How to Study for the ACT

How to Study for the ACT

How to study for any test

You know it's coming, don't you? The ACT! Before you panic, learn how to study for the ACT before your mom drags you down to the nearest tutoring center or buys you 8 ACT study books you may not need. To study for the ACT, you need a little bit of planning, some mentorship, and some time. Not too bad, huh? These steps will have you reaching ​the best ACT score you can achieve, so read on.

Study for the ACT Early

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1, 2, and 3 month ACT study schedules

Mmkay. You’re not going to get a fabulous ACT score by trying to study for the ACT three days ahead of time. Days are reserved for tests you take in school. Months are reserved for studying huge life-altering tests like the ACT. (Good ACT scores = acceptance into better schools, money for school, and on and on.) Please do not underestimate the importance of time when studying!

Get a Baseline Score

Get an ACT Baseline Score
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Purchase an ACT prep book or go online to a reputable site like and without studying at all, take a complete ACT practice test, including the Enhanced ACT essay. This score will be your baseline score. From here, you’ll know exactly how much you need to improve to get into the school you’re interested in, and thus, how much time you’ll need to pour into it.

Set a Goal

Set a goal for your study time
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Do you want a 29 on the ACT? Do you want a 33? Do you want to improve your score by six points on the Science Reasoning section? Then make yourself a goal - a “SMAART” goal. It needs to be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Action-oriented, Results-oriented, and  Time-phased. Something like this would do:

I will practice for the ACT in my test prep book at least three days a week for the next three months, so I can achieve at least a 31 composite score on the ACT when I test in June. 

Learn the ACT Basics

Learn the ACT Basics before you study
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ACT 101

The ACT has four required multiple choice sections, plus the Writing Test (which is optional, but not in your case because you should take it). Do you know what a good ACT score is? Do you understand how to take this multiple-choice test? How do you register? Find out this kind of stuff right off the bat, so you're prepared when you go to study.

Learn Your ACT Prep Options

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You don't have to study for the ACT with a tutoring center if you don't want to, but you should definitely check out your options, like ACT apps, books, classes, etc., especially if you have trouble staying focused while studying. At the very least, evaluate what's out there. Spending a couple hundred dollars may be the best investment you (or the parents!) ever make if it saves you thousands in tuition dollars.

Create a Study Schedule

Create a Study Schedule for the ACT
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How to manage your time

I get it, I get it. You’re the busiest person on the planet. Everyone is busy, my friend, but you have to figure out a way to study for the ACT as much as you can. The less time you have per day means earlier you need to start. Get rid of time drains like SnapChat or reality TV (just for a little while!), squeeze ACT study time into those extra hours you gain, and reap the rewards a good ACT score can bring.

Take Practice ACT Tests

Taking a Practice ACT Test
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Once you get into your actual studying, whether it's on your own with an ACT book or with one of those ACT prep options you looked into, take some practice tests to gauge how you'll fare on the real deal. Take as many as possible! The more practice you have, the better you'll do on test day.

Be Accountable

find a study partner to help with the ACT
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Find a study partner. Hire a tutor. Get your mom to harass you (like you'd have to ask her, right?) But for goodness sake, hold yourself accountable to someone else. We are often our own worst study enemies. We lose focus, we let ourselves off the hook, we watch Jersey Shore, etc. Instead of going it alone, find someone who will kick your behind if you're slacking.

Learn The ACT Study Tricks

ACT study tricks
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Should you guess? Are you allowed to bring a calculator? What's the best thing to do if you don't know an answer? The ACT test strategies above will make your study sessions smoother because they will help you figure out what to do when those questionable moments arrive.

5 Things To Do The Day of the ACT Test

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Your Citation
Roell, Kelly. "How to Study for the ACT." ThoughtCo, Feb. 16, 2021, Roell, Kelly. (2021, February 16). How to Study for the ACT. Retrieved from Roell, Kelly. "How to Study for the ACT." ThoughtCo. (accessed April 1, 2023).

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