10 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, as well as 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. Our ACT private tutors have worked to compile some of the most useful strategies to aid your studying.

After that, focus on learning and practicing strategies specific to this exam. This will help you gain familiarity with the test, improve your timing, and discover the methods that work best for you.

To help you out, we’ve rounded up some of the best ACT test prep tips and tricks, as well as some bonus advice when it comes to the actual exam. For more help when it comes to ACT test prep services or materials, don’t hesitate to reach out.

ACT Test Prep Tips and Tricks

1. Seek Out Resources and Support

Start by acquiring ACT test prep materials such as the Official ACT Prep Guide, which 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

One of our top ACT test prep tips is simply to enhance your vocabulary. This will definitely help when you’re tackling the reading section of the ACT.

A great way to work on your vocab 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 ACT test prep tutors say that students who do best with reading comprehension are those who read a lot outside of the classroom. Reading will also increase your vocabulary and is excellent practice for a test that will require you to quickly and accurately understand 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 ACT test prep tips 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

Last on our list of ACT test prep tips: take several practice exams under conditions as close as possible to what you will experience on test day. Taking shortcuts is not going to help you gain points. Take the test uninterrupted, using the same time allotment per section you’ll have for the test.

Believe it or not, our tutors have found that students perform differently on digital tests versus paper tests. Since your test will be on 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

Bonus: ACT Test-Taking Tips for the Big Day

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.

9. Focus on the Wrong Answer, Not the Right One

Remember that all multiple-choice questions do have a correct answer – and finding it is really a process of elimination. If you’re not sure which answer is correct, look for the ones that are certainly incorrect. Cross these off, then work on deciding which of the remaining answers seems to be the best fit.

10. Don’t Get Hung Up on One Question

There are no penalties for wrong answers on the ACT, which means it’s in your best interest to answer as many questions as you can. However, it is also timed – so don’t spend too long waffling on a question you’re really not sure about. Dedicate a minute or two to that question, and if the answer isn’t coming to you, either guess or mark it to come back to if you have time at the end.

Need More Guidance? Contact an ACT Private Tutor

Seeking private tutoring is one of the best ways to increase your ACT score and feel confident walking into the exam. Professional tutors are well-versed in the top test-taking strategies and ACT news, and they’ll ensure you put your best foot forward on the big day.

According to a 2018 study, 10 test preparation activities were investigated, and only the number of hours working with a private tutor or consultant had a significant impact on retest scores. It doesn’t matter if this is your first, second, or even third time taking the ACT – tutoring is an excellent way to boost your next score.

Our tutors are here to help students identify their strengths, weaknesses, and goals before taking the ACT. We understand that no two students are the same, which is why we offer individualized approaches to preparing for and taking the exam.

If you're seeking ACT test prep tutoring, we offer both group and private tutoring sessions at Score At The Top, online or in-person. Our experts have assisted thousands of students in improving their ACT test scores, and we want to do the same for you.

To get in touch with an ACT private tutor, contact us online. We’re happy to walk you through these ACT test prep tips and many more.

Topics: ACT ACT/SAT Test-Prep Tips

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