The ACT is right around the corner and our marketing director wanted to create a guide to prepping, studying, and taking the test for our high school students (don’t worry, she’s only 8 years out of the game, but she has lots of tips and tricks!)
Step One: What is the ACT and why do students take it?
ACT is an acronym for American College Testing. It is a merit exam that predominantly juniors in high school take as the first step in their college application process.
The ACT is structured into four mandatory multiple-choice sections covering English, Math, Reading, and Science. This is the order that the test is always presented in!
**There is a fifth section that covers Writing and is optional**
Depending on if your test has an additional writing section, the total test-taking time varies. Here is an ACT prep guide covering how the time breaks down by question and what concepts are covered in each section.
Total test time without Writing is 2 hours & 55 minutes.
Total test time with Writing is 3 hours & 35 minutes.
This test is scored on a scale from 1 to 36. Each section is scored based on the number of correct answers and then the sections are averaged then rounded to the nearest whole number for a final score.
Step Two: Register for the Test
Register as early as you can! Once you have a set date, work backward a few months to plan out your studying timeline and to break up the amount of material in bite-size chunks. Here’s the ACT site to check dates, times, and locations.
Step Three: Studying and Resources
There are hundreds of prep books so it can be overwhelming when you are starting to gather study materials.
Don’t let that overwhelm you. A great place to start is the purchase the current official ACT Prep Guide paperback for the current test season (purchase from the ACT site or Amazon). It’s written by the test writers.
The best way to study is your OWN way.
Are you a reader? Write in your book!
Do you learn better by taking color-coded notes? Grab a highlighter.
Do what works for you and use prep books as a loose framework to guide you on how to understand the concepts. Also, take one section at a time for a study session. If you start with English, stick with that subject rather than studying for everything every single session.
Have your parents, siblings, or friends time and grade you on mini bursts of practice problems.
Taking the time to study over a longer timeframe will allow you to feel more secure and familiar with the subject material without butting into normal school and homework routines.
Step Four: Time To Take the Test
The night before the test, grab extra pencils, notebook/extra paper, your calculator, and erasers. Getting your bag together the night before will eliminate any last-minute running around. Make sure to get lots of sleep and set your alarm early.
During the test, take some deep breaths and take it one question at a time. Always read every question all the way through- This seems like a no-brainer, but you would be surprised to see that the questions ask for multiple answers or are linked.
If you are unsure of the question, circle the number and come back to it later. The ACT does not penalize incorrect answers, but leaving a question blank is a no-no. When in doubt, choose C!
Tips And Tricks:
- Please eat something and hydrate– This is a long test with very few breaks, set yourself up with a good meal and plenty of water.
- Take all the practice tests that you can– Practice makes perfect and it will also allow you to experience the test environment and your comfort level.
- Utilize your social connections– Create study groups with your friends or neighbors. See where everyone’s strengths are so that you can help each other understand the material.
- Mood is a game-changer– On the day of, listen to your favorite playlist, watch a funny video, etc. Starting the day positive can really help you perform well. Remember that you got this!
- IT’S OKAY TO RE-TAKE– If you don’t feel that your score reflects well, it is totally normal to retake the test until you feel comfortable. Many students take it 2-5 times before they feel ready to start applying to colleges. Hint: You can take the ACT up to 12 times!
- Take some time to relax after– After you take the test, hang out with your friends or go grab lunch with your mom. Relax after all that work, you earned a breather!
**We also have a separate guide for the SAT as well**