Top 10 Ways to Prepare for the ACT

Windy paved road with yellow solid stripe down the middle, representing the student's journey preparing for the ACT - image by Magoosh

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 prep for the ACT? These 10 quick tips will help—get started on your journey to prepare for and ace the ACT test!

1. Buy At Least Two Reputable Study Books

Here’s your first ACT study tip: 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

Here’s your next ACT self-study tip: on 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 for the ACT (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’re preparing 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, and if you’re looking to ace the ACT, you need to be maximizing your points in every section.

Prepare for the ACT today with Magoosh!

5. Plan Out a Reasonable ACT 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 an ACT 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 before the point when you take the ACT? 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 where to start going into your ACT test preparations. 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 what you need for the ACT just because you dread it! If you want to learn how to ace the ACT, these ACT prep strategies will set you on the right path. Soon, you’ll begin to answer these questions with confidence!

7. Get in the Mindset to Ace the ACT

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 ace the ACT! Start by thinking positively and allow yourself to celebrate your milestones along your ACT test prep journey.

Also recognize that making mistakes is necessary for improvement when you prep 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 Timed Practice Periodically to Check 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 ACT section, and practice so you are confident you can finish within the allotted time.

9. Memorize the Instructions for Each ACT Test Section

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. Take Advantage 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:

We hope these quick tips for ACT prep help you feel more confident about starting your ACT preparations. Happy ACT studying!


By the way, Magoosh can help you study for both the SAT and ACT exams. Click here to learn more!

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