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Thomas Broderick

ACT Tricks: Which Order?

Whether you’re just starting your ACT prep or you’ve recently hit a wall with your practice test scores, learning how to tackle ACT question order—that is, the order in which you should answer ACT questions—can help you raise your score. Why? Because the ACT is a test with a lot of time pressure. Knowing how to get the most out of the limited timeframe by strategizing your approach to ACT question order can bring your score up significantly.

On a lot of other projects, 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 post, I’ll break down each of the four tests, taking a look at how changing things up can improve your testing experience.


The English Test covers many topics, and there’s no specific order to where certain topics will appear. Take the time (no more than a minute or two) to skim through the section and ID the question types that you’re most comfortable with. This will have the advantage of boosting your confidence—and, if you consistently run out of time on practice tests on which you answer questions in the given order, it can also boost your score.


The sixty questions on the Math test are officially arranged 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 if you are strong math student. This way, you’re 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 see how to do them, skip them and come back—and if you’ve spent more than a minute on the problem, no matter how tough it is, make your best guess and move on.


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 with which 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 the next passage that appeals to you. You’ll have to get into whatever subject you find dreariest eventually—but not before filling up on confidence-building, comfortable points.


For the ACT Science Test, 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 ACT tricks we discuss, make sure to practice them first. Other strategies may work better for you, so see if these ACT Tricks work well with your test-taking strategies 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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