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ACT Study Tips

Updated on January 23, 2011
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How To Improve Your ACT Study Skills

Prepping for the ACT is is one of, if not THE most important thing you can do to boost your chances of college admission. Below are some ACT test taking tips to help you study efficiently for the big test!

ACT Study Tip #1 - Prep During the Summer

There are two benefits to studying for the ACT in the summer. First, you don't have to worry about school distracting you. Second, the best selection of ACT test dates are in the fall.

So if you prep over the summer, you can take the ACT early in the fall, and if you still think you can get a higher score, you'll have enough time to practice some more and take the test again later in the fall.

ACT Study Tip #2: ACT Reading Tips

Here are some tips to help you with the ACT Reading section:

  1. Just like in the other sections of the ACT, skipping the questions you aren't sure of in the passage and returning to them after answering the other easier questions is a strategy that works best for most students.
  2. The first and last sentences of each paragraph usually contain the most important points - so pay special attention to them! Don't waste time trying to memorize all the details in the middle of the paragraph.
  3. Sometimes it will seem like none of the answer choices is truly "correct". In these cases, you should start by eliminating answer choices with even small flaws in them. The answer choice that you can't find a flaw with will be the correct choice. So in other words, try and choose the answer that is the "least wrong" on the reading section -- 99% of the time that will be the correct answer choice.

ACT Study Tip #3: ACT Math Tips

Here are some ACT test taking tips to help you with the Math section:

1. Remember that the majority of the questions focus on your mathematical reasoning ability, not your ability to perform long calculations. If you find that one question is taking you more than a few minutes to solve, you are probably not seeing the direct path to solving the problem. There is likely a simple shortcut you could be taking to calculate the right answer.

2. If you think you can use a calculator to solve the problem and not do any critical thinking, you have probably fallen into a trap and solved the problem incorrectly. For the multiple choice questions, you are allowed to use a calculator but the calculator should never be helping you with the strategy of the problem -- the ACT tests your thinking skills, not your ability to use a calculator!

3. When solving a math question that involves a "plug and chug" strategy (ie. plugging an answer choice into the variable of an equation problem to see if it solves the equation) and you don't know which answer choice to plug in first, try the following technique. Plug in the middle number first (so if your choices are 0,2,3,4 and 6, plug in 3 first). That way, if your initial number doesn't work, you can strategically choose another answer choice that's higher/ lower.


ACT Study Tip #4: Prepping with a Tutor vs. Self Guided

Getting a tutor to help you prep for the ACT can be invaluable, but it can also be quite expensive.

In order to maximize your time with the tutor, I would prepare for each tutoring session with several hours of self-guided prep. This way, you can save your most important and difficult questions for the tutor and maximize your hour(s) with them.

There are many options for self-guided test prep. The official ACT website offers free test prep and sample tests, but the site doesn't offer that many test-taking strategies. There are also many online ACT prep programs available; Kaplan has a good one, but it's pricey. I like PreazyPrep.com because they offer a program filled with detailed strategies and shortcuts for $99. They also offer free practice tests for those who aren't ready to pay the $99. Number2.com is a good site for those who want 100% free prep, but their materials are limited.

There are also many great ACT books available for those who need to practice on plain old fashioned paper :) See below for my three favorites.

ACT Test Information for 2011

Basic 2011 Registration Fee (without the writing test): $33.00

ACT Registration Fee with writing: $48.00

These fees include reports for you, your high school (if you authorize them), and up to four of your college choices. You can send to your 5th and 6th college choices for $10 each.

**The above fees do not include late fees or standby fees.**

To register for the ACT online, visit: https://services.actstudent.org/OA_HTML/actibeCAcdLogin.jsp

You will be asked to create a login account, and from there you can sign up for your test date. Good luck on the test!

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