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Thomas Broderick

ACT Tricks: Which Order?

Welcome back, students! As many of you are probably wrapping up your Spring Break, I hope you’re refreshed and ready to learn another one of Mr. B’s ACT Tricks!


act tricks -magoosh

There’s probably some untouched ACT practice tests in that pile, too.


Today we’ll be discussing ‘the order.’ No, I’m not talking about some secret society, but the order in which you answer questions on the ACT’s four tests. For just about everyone, it makes sense to do things from beginning to end. For example, you have to build a foundation before the house. Yet when it comes to answering questions on the ACT, going “1, 2, 3, 4, 5…” may not be the best strategy. In this article I’ll break down each of the four tests, offering my patented advice on how changing things up can improve your testing experience.



There are always exceptions to my advice, and in this case it comes during the ACT English Test. For English, I recommending going straight through the test from beginning to end. Why? Well, it boils down to the nature of the test. The English Test covers many topics, and there’s no specific order to where certain topics will appear. So  take the test the old fashioned way.



The sixty questions on the Math test go from easiest to hardest. Though you have a minute per question, you might find yourself needing less time with the first twenty questions and more time with the last twenty. Even though time might balance out in the end, my suggestion is to work backwards on the ACT Math as long as you are strong math student. In this way you are committing the bulk of your energy to the hardest problems. When the time crunch sets in during the last 10 or 15 minutes, you will find yourself working on easier problems, and (hopefully) be less likely to make careless errors. This doesn’t mean wasting time on the hard problems though. If you don’t immediately know how to do them, skip them and come back.



Knowing where you’ll start on the ACT Reading Test can have big benefits for your score. As you know, the test has four passages: Prose, Natural Sciences, Humanities, and Social Sciences. Though you have to read (or better yet, skim) them all for information, start with the passage where you feel most comfortable. For most of you, this will be the prose passage. After all, most of the reading you’ve ever done has probably been fiction, so why not start where you’re most comfortable.

After finishing the prose passage questions, move on to any of the other passages.



For the ACT Science Test let me parrot some well known advice: do the comparing viewpoints section last. These questions surrounding this passage are fundamentally different than the other ACT Science questions. Leaving it for the end will only force your mind to ‘switch gears’ once during the test.

Before we finish, a disclaimer. Like any of my ACT Tricks, make sure to practice them first. Other strategies may work better for you, so see if these ACT Tricks work before you use them on test day.

That’s all for now, ACT Scholars. Continue pondering the mysteries of the ACT!


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About Thomas Broderick

Thomas spent four years teaching high school English, social studies, and ACT preparation in Middle Tennessee. Now living in Northern California, he is excited to share his knowledge and experience with Magoosh's readers. In his spare time Thomas enjoys writing short fiction and hiking in the Sonoma foothills.

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