How to Prepare for ACT | The Complete Guide to ACT Preparation in 2021

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Yocket Editorial Team

Updated on Oct 15, 2021

Exams Know-how | 19 min read
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ACT is taken by millions of students each year who are looking to get a ticket to the favourite universities in the US and a few other countries. Therefore, in order to score well, the ACT preparation needs a detailed methodical study plan, a knowledge of preparation materials  and section wise tips for studying.

 

Success in the ACT entrance exam is a function of how well you prepare for the exam. It also depends on how well you answer the questions on the test day. Scoring high is very important in the ACT as the score will determine whether you will get to study in the college of your choice or not. Therefore, it is important to consider all the factors and put in your best efforts to prepare for the ACT exam in a planned manner.

 

MUST READ: Know what & how to pursue after ACT

 

8 Key Steps for An Effective ACT Test Preparation Plan

 

  1. Start The Preparation Well in Time

Don’t rush into taking the exam. Make sure that you do not book your ACT test date based on other people’s experiences. Rushing into the test and trying to study all the sections within a limited period can lead you to resort to cramming.

 

ACT is a test of your knowledge gained throughout your school years, so rushing won’t do any good. You can only ace the exam if your concepts and fundamentals are clear. After registering and picking a date for the ACT, give yourself enough time to prepare for the test.

 

Pick a date at least three months prior to ensure that you get adequate time to study and revise the concepts.

 

  1. Begin with Understanding the ACT Exam Pattern & Syllabus

 

Before starting your preparation for the ACT exam, make sure that you know the test pattern and are acquainted with the complete syllabus.

 

The ACT exam has two parts - a multiple-choice test under four sections and an optional writing exam. The multiple choice questions aim to assess the skills and abilities students have learned up till high school for 4 subjects - English, Mathematics, Reading and Science.

 

It is imperative for  students to understand the topics covered under each of the subjects well before taking the final exam.  The Writing Exam is an optional exam which tests the student’s writing abilities.

 

  1. Take Practice Tests for ACT

 

Once you are acquainted with the format of the exam, the next step is to take ACT Practice Tests

 

Practising with official ACT practice tests is a great way of getting to know about the format of questions and the kind of passages that might be presented in the real exam. Make sure you get adequate practice before the exam day. By attempting the sample ACT tests, you will understand your strengths and areas of improvisation.

 

The sample exam will also give you a preview of the kind of questions asked under each section. So, you can tweak your preparation according to that. 

 

  1. Set a Realistic ACT Target Score for Yourself

 

Setting a target score can help you stay focussed and devise a study plan for the ACT.

 

Make sure that you set a realistic target based on the time you have for preparation.

 

You should also consider the average cut-off scores of your favourite schools and colleges/universities to set a target for ACT score.

 

  1. Prepare an in-Depth ACT Study Plan

 

 Now that you know your strong and weak areas, the next step is to create a consistent study plan.  It's best to spend a consistent number of hours every week preparing until you take the test to avoid needing to cram close to the test date.

 

In order to determine how many hours you should prep each week, divide the total number of prep hours you think you need by the number of weeks until the test. Thus, if you need to study 80 hours and there are 12 weeks until the test, you should try to study around 6 hours and 40 minutes every week.

 

A study plan will not only keep you on track, but it will also help you achieve your study goals at a faster pace. Your study plan should comprise the following details:

  • Study hours to be put-in daily
  • Prep classes to take
  • Subjects to study first
  • Intervals and dates to take the practice tests

 

  1. Use The Best Preparation Material for Your ACT preparation

 

The ACT recommends some books for preparation of the exam. You may want to consider them for preparation. We are listing some of these resources and some other preparation resources below:

 

  • The Official ACT Prep Guide 2021-2022 Edition: This is the latest edition of the official ACT exam which allows students to practice with 6 real practice tests. This book aso recommends strategies and test-taking tips.
  • ACT Official Subject Guides (2nd Edition): 4 Official Subject guides (English Math, Reading & Science) are available for students who would like to individually prepare for the subjects. Each guide contains  200 new questions and explanations 
  • The Official ACT Prep Guide 2020-2021: This is the older version of the official ACT Guide. It covers the new version of 5 full-length practice tests. The guide is effective for practical tips on how to boost your score subject topic-wise.
  • ACT Prep Black Book (2nd Edition) : This book has 3 official practice tests covering all the topics. It emphasizes on how to approach the ACT exam. Hacks on how to approach and solve questions subject-wise are contained in this book.

