The questions on the ACT math test are grouped according to two categories: Preparing for Higher Math and Integrating Essential Skills. While the latter category represents less than half of ACT math questions, you’ll see that their complexity makes studying a critical part of your preparation.
Features of Integrating Essential Skills Questions
On any given ACT math section, 40-43% of the questions will fall under the category of Integrating Essential Skills, or IES. The makers of the ACT describe these question types as more complex because they may necessitate the application of several math skills simultaneously, require students to draw connections and involve more than one procedure to solve correctly.
In other words, you can think of IES questions as Preparing for Higher Math, or PHM, questions that are taken a step further. IES questions are intended to prepare students for the rigors of college by making them synthesize everything that they have learned up to the beginning of senior-year math.
Concepts that may be tested on IES questions include but are not limited to:
— Rates and percentages
— Area, surface area and volume
— Averages and medians
— Expressing numbers in different ways such as fractions
A Step-by-Step IES Sample Problem
Imagine you are facing the following IES question, which covers rates or proportions:
“A car averages 27 miles per gallon. If gas costs $4.04 per gallon, which of the following is closest to how much the gas would cost for this car to travel 2,727 typical miles?”
A. $44.44 B. $109.08
To calculate how much you would spend to drive the car 2,727 miles, you must first divide this amount by 27. The result is 101, so you may be tempted to choose B, the closest of the values given. However, you are not done yet because 101 represents the number of gallons of gas you would need to make the trip, but not the cost of the gas in dollars. Thus, you must then multiply 101 by $4.04, the cost of a gallon of gas, to yield $408.04. The correct answer, therefore, is D.
IES questions may try to trick you by providing answer choices that resemble a value you get at the halfway point in the overall procedure. However, you should always check that you have done everything you need to do by quickly revisiting and rereading the question stem.
Techniques for Honing IES Abilities
What generally makes math questions difficult is the layers that they contain. If you look carefully at your latest math homework, for instance, you will probably notice that the single-step problems seem more straightforward to you. The possibility of making a mistake is also much lower on questions involving just one procedure.
However, when a math problem necessitates various steps, you must take extra care with your calculations, transcribe numbers accurately and stay on track to answer the question right. Therefore, success on IES questions starts with approaching math class assignments more seriously.
While people tend to think of ACT content as separate from the regular curriculum, all the knowledge you need to succeed on ACT math you will learn in your high school math class — possibly even earlier than that. For this reason, it would behoove ACT test-takers to review key concepts from middle school math, as well.
[Read: How to Manage Time on ACT Math.]
Practicing with PHM questions will also set you on the path for success on IES questions. After all, PHM questions form the foundation for IES questions.
Once you can answer most or all PHM questions correctly, try turning them into IES questions by adding another step. Feel free to look at preexisting IES questions for inspiration. Then, exchange your questions with another ACT student, solve them and discuss your thought processes.
Integrating Essential Skills questions on ACT math are not as scary as they seem. Know what to expect and practice multistep problems to succeed on them.
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Master Integrating Essential Skills Questions on ACT Math originally appeared on usnews.com