A good ACT score can help you get into your top college choices, as well as qualify you for college scholarships! But how can you prepare for the ACT? These 10 tips will help you prep for ACT test day and start your study plan off right.
Prepare for the ACT today with Magoosh!
1. Buy at least two reputable study books
Start studying with the ACT Official Guide and the material on the official ACT website. Books from reputable companies such as Kaplan or McGraw-Hill are excellent supplemental materials to prep for ACT test day. Look for content 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. Learn the most frequently tested concepts
In the ACT English and 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 (more on this in tip #6). The good news: the questions are predictable! If you learn these concepts, you’ll see them pop up over and over again.
3. Get inside the heads of the test-makers
As you prepare for ACT test day, 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. This free ACT eBook is a great resource for understanding the different question types and answer choices.
4. 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 (a.k.a. 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.
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 three 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 four hours once a week. Aim to prep for ACT test day at least four days a week.
6. Pinpoint your weaknesses and attack them
Are you a slow reader? (If so, we have the video for you below!) Is your ACT Math knowledge so-so? Grammar got you down? Use a practice test so you know going into your test prep what areas need more work. Then, plan to address those areas first as you prepare for ACT test day. 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 when you prepare for the ACT. Incorrect answers to practice 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 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 reading and re-reading instructions at the test center. Each test has its own set of directions. Prepare for ACT test day by familiarizing yourself with them now.
10. Make use of free, high-quality resources
It’s amazing how many students take the ACT without ever having visited the official website! This should be your first stop in your journey to prep for ACT test day. Magoosh also has tons of free resources you can use along the way:
- Everything You Need to Know About the ACT
- Magoosh ACT eBook
We know that a lot of students can’t afford to purchase ACT textbooks, and 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 prepare for ACT test day.
- ACT Flashcards App
- ACT Prep App: Video Lessons & Lectures from Experts
- ACT Question of the Day
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About Rita Neumann
Rita creates fun, inspiring, and educational resources that introduce students to Magoosh and help them prep for their exams. 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.
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