How to prepare for ACT: Strategies and resources for success

Updated on: Jul 17, 2023
How to prepare for ACT: Strategies and resources for success
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The ACT (American College Testing) is a standardised test used by many colleges and universities in the United States as part of their admissions process. Preparing for the ACT can be a daunting task, but with the right strategies and resources, you can set yourself up for success. With so much at stake, it's important to have a well-planned approach to your ACT preparation.

In this article, we will provide detailed strategies and resources to help you effectively prepare for the ACT.

ACT Preparation Strategies

Preparing for the ACT (American College Testing) can be a daunting task, but with the right strategies and resources, you can increase your chances of success. Here are a few strategies on how to prepare for the ACT effectively:

1. Understand the test format

Familiarising yourself with the ACT format is crucial for effective preparation. The ACT consists of four main sections: English, Math, Reading, and Science, with an optional Writing section.

Each section has a specific number of questions and a time limit. Understanding the structure of the test will help you plan your study approach accordingly and manage your time effectively during the test.

Also read: ACT Exam Syllabus and Exam Pattern

2. Create a study plan

Developing a study plan is essential to stay organised and focused during your ACT preparation. Start by assessing your strengths and weaknesses in each section and set specific goals for improvement. Break down the material into smaller, manageable chunks and allocate time for each topic accordingly.

Create a study schedule that fits your routine, and be realistic about the time you can dedicate to studying. Having a well-structured study plan will keep you on track and help you cover all the content areas thoroughly.

Also Read: ACT Exam Eligibility

3. Review content

Reviewing the content is a critical aspect of ACT preparation. The ACT tests your knowledge of English grammar and usage, maths concepts, reading comprehension, and scientific reasoning. Utilise reliable study materials such as official ACT prep books, online resources, and practice tests to review the content thoroughly.

Take your time to understand the concepts, practice problems, and review any areas where you struggle. Make use of different learning strategies, such as reading, taking notes, and creating flashcards, to reinforce your understanding of the material.

4. Practise with official ACT practice tests

Official ACT practice tests are the best way to simulate the actual test environment and assess your progress. Take multiple practice tests to get familiar with the test format, timing, and question types.

Analyse your results to identify your strengths and weaknesses, and adjust your study plan accordingly. Pay close attention to the explanations for the questions you answered incorrectly to learn from your mistakes. Regular practice will help you improve your speed, accuracy, and confidence.

Also read: 10 proven methods to pass your ACT exam

5. Learn test-taking strategies

In addition to content review, learning test-taking strategies can greatly improve your performance on the ACT. Familiarise yourself with strategies such as time management, the process of elimination, and educated guessing. For example, allocate your time wisely to answer all the questions in each section, and use the process of elimination to eliminate incorrect answer choices, which increases your chances of selecting the correct one.

Also, make use of educated guessing by eliminating options that are unlikely to be correct and making an educated guess when you're unsure. These strategies can help you approach the test strategically and maximise your score.

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6. Seek additional help

If you're struggling with certain topics or need extra guidance, don't hesitate to seek additional help. You can consider hiring a tutor, enrolling in a test prep course, or joining a study group to get support from peers. A tutor or test prep course can provide personalised instruction and guidance tailored to your needs.

Study groups can provide opportunities for collaborative learning and help you reinforce your understanding of difficult concepts. Additionally, there are numerous online resources, such as instructional videos and interactive practice exercises, that can further supplement your preparation.

Also Read: ACT Eligibility Criteria

7. Take practice tests under test conditions

As you approach your test date, it's important to practise under test conditions to simulate the actual test environment. Set up a quiet and distraction-free space, use a timer to keep track of time, and take practice tests under conditions that closely resemble the actual test.

This will help you get accustomed to the timing, pacing, and pressure of the real test, and build your confidence in your ability to perform well.

8. Review your mistakes

After taking practice tests, reviewing your mistakes is crucial for learning from them and improving your performance. Go through each incorrect answer and understand why you got it wrong. Identify any patterns or common errors you made, and use this information to adjust your study plan and focus on areas that need improvement.

Reviewing your mistakes thoroughly will help you avoid making similar errors in the future and strengthen your understanding of the content.

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ACT Preparation Resources

Preparing for the ACT requires utilising reliable and effective resources to ensure you are well-prepared for the exam. Here are some recommended resources to help you in your ACT preparation:

1. Official ACT website

The official ACT website is a comprehensive resource that provides detailed information about the test, including test format, registration, test dates, and fees. It also offers official ACT sample questions, practice tests, and study guides that closely mirror the actual exam. Utilise these resources to familiarise yourself with the test format and question types, and to practise your skills.

2. ACT online prep

ACT Online Prep is an official online platform offered by the ACT that provides interactive practice materials and personalised feedback. It includes practice tests, instructional videos, and interactive practice questions that allow you to track your progress and focus on your areas of weakness. ACT Online Prep is a valuable resource for comprehensive ACT preparation.

3. ACT academy

ACT Academy is a free, online learning platform provided by the ACT. It offers personalised practice resources based on your strengths and weaknesses, as well as video lessons, practice questions, and interactive games to help you improve your skills. ACT Academy is a valuable resource for self-paced, individualised ACT preparation.

4. ACT test prep books

There are several ACT test prep books available in the market, published by reputable test prep companies such as The Princeton Review, Barron's, and Kaplan. These books provide comprehensive content reviews, practice tests, and strategies for tackling the ACT. Choose a reputable and updated test prep book that suits your learning style and preferences.

Also read: 10 best ACT books recommended for ACT prep

5. Online resources

There are numerous websites and online platforms that offer free or low-cost ACT practice materials, study guides, and tips. Some popular websites include Khan Academy, ACT SparkNotes, and's Test Prep. These online resources can supplement your ACT preparation and provide additional practice opportunities.

