Taking the ACT is a huge part of your college search that will have a major impact on where you go to school. However, that doesn’t mean you should be overly stressed or worried about taking the ACT. If you prepare yourself adequately, you will have more confidence on test day, which gives you a better chance at getting a good score. Follow these seven strategies to ensure you’re as prepared as possible for the ACT.
1. Start studying early
There’s no such thing as starting too early when it comes to studying for the ACT. As soon as you know you’ll be taking the test, you should start brushing up on the material. For the same reason, it’s also wise to register for the test as early as possible. College Raptor recommends trying to register for the ACT three months before the test date.
2. Take practice tests
Taking practice tests is one of the best ways to prepare yourself for the test itself—not just the material, but the four-section format. In an ideal situation you will be able to take multiple practice tests with adequate space in between each one, to gauge your progress as you get closer to the test date. Even if you can’t take multiple practice ACT tests, do at least one so that you aren’t completely unfamiliar with the content and format on test day.
3. Practice skipping questions you get stuck on
As you are taking practice tests and completing sample questions, remember that you shouldn’t be spending a ton of time on each question. Your time on the ACT is extremely limited, and you don’t want to interrupt your momentum by getting stuck on a single question. If you’ve been working on a question for more than 40–45 seconds and you haven’t made progress, skip it and move on to the next one.
4. Don’t cram the night before
It’s okay to review your notes and go over some high-level concepts the night before the ACT, but most of your serious studying should already be done. Research has shown that there is a difference between your brain being familiar with a concept and being able to fully remember and understand it. Instead of trying to cram a bunch of studying in a day or two before the test, set up a study plan that schedules your preparation well in advance.
5. Read the test directions in advance
You’ve probably taken a standardized test where you were told to read the directions carefully before working on any questions. The problem with doing this when you take the ACT is it wastes valuable time you could have spent working on actual questions. You can find the test’s instructions on the website; familiarize yourself with them in advance so you can devote every second to questions on the test.
6. Segment your studying in a way that works for you
If you get bored with one topic easily, plan your studying in 20- or 30-minute blocks devoted to each subject. After you finish one block, move on to the next subject. This will allow you to devote lots of time to studying without draining yourself. On the other hand, if you prefer to immerse yourself in a single subject, block out several hours or even days in a row to study each subject before moving on to the next one.
This tip is especially important in the days leading up to the test. While the ACT is a critical part of your college search, there are other elements you’ll be evaluated on—your GPA, extracurricular activities, etc. And if it’s your first time taking the test, you can always re-take it if you don’t get the results you were hoping for. If you started studying early, prepared yourself sufficiently for each subject, and feel calm and rested, there’s a good chance you’ll do well on the ACT.
Looking for more resources on other parts of the college application process? Check out our Ultimate College Decision Timeline for a breakdown of what you should be doing each month and year.