 

Choose the books that you think will suit your preparation needs.

 

  1. Don’t Forget to Refer to Your School Notes for Basics

 

The ACT test is based on high-school knowledge you have gained along your schooling years. Therefore, make sure to refer to your old school notes. Your old school notes will help you revise the concepts quickly and speed up your ACT preparation journey. So, make sure to go back to the notes instead of relearning from other sources.

 

  1. Time Yourself Under Exam Conditions

 

Last but definitely not the least, once you are confident enough of the preparation, take an ACT sample paper under exam conditions. Try to complete at least 2 full ACT Sample papers before the exam day. Taking the exam in such a way will not only test your knowledge but also prepare you mentally. 

 

How to Prepare for the ACT Exam Section Wise?

 

Now that we have understood the step-wise method of ACT preparation plan, next we will discuss the strategy for subject wise preparation. Each section under the ACT exam, targets a set of subject specific skills, therefore the strategy for each subject needs to be different.

 

ACT English Section

 

The English section of the ACT consists of 75 multiple choice  questions. These questions are based on passages and a candidate needs to complete them in under 45 minutes.

 

The English section in ACT broadly tests the student’s understanding of the basic rules of English, logic, word usage,  knowledge of language, and rhetoric skills.

 

6 Potent Tips for ACT English Section  Preparation

Given below are 6 tips that will help you prepare for this section effectively:

 

Learn the Basic  Grammar Rules

 

Learn and understand all the basic high school level grammar including sentence structure and formation,  punctuation and usage. When attempting a question under the section, always follow the rules and not what you think “sounds right.”

 

Get into the habit of reading ‘Thoroughly’

 

Practice reading the passages and sentences completely. The questions in this section are based on the passages, therefore, it is important that you get into the habit of reading thoroughly.

 

Practice With Official ACT Tests

 

Acquaint yourself with the kind of questions asked by taking an ACT practice test. This will help you understand the style of the questions better so you aren’t in for any surprises on the exam day.

 

Review and Analyze Your Answers Carefully

 

Practice questions regularly and analyze each of your answers very carefully.  Most sample papers will provide an answer key with the questions. Make sure you analyse every incorrect answer to understand where you are lagging.

 

Time Yourself Before the Exam

 

Attempting 75 questions under 45 minutes means you have around 30 seconds to answer each question. Make sure while you sit down to practice, you always have a stopwatch by your side.

 

Do Not Rush Through Or Take This Section Lightly

 

English section can be one of the highest scoring sections for students. Therefore, do not rush through its preparation. Revise important concepts and practice. Remember high scores in this section can impact your overall average score. 

 

ACT Math Section

 

The Math Section contains 60 questions that need to be answered within 60 minutes. These questions are asked in a multiple-choice question format and each question has 5 options.

 

The math section of the ACT tests the mathematical skills of students. These skills  are typically  of the high school level and include all major categories such as Algebra, Geometry, probability, statistics, etc. 

 

6 Potent Tips for the ACT Math Section Preparation

 

The ACT Math preparation tips below can help you  improve your performance:

 

Learn the Basic Mathematical Formulas

 

Without memorising the important  formulas, the Math section is impossible to attempt. Memorize the formulas by heart  and keep revising.

 

Practice With Official ACT Tests

 

The official ACT Math test can help you get familiarized  with the style of questions under this section. Once you know the format of these questions you can prepare accordingly.

 

Lay extra emphasis on your weaker areas

 

Practicing questions can help you identify weaker areas and work on improving them. Make sure you practice solving as many problems as possible.

 

Perfect your time management

 

You will have under one minute to solve each question So, make sure you time yourself according to that and work on your speed.

 

Learn Important Tricks and Shortcuts for calculations

 

Learning tricks and formulas for solving certain problems can help you solve the problems faster. This will free out time for more complex questions.

 

Focus on Solving the problem

 

Try not to work your way backwards i.e. checking the answers first and then attempting to solve the problem. This may waste a lot of your time.

 

ACT Reading Section

 

This section has 40 questions and the applicants are required to answer them in 35 minutes. The questions are mostly based on the given passages.

 

The ACT reading section assesses the student's ability to read closely, reason logically about texts using evidence, and integrate information from multiple sources.

 

6 Potent Tips for the ACT Reading Section Preparation

 

Here are some tips that will help you increasing your efficiency while preparing for this section:

 

Practice With Official ACT Tests

 

Take an ACT reading practice test. This will help you get acquainted with the style of questions.

