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Catrina Coffey

How to Improve Your ACT Score By 10 Points

If your score on the most recent ACT has you down, don’t worry. Tons of students have improved their scores after retaking the ACT. All it takes are some amazing tips, an awesome study schedule, and some helpful ACT prep. Good luck, and let us know if you have any questions!

Howdy, Magooshers! Today we’re going to cover a very important topic: How to Improve Your ACT Score By 10 Points. According to Google, that exact phrase was one of the most common searches after the last ACT, so it’s near and dear to a lot of you!


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The problem with answering this particular question, though, is that, no matter how strong your Google-Fu, you’ll never find the answer that way. Improving your ACT score largely depends on who you are. What are your strengths and weaknesses? What do you need to improve? Trying to improve your score by reviewing content when you’re having trouble with time management is, obviously, not going to help you.

Generally speaking, these resources can’t hurt any student preparing for the ACT, so I’ll put them first. Read them, love them, and use them: Top Ten Ways to Prepare for the ACT Exam, 10 Tips for Smooth Sailing on ACT Test Day, and Free ACT Practice Test.

Now, let’s talk about you. If your score isn’t where you’d like it to be, take a look and see if any of these common troubles sound like ones you’re having.

When you look at a question, do you often think to yourself, “I have no idea how to answer this?” If so, you would probably benefit from some content review.

  • Look at the sections where you seem to be making a lot of random guesses.
  • Since the ACT is a high school content-based test, look through your class notes and textbooks. You may just find something.
  • We at Magoosh also have some articles that can help you. You should identify which sections you’re having the most difficulty with and read whatever we have on the subject.
  • Here are good places to start, separated by section: ACT English, ACT Math, ACT Reading, ACT Science, and ACT Writing.

Do you find that you have lots of time left over at the end of each section, but your score isn’t where you want it to be? If so, you may be rushing and making silly mistakes.

  • Slow down. Although the ACT is timed, it is not a race.
  • Try taking timed practice sections until you’re familiar with the pacing.
  • Take a look at this article: ACT Performance Killer #1: Poor Time Management (Reading Edition)
  • And remember: always make sure to double-check your answers if you have time left at the end of a section.

Alternately, do you find that you have no time left at the end of each section, and there are still questions left unanswered? If so, you’re probably taking too long.

  • You would also benefit from taking some practice tests with a timer until you’re familiar with the timing.
  • Remember, if you’re going to answer every single question, you have 36 seconds per question on the English test, 1 minute per question on the Math, 52 seconds per question on the Science and Reading tests, and 30 minutes for the essay.
  • Make sure you’re not wasting your time. If you find yourself struggling with a question, make a guess and move on. You can come back to it later if you have time, and the ACT doesn’t penalize you for wrong answers.

When you read a question, do you have trouble understanding what is being asked? Do you think to yourself, “what do these people want me to do?”  And do you have a lot of trouble with the Reading section in particular? Then you may have some trouble with reading comprehension.

  • Some quick tips to help you with that can be found here [see if there is an article about reading comprehension].
  • Use the format of the test (particularly in the Reading section) to help you. The main idea will likely be found in the first paragraph; each body paragraph will usually have one piece of evidence to back up the main idea; etc.
  • Jot down quick notes in the margin, summarizing the main idea of each paragraph. This will help you keep track of everything when you’re answering questions.
  • Read actively. Ask questions as you read. It works on every section! “How does the author feel about this? Did the author mean ‘denigrate’ or ‘degenerate’? What conclusion can I draw from this data? Could I use the quadratic formula to help me solve this problem?

Does the thought of taking the test just make you feel nervous in general, making it difficult for you to concentrate? If so, test anxiety may be getting in your way.

For everyone taking the ACT, please remember: you got this. If you start to feel anxious, take a few deep breaths and remember that the ACT is testing you on things you already know. You may need to brush up here and there, sure, but you’re being tested on high school content. You got this.
Pssss. Bonus hint: If you want to see a huge improvement in your ACT scores, start early and study for the PreACT.

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About Catrina Coffey

Catrina graduated from Rider University with a B.A. in English. She’s been helping students prepare for standardized tests since 2011. In her spare time, you can find her reading anything within arms’ reach, playing video games, correcting grammar, or studying word derivations. (Did you know that procrastinate comes from the Latin word cras, which means “tomorrow”?)

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