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Ten Ways to Maximize Your ACT Practice Tests

Taking a few full-length ACT practice tests is essential before your actual Test Day – the ACT is a long exam, and you’ll want to build up your stamina and confidence in the months before you sit the actual test! Here are ten ways you can get the most out of your practice tests!

Listen to your gut instinct. You don’t have to know how to correct a grammatical error on the ACT English Test in order to get that question correct. If 3 of the answer choices “sound” bad to you, then pick the 4th and quickly move on. Trust your own ear – as a native English speaker, you instinctually know more grammar rules than you might think!

Mark the tough ACT Math problems and come back to them. The math questions get harder as your go through the ACT Math Test, so about halfway through you might start to see some challenging medium-to-hard level questions you don’t know how to solve. After reading through a question, determine if you know how to solve. If not, mark it and come back to it later!

Approximate based on Geometry figures. If you find yourself running out of time on the ACT Math test, try to guesstimate based on what the diagrams look like. Officially, the test warns you that the pictures are not necessarily drawn to scale, but when you’re under a time crunch, this can be a surprisingly effective strategy.

Start with 3 out of 4 Reading passages. On practice tests, you might not be able to do all 4 passages at first. Plan to do 3 at first, and randomly guess on the final 10 questions. You might be surprised at how well you do!

Skip 1 or 2 of the harder Science Test passages. If you’re feeling the timing pressure on your first few practice tests, don’t make yourself do all of the Science passages. Aim to do 5 of them well, guessing on the final 2. Eventually you’ll work up to 7 by allotting 5 minutes per passage.

Do the “line number” questions on the Reading or Science Test if you’re out of time. If you find yourself running out of time on either the ACT Reading or ACT Science passages, refer to the cited locations back in the ACT Reading or ACT Science passages and do those first. Scan a little bit above and below the passage and make your best guess. Even if you don’t have time to read the entire passage, you can still get a few “line number” questions correct!

Brainstorm some examples you can use on the ACT Writing Test. While you won’t be able to have a list of useful examples in front of you on the actual ACT Writing Test, it helps to create a list of books, movies, current events, and historical examples you can use on Test Day. Keep this list in front of you during practice tests and apply the examples to the Writing prompts. This will help you save time on the ACT Writing Test because you won’t waste valuable time thinking up examples.

Try to mimic the test conditions during your practice test. Try to take your practice ACT Test all in one sitting, and follow the timing conditions of each section. Don’t give yourself extra time, and don’t snack while you work. Your brain and body need to adjust to the length and “feel” of taking the test, so try to keep the conditions as “official” as possible. It helps to have a parent or sibling time you!

OMIT on the ACT English Test if you have to guess. Rather than waste precious time pondering laboriously over each option, choose “OMIT” if it is offered on a difficult answer choice. In general, the ACT Test prefers everything to be as concise as possible. If you are having trouble understanding a sentence, it might be that the underlined portion is simply unnecessary.

Don’t only look at the underlined portions on the ACT English Test. Because some of the ACT English passages ask about the main idea, structure, or inserting sentences in paragraphs, you will need an overall sense of the meaning and flow of the passage to get these questions correct. If you haven’t already read the passage, you will waste valuable time scrambling back over the previous paragraphs.


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