In an ideal situation, you would have plenty of time to prepare for a big test that could have a significant impact on your future. In real life, though, things aren’t always ideal, and sometimes you simply don’t have the time you think you need to prepare for things.
If your ACT test date is around the corner, and you haven’t had adequate time to prepare for it, rest assured that all hope is not lost. The good news is that since the ACT is a test designed to measure the information you acquired throughout your high school coursework, you already know most of what you’ll be tested on. Reviewing some last-minute ACT tips and learning some valuable ACT tips and tricks can help you master the test as if you’d studied for months.
Last-Minute ACT Tips
Go online and find a free ACT practice test. Answer a few sample questions in each content area that gets tested (English, math, science and reading) so that you get familiar with the types of questions you can expect to encounter.
Brush up on skills that aren’t fresh in your mind. If math was never your forte, focus on the math section practice tests to help you improve in that area. If it’s reading or English that you struggle with, then focus your energies on practice tests in that. Rather than waste time practicing things you are already good at, focus your energy on trying to improve the skills that are most challenging for you.
Focus on accuracy rather than speed. Each section of the ACT is timed, which can make the clock an unnecessary source of stress and frustration if you give it too much attention. Since accuracy is key, scan the test for questions that you can easily answer and respond to those first. After you have answered all the easiest questions, return to the more challenging ones and give each your best guess. The ACT does not penalize wrong answers, so guessing on the challenging questions gives you a fighting chance to get them right and improve your score.
Prepare for the ACT Sections
The first section of the ACT is the English one, and it consists of 75 multiple-choice questions that you will have 45 minutes to answer. Read the directions and the content of each question carefully to avoid careless mistakes.
The reading section of the ACT gives four reading passages and 40 multiple-choice questions that you’ll have 35 minutes to answer. Read the questions first so that you know what to look for as you read the passages. Don’t let the details distract you in the passages and focus instead on the main ideas. Carefully analyze the answer choices and eliminate those that have incorrect elements.
The math section of the ACT gives you 60 minutes to answer 60 multiple-choice questions designed to test various skills. Work through the problems first and then see if any of the answer choices are close. If possible, read the general directions for the math section the day before the test so that you don’t have to waste any precious time doing this on the day of.
The science section of the ACT gives you 35 minutes to answer 40 questions. This section is more reading than actual science, so you’ll need to employ your reading strategies here too. Skim through and try to answer the questions first using only the graphs and visual aids. Answer as many questions as you can and then go back to the passages for the others. Cross out unnecessary details as you come across them in the passages so that they don’t distract you.
The writing section is an essay test that gives you 40 minutes to respond to a prompt. Write as legibly as possible and fully explain every point you make. Your perspective should be crystal clear. Use concrete examples and make sure your ideas are well organized.
ACT Test Day Tips
Stay calm and take deep breaths. Tests are stressful, but being stressed out hinders your performance more than it helps it. Staying calm, cool and collected during the test will help you to stay focused and increase the odds of earning a top score. If you feel the anxiety creeping in, take a few deep breaths and keep it moving.
Report to your test center on time and bring all the required materials. You’ll need a photo ID and a paper ticket for admission to the test. Also bring sharpened No. 2 pencils (mechanical pencils and pens are not allowed) and quality erasers. Only certain calculators are permitted for the math section of the test, so make sure to find out what is acceptable to bring.
Finally, stay confident. A confident attitude can help boost your performance on the test. Keep your spirits high and your score is more likely to follow.
Kristina Barroso earned a B.A. in Psychology from Florida International University and works full-time as a classroom teacher in a public school. She teaches middle school English to a wide range of students from struggling readers to advanced and gifted populations. In her spare time, she loves writing articles about education for TheClassroom.com, WorkingMother and other education sites.