As you begin to gather your college application materials, you’ll need to have an ACT score ready to send to most institutions of higher education. The ACT provides a comprehensive overview of your knowledge and aptitude in four subject areas.

Although you can take this exam more than once, preparing in advance will help you avoid taking the test multiple times. You may even want to seek ACT tutoring to sharpen your skills and provide a better understanding of how the test is formatted.

Start With a Personal Inventory

The main areas covered by the ACT test are English, math, reading and science. You’ll also have the option of taking a writing test.

Related Articles

Think about your strengths and weaknesses as you begin preparing for the test. If you’re less confident about one or more of the subject areas, consider seeking ACT tutoring to help boost your confidence.

It’s a good idea to study for all of the test subjects, but you may want to focus more specifically on a content area that is more challenging for you. You can even ask your teachers if they have a recommendation for areas of improvement related to the ACT test.

Become Familiar With the Test Format

As you prepare for the ACT, it’s helpful to learn more about what is included in each test section. Here’s how it breaks down:

English

  • 75 multiple-choice questions
  • 45 minutes
  • Grammar, punctuation and sentence structure

Math

  • 60 multiple-choice questions
  • 60 minutes
  • Algebra, geometry and trigonometry

Reading

  • 40 multiple-choice questions
  • 35 minutes
  • Key ideas and details, craft and structure and integration of knowledge and ideas

Science

  • 40 multiple-choice questions
  • 35 minutes
  • Interpretation, analysis, problem solving and reasoning

Engage in ACT Tutoring

ACT tutoring is available in a variety of formats. You can hire a private tutor, participate in group-based tutoring or choose a self-guided approach. Tutoring programs usually range from 10 to 40 hours in length.

You’ll get one-on-one instruction, practice tests and prep books to supplement your learning. Expect to spend $2,000 or more for private ACT tutoring. Most tutoring programs will evaluate your needs and match you to the most qualified instructors.

Take an ACT Prep Class

You can choose to enhance ACT tutoring with an ACT class. Often, colleges and universities offer ACT prep classes free of charge or for less than $150. You can expect to spend two days per week for a month in a typical ACT prep class.

Most programs require that you purchase a book, but practice tests are usually provided. Some ACT prep classes will focus on one subject at a time. This allows you to pick a particular subject for extra preparation and learning.

Serve as Your Own Tutor

If you don’t want to pay for ACT tutoring, you can serve as your own tutor. A variety of online preparatory resources are available on the ACT website and through other private organizations. Commonly, online prep includes an assessment test, flashcards, practice tests and interactive games to help you master the content. Some also provide a mobile app to allow you to utilize study tools on the go.

Employ Test-Taking Strategies

The ACT is three hours in length, but you’ll be there for three and a half hours if you factor in the scheduled breaks. The writing test adds almost an hour to the total time for the test. It’s important to come to the test well rested, and be sure to eat breakfast on the day of the exam.

You’ll need to manage your time during the test. If you don’t know the answer to a question, skip it and go back to it later. Answer all of the questions even if you have to guess. There isn’t a penalty for incorrect answers.

About the Author

Dr. Kelly Meier earned her doctorate from Minnesota State Mankato in Educational Leadership. She is the author and co-author of 12 books and serves as a consultant in K-12 and higher education. Dr. Meier is is a regular contributor for The Equity Network and has worked in education for more than 30 years.