We can help you get into your dream school.

Sign up for Magoosh SAT or Magoosh ACT Prep.

Rita Kreig

Top Ten Ways to Prepare for the ACT Exam

A good ACT score can help you get into your top college choices, as well as qualify you for college scholarships! So where do you start your ACT test prep? These ten ACT test prep tips will help you start your study plan off right.

top ten ways to prepare for the act exam

1. Buy at least 2 reputable study books

Start studying with the ACT Official Guide and the material on actstudent.org. Books from reputable companies such as Kaplan or McGraw-Hill are excellent supplemental materials. Look for books (or free online materials) with a lot of practice tests! Wondering which book is best for you? Read our ACT book reviews for our honest opinions on the top contenders.

2. Use the entire time for each section

Even if you are naturally a fast test taker, make sure to use the entire given time. If you finish a test (AKA a section) early, go back and review the questions, slowly “re-taking” them and checking for simple mistakes. Even the smartest students get easy questions wrong when rushing.

3. Get inside the heads of the test makers

Try to develop an understanding of what the test makers “prefer” in terms of the answer choices. For example, after studying the ACT English test for some time you’ll notice how the ACT test makers prefer concise answers, or “economy of language.” This kind of understanding will help you make better educated guesses on harder problems.

4. Learn the most frequently tested concepts

For the ACT English and the ACT Math tests, there are a finite number of tested concepts: grammar, algebra, geometry, trig, etc. You will need to figure out what you already know, and what you need to work on. The good news: the questions are predictable! If you learn these concepts, you’ll see them pop up over and over again.

5. Plan out a reasonable study schedule

To make sure you get the ACT test date and testing center you want, register early, at least 3 months before the exam. That way you can find a study schedule that you can reasonably complete between now and your test. Be realistic with yourself. How much time can you commit each week to ACT practice questions? It’s better to study 20-30 minutes a day than 4 hours once a week. Aim to work on ACT material at least four days a week.

6. Pinpoint your weaknesses and attack them

Are you a slow reader? Is your ACT Math knowledge so-so? Grammar got you down? Know going in to your ACT test prep what areas need more work, and plan to address them first. You’ll need more time for the weaknesses. Don’t put off studying for a section just because you dread it! Just learn the strategies, and you’ll begin to answer these questions with confidence!

7. Remember that test taking is a learned skill, not an inherent gift

Some people may seem to be “naturally” good at the ACT, but even if you’re not one of them, you can still learn how to score highly! Think positively, and focus on your progress in your ACT test prep. Recognize that making mistakes is necessary for improvement. Incorrect practice ACT questions help you hone in on areas that need more work, so welcome them! (Just make sure you understand why you got them wrong, so you can avoid repeating the same mistakes in the future.)

8. Do some timed practice to check in on your pacing

The ACT is comprised of five tests: English, Math, Reading, Science, and the Writing (in that order). These sections have different challenges regarding pacing, with different numbers of questions and different time limits. You will need to develop a pacing strategy for each unique test, and practice so you are confident you can finish within the allotted time.

9. Memorize the instructions for each test

Don’t waste valuable time on your ACT test day reading and re-reading instructions. Each test has its own set of directions. Familiarize yourself with them now.

10. Spend some time with the free resources at actstudent.org

This is the official website, and yet it’s amazing how many students take the ACT without ever having visited it! This should be your first stop in your ACT test prep journey.

Bonus: Take advantage of Magoosh’s free resources

We know that a lot of students can’t afford to purchase ACT textbooks. We don’t want these students to be at a disadvantage. So, we wrote our own Magoosh ACT eBook. It’s perfect for beginners as well as advanced students, and contains 280+ pages of free resources to help you prep. We hope you like it!

We also created two ACT test prep apps that are completely free and give you access to our top content. The ACT Prep App: Video Lessons & Lectures from Experts has over 80 lessons on the English, Math, Reading, Science and Writing exam sections. It covers everything from fundamentals to advanced concepts and is great for studying on-the-go. The ACT Flaschards App has 216 flashcards on the top concepts that are tested on the ACT. It includes clear definitions and examples for each concept and then uses an advanced algorithm to surface the concepts that you need to practice the most.


About Rita Kreig

Rita helps high schoolers find Magoosh, improve their SAT/ACT scores, and get into their dream schools. She earned both her BA and Master of Pacific International Affairs from UC San Diego, where she also studied Spanish, French, and Portuguese. Rita loves education and marketing, just as much as she loves vinyasa yoga and baking chocolate chip cookies.

One Response to “Top Ten Ways to Prepare for the ACT Exam”

  1. paco says:

    I mistaking the act for the sat so I skipped a bunch and I think that’s what messed me up so hopefully when I take it next year and I fill all the problems hopefully it brings it up at least 4 or 5 points

Leave a Reply

Magoosh blog comment policy: To create the best experience for our readers, we will approve and respond to comments that are relevant to the article, general enough to be helpful to other students, concise, and well-written! :) If your comment was not approved, it likely did not adhere to these guidelines. If you are a Premium Magoosh student and would like more personalized service, you can use the Help tab on the Magoosh dashboard. Thanks!