 

Carefully Review and Analyze Your Answers

 

Analyse your answer carefully. You need to pay special attention to the incorrect answers or the answers that involve some kind of guesswork. 

 

Inculcate the habit of reading mindfully

 

While preparing for the section, make sure you read mindfully. While reading,  be conscious of relationships between or among ideas. You may take note of important ideas in the passages.

 

Watch Out For the Clock

 

Attempting 40 questions under 35 minutes can be challenging especially if the passages are difficult. Make sure you always practice with an eye on the watch.

 

Start by reading questions first

 

Try to read the questions first and then go on to read the passage. This would provide a clear picture of what you need to look for the correct answer.

 

Refer to the Passage while choosing the answer

 

If you are confused between the options, it is always better to refer to the passages. Don’t hesitate in going back to analysing the important parts again.

 

ACT Science Section

 

In this section, students are required to answer 40 questions based on scientific passage in 35 minutes. The science questions are based on scientific scenarios presented to the student.

 

The science section measures the interpretation, analysis, evaluation, reasoning, and problem-solving skills required for natural sciences. 

 

6 Potent Tips for the ACT Science Section Preparation

 

These are some of the very important tips that will help you during the Science section preparation:

 

Understand the Basic Concepts in Science

 

Specific knowledge of science may not be tested under this section. But brushing up on the basics, concepts, and fundamentals of physics, chemistry, and biology is very essential.

 

Get Acquainted With Scientific studies and data

 

The passages in this section are provided in the form of Research Summaries, data representation and conflicting viewpoints. To get acquainted with the language and data , try to read some scientific studies from journals.

 

Identify Your Weak Areas

 

By trying multiple practice questions you would be able to identify your weak areas. Focus on improving on these in your time before the exam day.

 

Reading & Examining Information Carefully Is of Utmost Importance

 

The scientific information is presented to you in the form of text, tables, graphs, or figures. Read and examine them very carefully and understand the relationship between the different variables.

 

Timing Yourself is Very Important

 

Since the time is limited, it is important that you practice questions with a timer. This will prove a big help on your final exam.

 

How to Prepare for the ACT Writing Exam?

 

This is the optional section of the ACT exam where students are asked to write an essay on a given prompt in 40 minutes.

 

The aim of the writing test is to assess the ability of the candidate to assimilate different lines of reasoning along with testing their skill of writing a compelling essay.

 

6 Potent Tips for the ACT Writing Test Preparation

 

Here are some tips that will help you perform better in your ACT writing exam:

 

Read & Understand the Perspectives Carefully in Everyday Life

 

Everyday life presents us with a number of debatable scenarios. Read analytical pieces, participate in discussions and watch TV/News debates to help you think carefully about other perspectives in relation to your own.

 

Take a ACT Writing Practice Test

 

This will give you a sense of how and what kind of opposing perspectives you would be offered in the real exam. Reading and considering the sample prompt material will help understand the issue, the different perspectives on the issue, and your essay task.

 

Practice, practice and practice

 

Practice writing on different themes and meant for different audiences. This will help you polish your expression, flow of language and ability to organize ideas.

 

Plan Your Essay Well

 

Based on the prompt, spend time structuring or outlining your essay. This will help you define the flow of the essay.  The outline  should focus on making your argument and its main ideas clear.

 

Focus on Clarity of Thought

 

For your essay to be effective, make sure that ideas are laid out well. You don't need to use fancy words, just focus on communicating the idea effectively. You can supplement the ideas with meaningful examples and sound reasoning.

 

Time Yourself

 

You are provided with only 40 minutes to complete the essay. Make sure when practicing it at home, you follow the deadline. 

 

Last Minute ACT Preparation Tips

 

Before we wrap up this preparation guide, here are a few quick last minute ACT preparation tips. These will come handy a few days or hours preceding the exam.

 

  1. Revise important concepts for different sections especially pertaining to Math and English Grammar.
  2. Focus on working on your weak areas and fixing mistakes.
  3. Take at least one full length ACT exam a week before the exam. This will help you prepare mentally for this long exam.
  4. Pay attention towards timing yourself and getting it right.
  5. Do not attempt to learn new concepts right before the exam. This will put extra pressure on you that can negatively impact your performance.
  6. Take adequate rest and eat well, the night before the exam.
  7. Keep Calm right before taking the exam.

 

A dedicated and focussed ACT preparation will help you score well and land you the college of your choice. Therefore, make sure you prepare for the exam with all your heart.  Take it up as a learning experience and enjoy the process.

 

All the best!