How to Study for the ACT

Learning how to study for the ACT is an important skill. Scoring high on this important exam helps you get into good colleges and can even qualify you for amazing scholarship programs. This guide will walk you through each section of the test and show you how to create the best ACT study guide.

This guide will assume that you can dedicate a whole month to studies and that you have a couple of hours per day to dedicate. Feel free to adjust it in a way that best suits your unique timeline.

Think of these as guidelines that are not set in stone. With that said, here is a detailed guide on how to study for the ACT to boost your score!

Summary: Use our ACT study guide to figure out how to study for the ACT.

How to Study for the ACT

Many students struggle with studying for the ACT. They do not know whether to take practice tests, study certain concepts, or a combination of both. One of the best ways to start the studying process is by coming up with a plan. 

An ACT study plan will help you have a defined path to success and keep you motivated. Your study plan should include various components including ACT practice tests, study sessions, and review sessions. 

As well as the components listed above, students should also set a goal score. Setting a goal score will help you determine how many study hours you should be logging and give you an idea of where you stand as you progress through your studies. 

ACT Study Guide

The ACT study guide listed below was created to give students a better idea of how to study for the ACT. The guide is broken down into 4 weeks of studying. Each week has a different focus - however, students may need to tweak the schedule based on their strengths and weaknesses. 

An important part of studying for the ACT includes taking practice exams. ACT practice exams will help students figure out which subjects they are strongest in and which subjects they are weakest in. 

If you are looking for something that encompasses everything you will need to study for the ACT, consider checking out one of the best ACT prep courses. These courses will include everything you need in one, easy-to-access location. 

How to Study for the ACT: Week 1

You will spend the first week preparing your study plan and getting everything in order. It will also include some studies but what’s important is that you lay out a routine and get used to sticking with it.

First and foremost, research the ACT so that you know what to expect. Look into the format of the exam and how it’s scored. Look into scholarships you are interested in and their scoring requirements. This is vital information for laying out your goals.

Take a practice test before you start studying. This will give you a baseline score and show you areas where you need to improve. You’ll find the best practice tests by investing in an ACT prep course! Read all section instructions carefully so you understand what to expect. This will save you time on test day.

Review the practice test and study each question in detail. Spend most of the first week reviewing this initial test. Take note of sections where you scored highest and lowest. Use this as the baseline for creating your study plan. Practice tests will come with a detailed explanation for each question and how to find its solution.

Finally, make sure that you set realistic study goals. Define the target score that you hope to achieve. Compare it to your baseline and then determine which sections of the test you should focus your studies on. Look at the average ACT score to compare to your goal. Try getting slightly above that average.

How to Study for the ACT: Week 2

This is when your real studies begin. You should have a study plan laid out along with a schedule. Be sure to stick to this schedule. Be strict about it! If you have followed along with this guide thus far, you will have an efficient plan laid out. Trust your plan.


Study the math and science sections this week since both strokes the logical side of your brain. Here’s a detailed layout:

  • Math Section of the ACT
    • Pre-Algebra
    • Elementary-Level Algebra
    • Intermediate-Level Algebra
    • Coordinate Geometry
    • Place Geometry
    • Trigonometry
  • Science Section of the ACT
    • Representation of Data
    • Research Summaries
    • Conflicting Viewpoints

Take an ACT Practice Test

At the end of week 2, take another ACT practice test. Don’t worry about timing this one. Just make sure you take it in a single sitting like you would the real test. You can take your time with each question.

Review every question on the practice test. Understand why you answered incorrectly on certain questions. This practice test will show you how much you have improved toward your goal and help you move forward. By this point, you should see improvements in math and sciences, assuming those were the subjects you studied all week.

How to Study for the ACT: Week 3

You are halfway there! Congratulations! Dive deep into the creative sections of the ACT. Spend a few hours reviewing any math or science areas where you struggled on the previous practice test. 

Here are the sections to study during week 3.

