Fun ACT prep activities, including ACT games, make a great way to boost your score between study periods. ACT games aren’t a way to get out of studying for the exam—but they are a good way to master concepts and push your scores ever-so-much-higher.
So how can you use ACT games to get that score up? Here’s a list of ACT games for each section on the ACT. (Instructions below!)
- ACT Games for Math: 3 Numbers, 21 Results
- ACT Games for Science: Competitive Chart Reading
- ACT Games for Reading: Reading Scavenger Hunt
- ACT Games for English: Why Is This Wrong?
- Even More Strategies to Make ACT Studying Fun
ACT Games for Math: 3 Numbers, 21 Results
This is a really fun game that I’ve used to sharpen my own math skills. In the game, you take three consecutive single-digit numbers (1,2,3; 7,8,9; 3,4,5, etc…). Then you use math operations to get resulting numbers from 1 to 21. This game requires you to get really creative with math in a way that’s both challenging and fun. Here’s one example, using 1, 2, and 3:
- The numbers 1-21, calculated using digits 1, 2, and 3
- (3^2)-1= 8 (the /^/ sign means “to the power of,” and 3 to the power of two, aka 3 squared, is 9)
- x-1=(3^2)+1 (3 squared plus 1 is 9 + 1, or 10. If x-1 results in 10, then x must be 11. So if you solve for x, the result of this problem is 11. Hey, I never said you couldn’t use an algebra equation….and I never said you could only use each number once!)
- Etc… (Figure out 12-21 on your own!)
You can play this game alone, but it can be even more fun to do this with a partner or two. Getting from 1 to 21 in this way takes a lot of creativity, and having extra thinkers in the game is helpful. As you build up your ACT Math skills, you could even start competing with others, to see who gets to 21 first.
ACT Games for Science: Competitive Chart Reading
This game should be played with real ACT Science practice materials, such as The Real ACT Prep Guide or the ACT practice science questions from the official website for the test.
Remember that one of the main skills tested in ACT Science is your ability to read the test’s infographics–the ACT Science graphs, charts, and tables. So find an ACT Science visual, and look at it carefully with a partner or some teammates. How many different facts can you find in the visual? Try to write down every last fact you are able to read from the infographic. (And check the passage that comes with the infographic too–you can find a lot of “hidden facts” by connecting the passage to the visuals.)
To give you an example of how this can work, here is an ACT table, with facts taken from it and written out (see page 48 of this official free ACT test PDF for the passage and questions that goes with this table):
- Fact 1: If you put a Metanil Yellow indicator in a solution with a pH of 0 or 1, it will turn red.
- Fact 2: If you put the Metanil Yellow indicator in a solution with a pH of 3 to 7 it will turn yellow
- Fact 3: Etc… (Keep writing facts about the indicators and pH values)
Here again, you can do this through creative teamwork, or you can have a competition to see who can come up with the most facts, based on the graphic and passage.
When you and your team have written down as many facts as possible, go through the questions that follow the ACT Science passage and visuals. Give yourselves a point for any facts you found that also come up in the questions. And subtract a point if a question asks about a fact you didn’t think of when you looked at the visual. (As a variation on this, you and your study partners can try to guess which facts from the visual will also appear in the questions, and then see who’s right.)
ACT Games for Reading: Reading Scavenger Hunt
In a real scavenger hunt, you’re given a list of objects that you need to find. In an ACT Reading scavenger hunt, you’re given a list of answers that you need to find. Where does this list of answers come from? From the test itself, of course. Each ACT Reading passage comes with a set of questions. And these questions are really a list of the answers you need to look for in the passage.
An ACT reading scavenger hunt can be played competitively. For game materials, use ACT Reading practice sets such as the ones from the official ACT prep guide or the official ACT website. Give each player a different passage and question set. Then have the players underline every part of their text that contains the answer to a question. Check the players’ work by looking at the answer key. The winner is either the player who finds all the answers in the text first, or the player who finds the most correct answers within the time limit you set for the game.
Two heads are better than one here, so for extra teamwork and extra fun, play the game in pairs, with one pair of ACT study partners competing with another pair of ACT preppers.
ACT Games for English: Why Is This Wrong?
In ACT Reading, Math, and Science, the focus is finding the right answers. The ACT English Test flips this script, though. Here, you need to find the wrong ways of writing something. Not only that, but you also need to understand why each incorrect answer is wrong. Moreover, understanding why answers are wrong is a more valuable skill than just correctly identifying mistakes. Recognizing grammar rules and applying them is your key to ACT English success. And you can build this skill in a fast-paced, competitive game!
To play the “Why is this wrong?” game for ACT English, you’ll need some ACT English passages and question sets (again, use the official ACT guide or materials from the ACT website). And you’ll need at least three players: two or more competitors and one judge. Here are the game rules:
- The competitors will be given a set of ACT English questions, which prompt test-takers to find mistakes in grammar, mechanics, and style.
- The judge will look at the ACT English answer key and explanations, and give the competitors the answers to each question, one question at a time.
- Every time the competitors receive an answer, they need to write down a short explanation for why that answer is the right one, and which rule of written English applies.
- The judge will award a point to the competitor with the best explanation for the answer. Answers will be judged based on how well-worded the explanation is and how closely it matches the explanation in the ACT answer key. If both players give very similar answers–and both answers are correct–each player will get a point.
- Whenever the game moves on to a new passage and question set, the old judge will step down, and it will be someone else’s turn to act as the judge.
Even More Strategies to Make ACT Studying Fun
In addition to playing ACT games in each section, you can also use the following strategies to make studying for the test as a whole more enjoyable.
If you happen to be the studious type, you probably have some studious friends and/or acquaintances. If they’re serious about the ACT, too, invite them to an after school or weekend study session that ends with a battle of the wits using any of the above games.
In short, use your study time to help each other with whatever concepts you want, and then challenge your friend to a timed practice test in English, Math, Reading, or Science. Whoever does better (or improves the most from their last practice test) wins. The prize? The loser has to buy lunch or dinner. (Really, though, it can be anything—whatever creates the best motivation for you!)
Even if a game isn’t on the agenda, having another brain around will help you better understand the concepts that have left you scratching your head in the past.
Track and Reward Progress
When it comes to the ACT, it’s vital to track your progress when preparing. Tracking your progress gives you the chance to catch any parts of your ACT study plan that aren’t working. To up your motivation for tracking progress (and studying), set a series of goals, and reward yourself each time you achieve one.
For example, you set a goal to increase your ACT Math score. For each point you improve, you get to eat an ice cream. Though the reward can be anything, try to set modest goals, at least at first. You’ll receive the reward more often, and feel more motivated to improve.
One last thing about rewards: plan to give yourself one after the ACT is over. Visualizing a post-ACT reward will put you in a better frame of mind throughout your study sessions and the test itself.
Half the fun of playing ACT games is finding new and creative ways to turn test prep into play or competition. The games I just showed you are variations of several other math, science, reading, and writing games my students and I have invented over the years, and they have worked out really well. Try these games out, and try to come up with your own twists on them. This kind of “exam play” can help you gain one of the most powerful ACT test skills you can have: enthusiasm for the material!
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About David Recine
David Recine is a Verbal Test Prep Expert at Magoosh. He has a Bachelor's in Social Work from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and A Masters in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. David has taught test prep and language arts to students of all ages, and from every continent. He currently lives in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, USA; when he's not working for Magoosh, he keeps himself busy with cooking, art, and parenting.
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