Top 15 ACT Tips to Ace the Test

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ACT got you down? Scared pantsless about what’s in store for you when you drag yourself into the testing center for this multiple-choice exam? Well, button it up. The following ACT tips are going to get you a better ACT score. So memorize these bad boys, okay?

No cheat sheets are allowed.

Top 15 ACT Tips

Answer Every Question

Yes, even the hard ones. You won’t be penalized for guessing like you would if you were taking the old SAT test. For the record, the Redesigned SAT exam, which was first administered in March 2016, doesn't penalize for wrong answers anymore, either.

Use POE Before Guessing

POE is process of elimination. Each question will have at least one answer that’s way out there. Physically cross off that answer so you won’t be tempted to use it, and you’ll up your odds of guessing correctly. Then go back and see if you can cross off at least one more.

Start Easy

Answer all of the easy questions first, then move on to the difficult ones. The longer, more difficult questions aren't worth any more points than the easier questions. So get all the points you can as fast as you can.

Memorize the Directions

During the test, you won’t get extra time to read the directions, so if you take five minutes to figure out what to do, that’s five fewer minutes you’ll have to get points.

Don’t Doodle

On the answer sheet, that is. The ACT is graded by a machine; if your chicken scratch interferes with the reading mechanism, you could miss out on points. Keep the sheet of ovals as clean as is possible.

Erase Completely

Bring two erasers: one for the heavy-duty erasing you may need to do and another clean eraser to fix up your ovals completely. You don’t want erasure marks mucking up your answers and causing you to lose points.

Pace Yourself

On some test sections, you’ll have a little less than 30 seconds to answer each question, so keep that in mind. Don’t spend three minutes staring off into space or rereading a longer passage; stay focused.

Bring a Watch

Archaic, yes, what with your cell phone and all, but since you won’t be able to have your cell phone with you, bring a watch. There’s no guarantee you’ll be testing in a room with a working clock.

Reconsider the Obvious

If an answer seems too easy, it may just be. Be sure to read every answer choice and select the best possible answer. The obvious choice may be a distracter.

Don’t Second-Guess

If you marked B for question 18, there was probably a good reason for it, so don’t go back and change it, unless you've found information in a later part of the test to disprove your original theory. Statistics prove that your first guess is usually the best one.

Come Back to Toughies

If you’re stuck between two answer choices, circle the question and come back to it with fresh eyes after you’ve answered the other questions. Remember, you have to pace yourself.

Cross-Check Ovals

Every five questions or so, double-check your answer sheet to make sure you haven’t skipped an oval. There’s nothing worse than getting to the end of a test and realizing you missed filling in an oval somewhere and having to erase everything.

Bring Your Own Calculator

The test center will not provide you with one, so bring an approved calculator for easier math work. (All the questions can be answered without one, but bring one anyway.)

Outline Before Writing

If you’re taking the essay, be sure to take five out of the 40 minutes and plan before you write. It isn’t a waste of time; the scorers are looking for well-organized essays. The best way to get one is to plan ahead with either an outline or graphic organizer.


You’ve heard it before, but it’s really the truth. Buy an ACT prep book, and answer every single question in it. You’ll gain confidence and a lot of extra points by doing so.

These 15 tips may just be lifesavers when you’re taking the ACT, so be sure to follow them all.

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Your Citation
Roell, Kelly. "Top 15 ACT Tips to Ace the Test." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, Roell, Kelly. (2023, April 5). Top 15 ACT Tips to Ace the Test. Retrieved from Roell, Kelly. "Top 15 ACT Tips to Ace the Test." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 1, 2023).