How To Handle Overwhelming ACT Math Questions

Some ACT math questions are straightforward. Some are complex. But there is a third category of math question, one that I call “overwhelming.” These questions might not be all that hard, per se, but it is mighty difficult to figure out what exactly you’re supposed to do with them. These questions are frequently word problems that throw a ton of information at you all at once, and it’s not immediately clear what sequence of steps will lead you to the answer. But don’t worry -- here’s how to handle those overwhelming questions.


Process the given information “chunk by chunk” 

If an overwhelming question hurls four sentences of information at you in a row, don’t freak out. Stop after each “chunk” of given information, and process it fully. For instance, if a geometry question tells you there’s a pair of parallel lines, STOP before reading on and mark that information on the figure. Then, take it one step further - if there is a pair of parallel lines, what are the alternate interior angles? Mark them. How about the corresponding angles? Mark those, too. Only once you’ve fully processed a “chunk” of information should you read on to the next.

Follow the invisible path

Once you’ve processed all the given information, you may still be unclear on how exactly to get to an answer. But even though you may not be able to see every piece of the puzzle, there is often an invisible path through the question. If you take a first step, the second becomes clear. And once you’ve taken the second, the third falls into place. And then you’re off to the races! The key is to see that these overwhelming ACT questions often guide you to take a particular first step, and if you’ve correctly processed all the given information, that first step is usually unveiled to you. So trust in the test and take that first step, and watch the path unfold in front of you.


By following these simple steps, you can wrangle overwhelming questions and make them much more manageable. All of a sudden, a whole host of questions that seem overwhelming on a first pass become, well, just whelming. Good luck!