you can order more if you need more practice. 

The  ACT website is also where announcements and updates about the test are posted, so  it is crucial to make a habit of visiting the site frequently. Overall,  the ACT website is an excellent place containing many useful resources for those preparing for the ACT .

Solve the Questions First

When you start  working on a question, you would most likely read it first. But after reading the question and understanding what is being asked, do not check out the choices you are given just yet. Instead, solve the question on a scrap piece of paper first, and then select the answer according to what you get. 

If you check the choices first, you could be misguided while  attempting to solve the question. Solving the questions yourself while  completely ignoring the given choices will allow you to do the questions without distractions. 

Furthermore, if none of the choices matches your solution, it will hint that you may be doing something wrong and that you should go back and check your work carefully in case of  mistakes. Do not panic, even if you cannot seem to get a correct answer. You can always skip the question and go back to it.

Do Easy Questions First 

The questions on the ACT Math exam are not ranked in any particular order, which means the difficulty of the questions is randomized from start to finish. Therefore,  try not to get discouraged when you are off to a rough start. If you’re stuck on a question, or if something  seems difficult to comprehend, skip it first and come back to it later. 

Doing easy questions first will serve three beneficial  purposes. Firstly, you need to remember that you have 60 minutes to answer 60 questions, which means you have an average of one minute to answer one question. You don’t need to feel stressed about this timeframe, but a minute per question is not a lot of time, either. Finishing the easy questions first will save you lots of time, as these easy questions take less time to complete. You will be able to maximize the number of questions you can answer, and you can give yourself more time to answer the more challenging and complex questions.

Second, doing easy questions first will increase your confidence, thereby improving your mindset. In a long and grueling ACT , your psychological condition plays a big part in your performance. Panicking and getting frustrated will make your mind less clear, which will increase the likelihood of making mistakes. Doing the easy questions is an effective way to make yourself feel better and calm yourself down. 

A third way this helps is that the easy questions might give you clues on how to solve the hard questions that you’re stuck with. So stay optimistic and deal with the hard questions later!

Do Well in School

At this point, you should have already noticed that almost all of the topics in the ACT Math test are covered in the math courses at school. After all, the ACT was intentionally designed  to examine how well your high school education has prepared you for first-year college mathematics. So, why not use this to your advantage and take the opportunity to get better?

If you are doing well in your current math classes, you will certainly have a higher chance of taking  that success  to the ACT . Your current coursework can also act as additional practice for math questions on the ACT . 

By extension, you can always ask a math teacher for help, especially on topics and areas that you struggle with. Their job is to teach high-school-level mathematics, so they can undoubtedly  provide help for improving your ACT Math score. So stay connected with your math teachers, and don’t hesitate to reach out and seek help.

FAQs: Improving Your ACT Math Score

1. How can I register for the ACT ?

You can register at the official ACT website. 

2. Are calculators allowed for ACT Math?

Yes, but only the ones that contain nothing more than calculating functions. Graphing calculators and calculating apps on other devices, such as phones and personal computers, are all prohibited. Further instructions about the calculator policies for the ACT can be found here

3. How many ACT test dates are there in a year?

In the USA, there are seven test dates annually. For countries outside the USA, the number of test dates may differ  depending on the country.

4. When should I take the ACT?

Commonly, the first ACT  is taken from the end of the grade 10 school year to the start of the grade 11 school year. Retesting attempts are typically offered during the grade 11 school year to the grade 12 school year. If you are in grade 11 and haven’t taken the ACT test once and wish to do so, you should register for the nearest test date as soon as possible.

5. Does retaking the ACT cost anything additionally?

No. You can retake the ACT multiple times without any additional expenses, as long as test dates and test locations are available.


It is undoubted that the ACT test is essential for students looking to apply for colleges. The ACT Math test is one of the four mandatory subjects, so doing well in this section could determine your chances of getting offers of admission. Fortunately, the ACT Math test is not too difficult, but it certainly requires lots of time and hard work if you wish to do well. 

The ACT Math test material consists of concepts you have likely already learned in school, so you can utilize school work to practice and improve your performance, and, chances are, you have your trustworthy teachers available. It certainly isn’t a cakewalk, but neither is it back-breaking. If you put in the time, effort, and  eagerness, improving your ACT Math score is certainly achievable, and you’ll be able to get a test score you’re satisfied with!

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