How to Study for the ACT

The ACT or American College Test is a test that most universities require before rewarding admission.  The four sections of the test are advanced groups of Mathematics, Science, English and Reading.  Though the test is multiple choice, like many other tests a student may have taken for years, the format, and the content is such that it cannot be taken lightly and no student should expect to breeze through.  It requires a working knowledge of specific details from each of the testing areas reaching all the way back through your high school career, and spanning as far forward as some HONORS or College level classes.  If you have a specific post-high school destination you will want to take this test seriously and you will want to study thoroughly.

Many of the most desirable schools and classes fill quickly. If it comes down to the final opening in your desired school or program a good ACT score can give you an advantage and can help to ensure that you are the one to be selected.  At some schools there are also scholarship options, exclusive aid programs and reserved courses of study for those students with exceptional ACT scores.   If you take your educational future seriously you will want to make certain that you have done everything possible to make the grade.  Use this guide along with top-rated sources and the advice of veteran testers to show college admissions officials  just how well you can ACT.

Take Practice ACT Tests

While the test you actually end up taking for college admissions purposes will not likely be available there are many “practice” tests to help you prepare.  Most students will admit to feeling nervous or having “butterflies” on the day of the big test.  You can give yourself an edge and ensure that all your mental muscle is put to use getting you a great score if you are comfortable with the format of the testing.   In addition to familiarizing yourself with the format of the testing, brush up on the subjects that you know you have struggled with in the past.  If you have aced every math class since grade school, and you got your first Jr. Scientist play set when you were four, then spend additional time finding ways to dissect the Reading and English parts of the test.  The same goes for the future English majors.  If prose is perfect, sonnets are simple, and reading Dickens has always seemed like the best of times, then you should likely look for additional literature on science and math to ensure a story book finish to this very important test.

Leverage the Experience of Others

Education is essential, but there is still no substitute for experience.  When you combine education WITH experience you will find yourself at websites like This a free website where you will find thousands of “college bound” students, like yourself, as well as veteran students, offering up information about their own experiences and tips on how to spend your time and effort studying the most effectively.  As a high school senior you may still be in contact with college freshman that were your classmates.  Consult the most scholastically apt for advice on testing.  You may also be able to save money on used study guides (Barron’s and Princeton are said to have some of the best) by consulting with those who have taken the ACT in the, not-too-distant past.  Some of your current teachers or your guidance counselor may also have resources or knowledge they are willing to share if they can tell that you are truly vested in bettering yourself through college education.

ACTually Study

We all have our own learning style so different things will work for different people.  It seems as though study guides are broken down into two main categories.  The first is a “tactical” approach with tips on how to pace one’s self for completion and offers tips on mastering the method of the test itself.  The second type are “refresher” books meant to stimulate and reactivate your gray matter allowing you to summon long forgotten and obscure knowledge that you may encounter on the ACT.  Within these two categories there are books specialized for the four specific testing groups. (i.e. ACT Mathematics and Science or ACT Reading and English by AMSCO)  Again, Google and are worth consulting to find the top rated sources and to determine which publications or sites will work best for you. (the official ACT website) is also a smart site to check to help you focus on the types of information to study along with practice tests and study guides.

The test itself is 215 questions (75 English, 60 Mathematics, 40 Reading, 40 Science) along with a 30 minute writing portion.  With the math section as the exception, testers are given less than a minute for each question.  When taking ACT practice tests, using flash cards or when using any other preparation method, it is important to work on both speed and accuracy.  According to  it is important to answer as many questions as possible, so make sure to skip any questions that “stump” you and come back to them later.  When it comes to this multiple choice test when you guess there is chance of getting a right answer. A blank or skipped question will always be wrong.

If you visit Google and enter “ACT prep materials” or “ACT practice materials” you will find sites offering everything from one on one training to DVD guides and countless printed materials to help you prepare.

In addition to being the “official” word and offering numerous preparation options is a valuable resource for practice tests, information about testing changes, and is also linked to ACT Podcasts, Blogs, and ACT related social networking pages.

Now that you know where to go and what to expect…quit fooling around and START STUDYING!

“Our main business is not to see what lies dimly at a distance, but to do what lies clearly at hand.”

-Thomas Carlyle
Professor at Oxford
Involved with Organizing what is now Johns Hopkins

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