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Top 5 ACT studying tips and tricks

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Achieve your dream score on the ACT. Our top studying tips and tricks will guide you to success.

Top 5 ACT studying tips and tricks

The ACT test is an important part of the college admissions process, measuring your readiness for college and your ability to succeed in higher education. Preparing for the ACT can be overwhelming, but with the right strategies and resources, you can increase your chances of success. In this article, we will share the top five ACT studying tips and tricks to help you test prep and achieve your best score on test day. These ACT tips will cover everything from time management to content review, so you can approach the exam with confidence and ease.

Everything you need to know about the ACT

The ACT (American College Testing) is a standardized test used by US colleges to assess a student's readiness for university-level work. The test covers four subject areas: English, Math, Reading, and Science, as well as an optional Writing section. In this article, we will provide you with the top five tips and tricks to help you study for the ACT and achieve your best possible score.

The difference between the ACT and SAT

The decision of whether the ACT or SAT matters more ultimately depends on the individual student and the specific college or university they are applying to. While both tests are standardized and used in the college admissions process, there are some key differences between them.

The ACT tends to focus more on content knowledge and has a science section, while the SAT places a greater emphasis on critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Additionally, some colleges or universities may have a preference for one test over the other or may require one test over the other for admission.

It is important for students to research the requirements and preferences of the colleges they are interested in and to take the test that they feel most comfortable with and confident in.

What to expect from the ACT test: format and content

The ACT test is divided into four sections: English, Math, Reading, and Science, each of which consists of multiple-choice questions scored on a scale of 1-36. The optional Writing section is scored separately on a scale of 2-12.

Here is a breakdown of the number of questions and time limit for each section:

  • English section — 75 questions in 45 minutes. This section tests your knowledge of grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure.
  • Math section — 60 questions in 60 minutes. This section tests your skills in algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and basic statistics.
  • Reading section — 40 questions in 35 minutes. This section tests your ability to read and understand various types of passages, including prose fiction, social studies, humanities, and natural sciences.
  • Science section— 40 questions in 35 minutes. This section tests your ability to read and analyze scientific data, including charts, graphs, and experiments.
  • Writing test (Optional) —1 essay prompt in 40 minutes. This section tests your ability to write a well-organized essay on a given topic.

The total testing time for the ACT, including the optional Writing section, is 3 hours and 35 minutes. The ACT Writing portion is optional and scored separately from the rest of the test, so students should check with the colleges they are applying to determine if the Writing section is required.

What is considered a good ACT score?

A good ACT score is one that is competitive for the colleges and universities a student is interested in attending. The highest possible score on the ACT is 36, and the national average score is typically around 20. Generally, test scores of 25 or above are considered good scores, while scores of 30 or above are considered excellent scores. Top-tier colleges and universities may have higher ACT score expectations, with many requiring a score of 32 or above.

Top ACT studying hacks

Whether you're a high school student getting ready to take the ACT for the first time or looking to improve your score, these ACT prep hacks and test-taking tips will give you the edge you need to make the most of your study time, improve your performance on test day, and succeed at the ACT.

1. Create a study plan

It is recommended to start studying for the ACT at least three months to six before the test date. This provides ample time to familiarize yourself with the content and format of the test, identify your strengths and weaknesses, and develop effective study strategies. Starting early also helps to reduce stress and allows you to break down your study plan into manageable chunks. To create a study plan, pick a topic and amount of time you wish to study each day for the week, every Monday, and then follow through with your prep-planned schedule.

2. Use practice tests

Practice tests are a great way to prepare for the ACT and help you get used to the test format, types of questions, and time constraints. By checking your ACT practice test answer sheets, you can also identify areas where you need to improve and gauge your progress. Additionally, an ACT prep course can help you stay on track with your studying, provide expert guidance, and offer tips and tricks to help you improve your score, although prep courses are usually more expensive than practice tests which you can find online on the ACT website.

3. Try technology to study

There are many technological tools available to help you study for the ACT. For example, Speechify is a text to speech app that can read out study materials and help you to review content while multitasking. Other helpful resources include YouTube videos, mobile apps, and online courses about the ACT English, ACT Math, ACT Reading, ACT Writing, and ACT Science sections.

4. Focus on the sections that need improvement

While it is important to review all sections of the ACT, and you may prefer to focus on the easy questions, you should focus the most on the areas where you need the most improvement. For instance, if you struggle with math, allocate more study time to the Math section, or if you’re worried about the Writing section, you can brush up on grammar rules in advance.

5. Master test-taking strategies

Knowing test-taking strategies is just as important as knowing the content. You should familiarize yourself with the types of questions, pacing strategies, and general testing strategies. For example, use process of elimination to avoid wrong answer choices, double-check your answers before submitting them, and underline main points in the reading section to help you get the right answer. It’s also smart to try to recreate the testing environment as much as possible, including using a timer and taking breaks only when allowed.

Boost your ACT studying with Speechify

Speechify is a text to speech tool that can help you study for the ACT more efficiently. You can use the app to convert any text into an audio file, which you can listen to anywhere, anytime. This means you can multitask and study while exercising, commuting, or doing chores around the house. Additionally, Speechify has a feature that allows you to speed up or slow down the audio, so you can listen at a pace that works best for you. It even utilizes Optical Character Recognition technology so you can scan physical study materials and listen to them aloud in addition to any digital text from webpages, research, etc., which has been proven to help students absorb and retain more information more effectively in less time.

Sign up for Speechify for free today and start boosting your studying with the power of spoken audio.


How do I prepare for the ACT Reading section?

As you read each passage, take notes to help you remember important details. Write down the main idea, key arguments, and any other details that you think will be important for answering the questions. Also, practice timing yourself, as you will have 35 minutes to read four passages and answer 40 questions, so you need to move through practice tests quickly but accurately.

What should I bring to the test center on the day of the ACT exam?

Be prepared to tackle the ACT exam on test day by bringing your admission ticket, an acceptable photo ID, number two pencils, an approved calculator (check the ACT website), snacks, water, and a watch.

How do I get a copy of my ACT test booklet?

Test-takers can get a copy of their test booklet by purchasing a Test Information Release through the ACT website, which includes a digital copy of the multiple-choice questions, answer document, answer key, and the conversion table used in determining the ACT scores, writing prompt, the writing test scoring rubric, and essay scores. This information can help provide insight into any incorrect answers.

Cliff Weitzman

Cliff Weitzman

Cliff Weitzman is a dyslexia advocate and the CEO and founder of Speechify, the #1 text-to-speech app in the world, totaling over 100,000 5-star reviews and ranking first place in the App Store for the News & Magazines category. In 2017, Weitzman was named to the Forbes 30 under 30 list for his work making the internet more accessible to people with learning disabilities. Cliff Weitzman has been featured in EdSurge, Inc., PC Mag, Entrepreneur, Mashable, among other leading outlets.