What Does the ACT Math Test Measure?

the ACT logoThe ACT Math test is designed to measure a range of math proficiencies, with an emphasis on problem solving, modeling, using tools strategically, and using algebraic structure. Knowledge of basic formulas and computational skills are assumed as background for the problems, but recall of complex formulas and extensive computation are not required.

Questions on both sections are mostly multiple choice, but some Student-Produced Response questions or “grid-ins” require test takers to bubble in specific answers rather than select a given answer choice.

SAT Math questions evaluate quantitative fluency, conceptual understanding, problem solving, and calculation ability through multiple-choice questions with five answer choices each, a departure from every other multiple-choice section of the ACT or SAT. ACT Math Reporting Categories detail what students are tested on in this section:

Of the 60 questions on the ACT Math test, roughly 36 (57-60%) of them are Preparing for Higher Math questions evaluating what is considered high school math, from when students learn to use algebra as a general way of expressing and solving equations to advanced topics in geometry, statistics, algebra 2, and trigonometry

Integrating Essential Skills questions make up the remaining 24 or so (40-43%) ACT Math questions, evaluating concepts typically learned before 8th grade such as rates and percentages; proportional relationships; area, surface area, and volume; average and median; and expressing numbers in different ways.

The Modeling category does not introduce additional questions, but instead quantifies achievement on word problems that involve producing, interpreting, understanding, evaluating, and improving models.

The timed nature of this section also rewards mental math ability and creative problem solving along with critical test taking skills like focus, endurance, and answer awareness.


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