ACT Test Prep- Top Ten Study Tips

ACT Test Study TipsThe ACT test can be extremely challenging if you are not prepared for it. Understanding what to study and how to prepare can be the difference between achieving an average composite score versus an exceptional composite score.  Many students taking the ACT have had difficulty with the test in the past (or with other standardized tests).  To improve your scores, you often need to change the way you study for the test. Follow these top study tips to improve your score on the ACT Test.

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Study Smart

The key to effectively preparing for your ACT Test is to study smart – not hard!  To study smart, you need to:

    * Understand what’s on the test
    * Focus on the material that you don’t know
    * Develop a flexible study schedule
    * Study when you are the most alert

Practice Makes Perfect

If you want the most confidence going into your ACT Test, it is important that you practice for the test as much as possible.  To make the most out of our free ACT practice exams, consider using some of the following approaches:

  • Take an exam “open book” by referring to your ACT Test study guides for help when needed
  • Fully understand all the questions you got wrong by carefully reading the explanations on your score report
  • Take exams with self-imposed time constraints – this will help you insure that you know the material

Prepare with a Recommended Study Guide

Using a good study guide for the ACT can really help focus your study.  The right study guide can help you understand your weak areas, give you good test taking tips, and provide more sample questions.  The best study guides also help you by improving your problem solving abilities. recommends the following study guides for the ACT exam:

Read the Full Question – Carefully

Some students rush through the questions without really understanding them.  You should make sure to read each question thoroughly before you look at the answers.  Also, read each answer twice before you answer.  People often read the questions and answers too fast and fall into traps.   Don’t miss the question because you missed some important information.   You should also be careful not to read too much into the question.  Questions are typically straight forward and don’t require a “leap of faith” to answer correctly.  In other words, don’t over-read the question and look for a “theoretical” answer versus a “common sense” answer.

Don’t Jump to Conclusions

Some questions on your ACT Test require careful analysis.  Some of the wrong answers may appear to be the right answer at a casual glance.  Often times test writers will put misleading answers first to tempt you to choose them – don’t fall into this trap!  Also, there may even appear to be more than one right answer!  If this is the case, make sure to choose the best answer based on what is in the question (not based on your assumptions).

Trust Your First Answer

After you have read the question carefully (twice!) and all of the answers carefully (twice!) you will select your best answer.  Trust yourself!  If you have time left over to review your ACT Test – don’t change any answers unless you find an obvious error that you are sure about.  Your first answer is usually the right answer.

Keep Time on Your Side

Although the time limits on the ACT Test should allow you to finish your your exam, it is still important to keep a correct pace going.  Determine how much time to “budget” for each question.  For example, if you have 1 hour (60 minutes) to answer 30 questions, then you have about two minutes per question.  After every few questions, check the time to see if you are still on schedule.  Don’t dwell on questions that you don’t know – skip them and move on.  On the other hand, don’t rush questions that you think you know – read them twice and pick the best answer.  Simple mistakes are often what separate an exceptional score from an average score.

Go With What You Know

You should answer questions that you know first, and skip the ones that you are unsure of.  Do not dwell on any one question – answer all the questions that you are sure of first. If you are in doubt about an answer, mark the question, skip it, and go to the next one.  When you are finished answering all of the questions that you know, then go back and look at your skipped questions.  Sometimes the other questions in the exam will provide you some clues on how to answer some of your skipped questions that you were unsure of.

Have an Answer for Everything

The ACT Test does not penalize you for guessing.  You should make sure that you answer every question, even if you are unsure of the answer or have to guess.  If you have to guess, you can probably eliminate 1 or 2 answer choices immediately.  Of the remaining choices pick the answer that you feel the best about – and move on.

Know the Tricks

If you understand the following “tricks” about questions, you’ll increase your score:

  • Absolute No No’s – Answers with absolutes such as always, never, greatest, must are generally not the correct answers
  • Beware the “except” – Questions with “except” (or “which of the following is NOT true”) are often read too fast and missed.  A good way to answer these questions is to cover the word except or not and then choose the answer that does not belong.
  • Valid information – All of the information in the question is probably there for a reason.  Don’t ignore anything in the question – you will need it to correctly answer the question.

It’s All in the Attitude

Your attitude when it comes to preparing and acing your ACT Test is the most important factor that you can control.  You need to be positive and have confidence.  You need to believe that you will score high on your exam.  While you are taking your exam, you need to have confidence and relax.  If you come across an answer that frustrates you – just skip it and come back to it later.  DO NOT PANIC!  If you have studied with the resources on this website – YOU WILL SCORE HIGH!

To get started preparing for the ACT Test, please try these Free ACT Practice Tests.