Top 10 ACT Tips and Tricks For The Best Scores

ACT Tips and Tricks

When it comes to taking the ACT, time management and a good plan is everything. No one expects you to know everything, but knowing how to work with what you do know is the difference between a great ACT score, and one that’s not so great.

The most important ACT tip is this: Have a game plan, and stick to it.

For more detailed ACT tips and tricks, keep reading.

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General ACT Tips and Tricks for All Sections

Barring the writing section of the ACT, there are some test-taking tips you should keep in mind.

  1. Answer the questions you know first – getting the right answer is a point in your favor
    • A quick look through for the first run can help you get as many points as possible as fast as possible.
    • It also give you more time to work through more difficult questions, without worrying that you’re missing opportunities further on.
  2. Eliminate answer choices when you can. An educated guess is the second best option.
  3. There’s no penalty for wrong answers, so don’t just leave it blank.
    1. A guess still has a 1-in-4 chance of earning you points.
  4. If you’re going to guess and have no idea what the correct answer is, pick a letter and stick with it for all your random guesses.
    1. This technique is called the ‘Letter of the Day’
  5. Take a few minutes at the end and double check to make sure you haven’t marked the wrong bubble at any point. That can throw off your score big time.
    • One bubble off for questions can confuse you, and make all your correct answers wrong ones.

All of these are good strategies for the multiple choice questions. For the test in general:

  1. Keep an eye on your time. You don’t want to be scrambling at the end.
    • Bring your own stopwatch if it will help you stay on track.
  2. Stay calm. Test anxiety defeats more test takers than any answer sheet.
    • Ten seconds of deep breathing is better than two minutes of frozen thought processes
  3. Whatever test-taking strategy you decide on, stick to it.
    • It’s tempting to step away from your planned strategy, but don’t let yourself get distracted or derailed.

10 Insanely Useful ACT Study Tips, Tricks, and Test Taking Strategies

What are the most important ACT test tips? Here are 10 big ones:

  1. Spend some time working through practice tests – it helps to get a sense of the materials.
  2. Work through practice exams both in timed practice tests, and untimed.
  3. Take plenty of time for test prep:
  4. Start working no earlier than 6 months out, and no later than one month before test day.
  5. You’ll want to spend at LEAST 10 hours overall in test prep.
  6. Take the opportunity to take at least one full length practice test
  7. Make sure you get a good night’s sleep before test day.
  8. Make sure you eat a healthy breakfast, so you have fuel
  9. If you aren’t sure of the correct answer, then choose the best answer choice you can.
  10. Make sure you have a way to keep track of time, and your time limit.

How do I improve my timing if I can’t make time for full-length practice tests?

You might not have a schedule that allows for taking a full length practice test. Let alone taking a timed test multiple times.

There’s still a way to improve your timing and time management skills.

Each section has the time limit for that section listed online. Split your practice tests up into sections, and do each section timed, but separately.

This strategy gets you used to taking practice tests, and working on your time management skills, even if you don’t have time to go through the full length practice tests all in one sitting.

What Are the ACT Sections?

The ACT has either 4 or 5 sections, depending on how ambitious you are. The mandatory sections are the 4 sets of multiple choice questions.

  • ACT Math Section
  • ACT Science Section
  • ACT Reading Section
  • ACT English Section

There’s also an optional Writing Section. Not everyone takes the writing test, but it is required or recommended for certain colleges…something to keep in mind.

The Writing Section is a good way to showcase skills that will be essential in your education, as writing research papers and essays are a big part of college classes.

Come Up With and Follow a Time Management Plan

Time management is one of THE essential skills for taking the ACT. If there is ONE tip you need to remember when taking the ACT test, it is to set yourself a time management plan and stick to it.

It’s okay to be slow and steady, but you don’t want to do things that make you waste time.

For example:

  • For the math section, looking for questions you know the correct answer to and answering those first is a good option.
  • For the Reading Comprehension section, read the entire passage before you head on to the questions.
  • For Reading, English, and Science passages, carefully read the full passage, as well as all your answer options.
  • Practice active reading – noting and marking important information as you go so it’s easier to find when needed.

Best Tips for Before and During Test Day:

What do you need to know about test day, or the night before? Here’s some things to keep in mind.

Before the Test:

Remember to get a full night’s sleep, and a good healthy breakfast on test day. You’ll need both to be at your best, and it’s more important than squeezing in any more test prep.

Be sure to prep whatever test materials you need, such as pencils or paperwork, the night before, so you aren’t hunting for it on the test day.

Give yourself plenty of time to get to the testing center, and be sure you have good directions. Nothing creates stress like running late.

Give yourself time to relax, stretch, use the facilities if you need to. You want to be comfortable so you can focus.

During The Test:

Ignore your fellow test takers – stay focused on the ACT test in front of you.

Be careful how you handle your ACT exam booklet. Follow the instructions you’re given.

Don’t worry about correct or incorrect answers in a section you’ve done. Stay focused on what you’re working on.

Don’t focus on your overall test scores, or your target ACT score. Just focus on doing your best and sticking to your game plan for each section.

How Is the ACT Different From the SAT?

Both tests are equally difficult and equally prestigious, and require about the same amount of test prep.

