How to Properly Prepare for the ACT

Published on Monday, June 6th, 2016 by

We often receive requests from students and parents about how to properly prepare for the ACT. Advice is everywhere—some of it superstitious, some of it contradictory, some of it actually useful. What we want to give you are tips and strategies that have proven to be the most effective in performing well on the ACT. Today, we’ll tell you the best way to prepare for the ACT in general. In future posts, we’ll break it down even further and give you tips specifically for each test section.

If you’ve struggled with the ACT or are looking to improve your score, we can help. We’ve had students improve their ACT scores by an average of 3–5 points. That can happen for you, too! The key is putting into practice all the tips we offer.

Practice, Practice, Practice

The old saying goes, “Practice makes perfect.” We recommend that you take several practice tests of the ACT. This will help you know what to expect from the test and where you need to improve. The more time in advance you give yourself to practice, the more you increase your potential for a great score. Take practice tests the same way you would take the real one. That includes having enough pencils, erasers, a calculator, and a timer to keep track. The best way to a high score is practice!

Start Studying

Cramming the week before the ACT = Bad idea!

Studying over the course of several months = Good idea!

The ACT is an important test: it can open the door to your dream college and reward you with scholarships. It all depends on how you perform. For this reason, the ACT is not something to take lightly (even if your friends are). The key to studying effectively and being the most prepared is to begin early—as in today! Yes, even you, freshman. Think of what an advantage you’ll have by preparing for this test for the next two years!

If you’re closer to the ACT test day and haven’t begun studying, there’s still no better time to start than now. Any amount of preparation pays off.

Know the HOW

Just as important as knowing WHAT is tested on the ACT is knowing HOW to take a standardized test effectively. Students who have mastered test-taking skills can perform just as well as those students who understand the content better.

We understand that some students get test anxiety or are not good test-takers. But we also believe that all students can do well on the ACT if they’re equipped with the right techniques and strategies.

Call It a Night

Get some rest. Although it may sound like a good idea to dedicate the entire night before the ACT to cramming in one more practice set, the best option is to go to bed. Getting a full night’s sleep (at least 8 hours) is key to an alert mind and an energized body—just what you need to conquer a big test like the ACT. Even better, give yourself a week to go to bed a little earlier so that you can more easily fall asleep the night before the big day.

Eat Your Veggies

Don’t worry, you don’t need to choke down a pound of Brussels sprouts. But a well-balanced diet is more than just about being healthy—it’s also key to improving your test-taking abilities. Eating right helps your body run efficiently, giving you the energy and mental clarity you need to focus on the ACT.

The ACT is a long test—so you need the right food to keep your energy up. This means no doughnuts, candy, or sugary/energy drinks for breakfast or during the break. Otherwise, expect a big sugar crash thirty minutes later, which will derail all your efforts to give it your best. Breakfast should include protein and fruit. Snacks can be dried fruit, granola bars, portable veggies (like carrots and celery), and/or cheese sticks. If you’re thirsty, drink water!

The ACT is not easy, and many students struggle in one area or another. If you have trouble with the test, you are not alone. We’re here to give you lots of tips and techniques that will equip you, reassure you and help you dominate the test. We want to see you reach your goals—take our tips to heart, practice them, and you will do just that!

Be on the lookout for future posts that give more tips on each section of the ACT!