We could write a book on preparing for the ACT—of course, many people do. There’s a lot to know! For today though, we’ll stick to the basics. Here are our top ten study tips:
1. Know what you need for test day.
Your ticket. You’ll have the option to print this when you register online, but if you lose it you can log in to your account and print a new one. Just know you probably won’t have access to a printer at the testing site.
Photo identification. A government-issued ID like a driver’s license or a school ID works.
No. 2 pencils. Make sure they’re sharp, and bring a few! And we’re talking good ol’ wooden pencils, not the mechanical ones.
A watch. This is optional, but helps you to pace yourself. Make sure it doesn’t have an alarm and isn’t a smartwatch. If you don’t have one, the test proctor will announce when you have five minutes remaining on the test.
A permitted calculator. You can get by without one, but it can be helpful!
Snacks. Not allowed during the test, but you’ll have a break—so bring something to munch on in case you get hungry.
2. Turn your phone all the way off.
If your phone makes any noise during the exam, the person supervising the exam is required to ask you to leave and you won’t receive a grade for your test. Either leave it at home or power it down.
3. Answer every question.
There’s no penalty for incorrect answers on the ACT, so be sure to fill out a bubble for each question—even if it’s a complete guess. You just might get lucky and get it right! Take the last 30 seconds of each section to make sure every question is answered.
4. Learn how to pace yourself.
The ACT is a timed test, so it’s helpful to know about how much time to give each question. Here’s a breakdown by section:
English: 75 questions in 45 minutes—36 seconds per question
Math: 60 questions in 60 minutes—60 seconds per question
Reading: 40 questions in 35 minutes—52 seconds per question
Science: 40 questions in 35 minutes—52 seconds per question
Writing: 1 essay in 40-minutes—you’ll have to figure out how you write best for this one!
Note that these are just averages. Some questions will take more time, some questions will take less.
5. Save the hard questions for later.
If you feel like you’re spending too long on a question, you probably are. Skip it and come back to it later. A correct answer to a hard question is worth the same as a correct answer to an easy question—so answer all the easier questions first!
6. Eat and sleep.
Come physically prepared. You don’t have time to be distracted by a growling stomach or intermittent yawns. Two of the most simple ways to prepare are to rest well the night before and eat a solid breakfast.
7. Do more reading.
Start incorporating more reading into your daily routine, even if it’s only an extra 20 minutes each day. While there’s only one “reading” section on the ACT, the rest of the test also requires efficient reading comprehension skills. The best way to become a more effective reader is to practice.
8. Have structured study time.
This helps you to make studying a habit. Perhaps you set aside half an hour after basketball practice, or maybe you do it right away after school—whatever works for you, just try to keep it consistent.
9. Use free study resources.
Start with this page on the ACT website. You can find free test prep resources on the bottom half of the page—but if you’re interested in paying for test prep, you can find those options too. And be sure to check with your school counselors to see what they have available.
10. Take a deep breath.
The ACT is something that should be taken seriously, but remember if you’re not satisfied with your score the first time around you can take it again! If you’ve taken the time to prepare, be confident in what you know. Your attitude going into the day can make a world of difference.
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