The SAT has fewer questions, but requires more problem solving skills per question. ACT tests give less time per question, and prioritizes integrating essential skills like time management into test taking.

Prioritize Answering the Questions You Know

In any section, it pays to take a look through and answer any questions where you’re sure of the answering correctly. Wrong answers don’t penalize you, but every correct answer is a point for you.

Also, if you’re looking at a target score, this can help you save time by picking up points quickly, so you don’t have to stress as much about finishing the section.

ACT Tips for Math

When it comes to the math portion of the test…there are a few things you can do to make it easier.

Look for items that are similar to practice problems, especially ones you had less trouble with.

The mathematics section usually covers algebra, geometry and trigonometry.

In recent years, however some of the Science section – Data representation – has crossed over into the math section, so a little understanding of this field could help you on either portion of the ACT.

ACT Tips for Reading

For the Reading Section, remember to read carefully. Before you start answering questions determine:

  • What are the main ideas of the passage?
  • What type of passage is it? Personal essays are different from prose or research summaries.
  • What’s the main point?

Don’t just go for the first answer – the difference between a correct answer and a wrong answer can be subtle.

Practice With Quality Study Materials

There are a lot of study materials for the ACT out there, along with a lot of books of ACT tips and tricks.

Look for materials that are accredited, or recommended by professors and test prep professionals.

Quality materials should have tips and tricks, practice exams, and other study tools. these tools should challenge you and highlight your strengths and weaknesses so you’re prepared for the actual ACT.

Use the Same Answer Choice When Guessing

This is one of the top tips for the multiple choice sections. Once you reach the point where you’re just guessing to fill in bubbles, there’s one thing you need to know:

Stick with one letter for all your guesses. Statistically, it’s more viable than trying to ‘random’ guess.

ACT Writing Tips:

The Writing Section is an optional section, but it is required for some Universities, so it’s worth attempting. If you decide to include this portion in your ACT, here’s some tips:

  • Read the prompt carefully.
  • Start with your thesis statement.
  • Structure your arguments around your own perspective, but acknowledge conflicting viewpoints where appropriate.
  • They want to see a solid sentence structure and well developed supporting arguments.

This is the most subjective ACT section, so as long as you’re on topic, this isn’t a section that has a wrong answer

Is it good to guess on the ACT?

It’s a good idea to answer as many questions as you can with confidence. However, since there are no longer guessing penalties, you might as well guess rather than leaving bubbles blank.

Accurate guesses will give you more points, but blank bubbles get you nothing.

ACT Tips for Practice Tests

If you’re taking practice exams, here’s some things you should consider:

  • Try to take them in timed sections, or as full length timed tests.
  • When going over the results, note similarities between questions you get wrong, to pinpoint weaknesses and strategies for getting past them.
  • Focus on your weaker areas for later study sessions.

Focus on Difficult Sections

Everyone has their strengths, and sections they find more difficult. Once you’ve identified which is which for you, it’s a good idea to focus on studying the sections you find more difficult.

The more you absorb for techniques and tips to help you through the sections you find difficult, the better chance you have for an overall higher score.

Make a Study Plan

There is no one plan that works best for everyone. When you’re preparing for the ACT, make sure you choose a study plan that works best for YOU!

Maybe you do 30 minutes to 1 hour in the evenings, then a practice test on a specific day, or at specific intervals.

Study a section every day, or every other day, with practice portions as needed.

Whatever works for you, set aside the time required at the intervals you need for maximum retention.

ACT Tips and Tricks

When it comes to tackling the test, always remember:

  • Stay focused on the section you’re working, and on your own test booklet.
  • Keep an eye on your time.
  • Do your deep breathing, and don’t let anxiety the best of you.
  • Stick to your strategy for handling time constraints and questions, whatever it is.
  • Time saving techniques are important, and part of your most important skill-set.
  • Don’t second-guess questions you’ve answered.

Know Your Time Limits

Every section has a different limit on the time you have to finish it. Make sure you know what those different times are.

If you have a way to arrange it, preset an alarm or stopwatch for each of the section. If it isn’t possible, find a way to mark the time when you start, and when you’ll need to finish.

For example, for a 45 min. section, write the start time, then write the prospective end time.

Note: In case of an issue like a power failure or other interruption, keeping track can make sure you maximize the time you have to finish after the situation is resolved.

Consider Coming Back to Difficult Questions

Get the questions you know in the first read-through of a given section. But if you have time after you’ve done your first run-through, don’t waste it!

Go back and try to answer the questions that might have stumped you the first time around. See if you can solve them. If not, stick with your first answer.

Remember, the more of the test you can complete, the better chances you have for a higher score.

Final Thoughts:

However you prepare for the ACT, remember to take plenty of time for test prep. And remember to get plenty of rest the night before and a good meal the morning of test day. so you’ll be at your best for facing the ACT.

As long as you’ve made yourself familiar with the material, planned your strategies, and organized your materials and your tools, you should do well. Just remember: Play to your strengths, stick to your strategies, keep an eye on your time…and don’t let the test get the better of you, no matter what happens.

Josh Hutcheson

E-Learning Specialist in Online Programs & Courses Linkedin

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