8 Best ACT Test Prep Tips and Tricks to Improve Your Score

By: Judi Robinovitz | Last Updated: May 27, 2021

So, you’ve decided that the ACT is your test. You prefer its straightforward approach, and sense that you can handle the quicker pace, and the math and science knowledge it requires. Now it’s time to start prepping! You might want to begin by taking a look at our Ultimate Guide to Preparing for College Entrance Exams which gives several tips for getting the most out of your prepping.

After that, focus on learning and practicing strategies specific to the ACT. That way, you’ll gain familiarity with the test, improve your timing, and discover methods that work best for you. Here are some of the best test prep tips for the ACT from our experts to help you confidently prepare to take the ACT.

Study Strategies for the ACT

1. Seek Out Resources and Support

Start by acquiring materials such as the Official ACT Prep Guide that helps you review concepts and includes official tests for practicing. You’ll also find free official test prep materials and tools on the ACT website. As you’re reviewing, reach out for help when you need it. It’s likely that you’ll find answers to many of your questions online, but don’t forget your human helpers! Teachers, ACT tutors, and even your peers can be of great assistance when you need to brush up on a concept or learn something new.

2. Get to the Root of the Matter

Enhancing your vocabulary will definitely help when you’re tackling the Reading section of the ACT. A great way to do that is by studying the Greek and Latin roots of words. For instance, once you understand that biblio comes from the Greek word meaning “book” and phil from the Greek word “love,” it will be easier to decipher “bibliophile” as someone who loves books. This approach will help you build your vocabulary and improve your reading comprehension.Student Reading in Library

3. Spend Time Reading Outside of School

Read anything – books, poetry, newspapers, or short stories. Find a subject that interests you, that you enjoy, and read as much as you can. Our experts and tutors say that students who do best with reading comprehension are those who read a lot beyond the classroom. Reading will also increase your vocabulary and is great practice for a test that will require you to quickly and accurately understanding what you read.

4. Work on Reading Speed

As you read more, you will naturally increase your reading speed – a big advantage with the timed ACT. If you find yourself struggling to read through long passages or running short on time, you may want to research how speed reading can help, or work with a tutor. Some of the techniques for faster reading include skimming, taking advantage of your peripheral vision, and focusing on important words. You should also underline, circle, or draw arrows around (or mentally review) important concepts, main ideas, or supporting details to make sure you are actually comprehending what you read. Practice on all kinds of materials, even outside of schoolwork, to make the most progress.

5. Learn to Read and Interpret Diagrams

Some students get intimidated by the science section on the ACT, concerned that they won’t recall science facts they learned in school. Surprisingly, the science section is more about your ability to read charts and graphs and derive data from them than it is a memory test. So, make sure you know how to identify and read axes, titles, keys, and increments on graphs. Know how to analyze charts and figures. Want practice? Try your hand at reading some free scientific articles on Google Scholar.

6. Practice Like You Will Take It

To get the most out of your prep time, take several practice tests and under conditions as close as possible to what you will experience on test day. Taking short cuts is not going to help you gain points. So, make sure to take the test uninterrupted, using the same time allotment per section you’ll have for the test. And believe it or not, our tutors have found that students perform differently on digital tests versus paper tests. Since your test will be paper, print it out and take it that way. In addition, use a bubble sheet for your answers. Some students skip this step. Procedural details matter and you’ll be grateful you did it the right way when test day rolls around.

Read our post on how to properly set the scene for a practice test to gain even more useful tips.ACT Test Prep

As a bonus, here are a couple ACT Test-Taking Tips to help you succeed:

7. Complete the Math Section in a 3-Pass Approach

While the math questions are generally organized from easy to difficult, the ACT does mix some simple and hard questions throughout the math section. In your first pass of the math section, do all the quick and easy questions first, skipping over the harder or time-consuming questions, which you will do on your second pass. In your third pass, guess or plug in the answer choices on any remaining questions you don't know.

8. When Plugging in Answer Choices to Solve, Start with C (or H)

Because the answer choices are usually arranged from smallest to largest, by starting with the middle answer choice, you eliminate the need to check all the answer choices. If C (or H) is too big, then you know the correct answer must be either A or B (or F or G). If it's too small, you know the correct answer must be either D or E (or J or K). This technique can help you save time on the ACT exam.


Remember to call us if you need any help in preparing for the ACT. If you're seeking ACT test prep tutoring, we offer group and private tutoring sessions both online or in-person. Our experts have assisted thousands of students in improving their ACT test scores. Best of luck!

Topics: ACT ACT/SAT Test-Prep Tips

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