  • English Section of the ACT
    • Correct Formatting and Merging of Sentences.
    • Correct Use of Punctuations Including Commas, Dashes, and Colons.
    • Correct Use of Nonessential Clauses and Relative Pronouns.
    • Correct Use of Verb Tense and Verb Form
  • Writing Section of the ACT
    • Taking a Specific Position in an Argument and Defending that Position.
    • Determine all Diverse Perspectives Pertaining to That Argument.
    • Address all Perspectives.
    • Describe the Relationship Between all Perspectives.

Take an ACT Practice Test

You will need to time your week 3 practice test. Treat this like the real thing. Add the pressure so you start preparing yourself. Like all of the other practice tests, be sure to review all of the answers carefully once you have completed the practice exam.

How to Study for the ACT: Week 4

You are on the final leg of the journey so make the most of your time! Focus on areas where you struggled on the practice test. You want to do everything you can to reach your scoring goal. 

Since what you study this week will depend on the results of your practice test, only one subject will be included in this ACT study guide. Spend the rest of your time focusing on areas where you can pick up some extra points.

  • English Section of the ACT
    • Comprehension of the Main Point of the Passage.
    • Identification of Small Details within a Passage.
    • Understanding of Words in Their Context.
    • Development and Function of Phrases within a Passage.
    • Inference-Based Logical Extension of Information in a Passage.

Take Final ACT Practice Exam

This will be your final ACT practice test so make the most of it. Simulate the testing environment as closely as possible. Time the test. Test in a quiet environment. The goal is to get accustomed to the real thing so you are not surprised come test day. Again, review every missed question so you can understand why you were wrong.

Invest in an ACT Prep Course

An ACT prep course will provide you with everything you need to ensure that your studies are efficient. You never have to worry about outdated information. Plus you gain access to practice tests so you can master the test before stepping for into a classroom.

Follow the tips in this guide and learn how to study for the ACT. Doing so will give you a better shot at scoring higher and getting a scholarship!

Proven ACT Testing Strategies

These are all proven strategies that will carry you through the vigorous test and give you the best shot at earning a high ACT score. These are also great tips to follow when you take the practice exam during your studies. 

Never Cram for the Exam

Cramming for an exam overwhelms your mind, thus lowering your test day performance. There’s no point in cramming when you’ve created a study plan. Get a good night’s sleep on the night before the exam and eat a healthy breakfast. 

Become Familiar with the ACT

Study the structure of the ACT so that you know exactly what to expect. Taking practice tests will properly prepare you so if you did that, then you’ll be familiar with the layout. If you chose the less efficient approach, then research it beforehand so that you are not overwhelmed on test day. 

Skip Difficult Questions and Come Back Later

If you cannot answer a question quickly, skip it and move onto the next. Never waste too much time on a single question. This will force you to rush through the exam, risking unnecessary mistakes. Mark the booklet when you skip a question (not the answer sheet) so you can quickly find skipped questions. Then at the end, go back and answer the questions you skipped. 

Don’t Ever Write on the Answer Sheet

You’ll be given a booklet and an answer sheet when you take the ACT. While it’s okay to write in the booklet (and you should!), never write on the answer sheet unless it’s to answer a question. Since a machine scores the test automatically, unnecessary marks can lead to scoring errors. 

Every Question Only Has One Correct Answer

Even though you’ll encounter several questions where it seems there is more than one correct answer, this is never true. Only choose one answer. I know this might seem obvious, but questions are actually missed because students chose two answers. Don’t make this mistake! 

Budget your Time Well

This is another tip that practice tests will help you improve. A huge mistake that we see so many people make is spending too much time on a single question. This was explained earlier so I won’t do it again. Never spend more than 2 minutes on a single question. 

Read Every Question Carefully

Never make any assumptions. Always read the entire question fully before looking at the answers. Some questions will test whether you are truly paying attention and will trick you into a wrong answer. Don’t let this happen to you.

Disclaimer: Not affiliated with or endorsed by ACT, Inc. ACT is a registered trademark of ACT, Inc. and is used here solely for purposes of identification.


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