6. Tutoring or test prep courses

If you prefer a structured and guided approach to ACT preparation, you can consider hiring a tutor or enrolling in a test prep course. Tutors or test prep courses can provide personalised instruction, tailored practice materials, and expert guidance to help you improve your skills and boost your confidence in the ACT.

Top 8 tips for the ACT

Preparing for the ACT can be a challenging but rewarding process. Here are eight ACT tips to help you excel on the exam:

1. Understand the format

Familiarise yourself with the structure of the ACT, including the number of sections, question types, and time limits. This knowledge will help you plan your approach and manage your time effectively during the test.

2. Create a study schedule

Develop a study schedule that allows for consistent and focused preparation. Set aside dedicated time each day or week to review content, practice questions, and take practice tests. Consistency and regularity are key to making progress.

3. Identify strengths and weaknesses

Take a diagnostic practice test to identify your strengths and weaknesses in different subject areas. Focus on strengthening your weaker areas while still maintaining and improving your strong areas. This balanced approach will help you achieve a higher overall score.

4. Utilise official study materials

Make use of official ACT study materials, such as the ACT Official Guide and practice tests. These resources closely resemble the actual exam and will give you a better understanding of the test structure and question types.

5. Practice time management

The ACT is a timed exam, so practising time management is crucial. During your practice sessions, aim to complete each section within the allotted time. Regularly evaluate your progress and find ACT test taking strategies to improve your speed and accuracy.

6. Review content areas

Refresh your knowledge in key subject areas tested on the ACT, including English, Math, Reading, Science, and Writing (optional). Focus on understanding fundamental concepts, formulas, grammar rules, and reading comprehension strategies. Supplement your learning with online resources or textbooks if necessary.

7. Take practice tests

Take multiple full-length practice tests under simulated exam conditions. This will help you get accustomed to the test format, build endurance, and identify areas that require further improvement. Analyse your mistakes and learn from them to refine your test-taking strategies.

8. Seek additional support

If you're struggling with specific content areas or need guidance, consider seeking additional support. This could include hiring a tutor, attending ACT prep classes, or joining study groups. Engaging with others who are also preparing for the ACT can provide valuable insights and motivation.

Also Read: How to register for ACT Exam


Preparing for the ACT requires diligent effort, a thorough review of content, and strategic preparation. Remember to utilise official ACT prep materials, and online resources, and seek guidance from teachers, tutors, or peers to optimise your preparation. With consistent practice and a well-structured approach, you can increase your chances of success on the ACT, paving the way for a bright academic future.

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Frequently asked questions

When should I start preparing for the ACT?

It's recommended to start preparing for the ACT several months in advance, ideally during your junior year of high school. This allows you ample time to review content, practice test-taking strategies, and take multiple practice tests before your actual test date.

What are some reliable resources for ACT preparation?

Some reliable resources for ACT preparation include the official ACT website, official ACT study guides, ACT practice tests, reputable online ACT prep courses, and tutoring services. There are also many free online resources, such as practice questions, vocabulary-building apps, and study materials, available for self-study.

How many times can I take the ACT, and should I retake it if I am not satisfied with my score?

You can take the ACT as many times as you want. Many students choose to retake the ACT to improve their scores. However, be mindful of registration deadlines and consider the policies of the colleges and universities you are applying to regarding ACT score submissions.

Can I use a calculator during the ACT, and if so, what type is allowed?

Yes, you are allowed to use a calculator during the Math section of the ACT. However, not all calculators are allowed. The ACT has specific guidelines on the types of calculators that are permitted, which can be found on the official ACT website.

How to prepare for the ACT?

To prepare for the ACT, students can start by familiarising themselves with the test format and content. They can utilise study resources such as practice tests, review books, and online tutorials. Creating a study schedule, focusing on weak areas, and seeking help from teachers or tutors can also be beneficial.

What are some ACT tips for successful testing on the ACT?

It's important to practise time management and pacing during the test to succeed on the ACT. Additionally, reviewing key concepts in English, maths, reading, and science, as well as developing effective ACT test taking strategies, such as the process of elimination and careful reading, can significantly improve scores.

How long do I need to prepare for the ACT?

The ideal duration for ACT preparation depends on various factors, such as the student's current skill level, familiarity with the test format, and target score. While some students may need several months of preparation, others may require less time. It is generally recommended to dedicate at least a few weeks to comprehensive preparation.

Are 2 months enough for ACT preparation?

Two months can be a reasonable timeframe for ACT preparation, especially if the student has already developed a solid foundation in the tested subjects. However, it's important to create a structured study plan and allocate sufficient time each day for focused practice and review to make the most of the available time.

Is a 30 on the ACT hard?

Achieving a score of 30 on the ACT can be challenging, as it places a student in the top 5-10% of test takers. However, with diligent preparation, effective study strategies, and targeted practice, it is certainly attainable for many students who are willing to put in the effort.

How to study for the ACT?

To study for the ACT effectively, start by understanding the exam format and content. Create a study schedule that allows for consistent practice, using official study materials and taking timed practice tests. Focus on your weaknesses while reinforcing your strengths, and review key subject areas with the help of online resources or textbooks. Additionally, seek support from tutors, ACT prep classes, or study groups to enhance your understanding and motivation.

Is it hard to finish the ACT?

The ACT is a timed test, and the time constraints can be demanding for some students. The test consists of multiple sections, including English, maths, reading, and science, with a designated time limit for each. Students need to practise time management strategies and develop a pace that allows them to complete all sections within the given time frame.

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