The ACT (American College Testing) is an exam that anyone planning on attending a college or university should take. Admissions offices consider the results of this test when making a decision on whether to admit students to their schools.
This multiple-choice, pencil-and-paper test consists of four sections – English, Reading, Math, and Science. The ACT also includes a Writing section that is typically optional, but some colleges may require it. The purpose of the ACT is to measure a high school student's readiness for college. Like any decisive exam, the ACT requires preparation and attention-to-detail. It’s one of the pivotal moments in preparing for college.
In this article, we are going to give you some guidelines on how to study for the ACT, including options for ACT classes, so you can be ready to score high and head to the college or university of your dreams.
ACT Prep Guide: Before You Start
Define an approximate date when you will take the ACT
Most high school students take the ACT during the spring of their junior year or fall of their senior year. It is important to reserve some time to retake the test if you need to raise your score. Besides, when you know the date, you can decide when you will start your ACT studying.
Decide when to start the studies
High school students typically start studying during the end of their sophomore year or the summer between the sophomore and junior years.
Find out your ACT target score
This is the ACT score that you are hoping to get and your college goals should influence the duration and depth of your study plan. There are ACT score calculators available on the internet where you can enter the source data, such as ACT score range at your preferred college and your ACT prep testing results.
Take a practice ACT test
ACT prep courses will give you an overview of your current level and help you define your base score as well as any areas of improvement. One of the best ways to take a practice test is to go for specialized ACT classes, such as those offered by Julian Krinsky Camps & Programs. During our ACT prep course, you will start by taking practice tests covering each section of the assessment.
From there, the instructors identify and focus on areas where your scores can improve. Small ACT class sizes make sure that you receive tailored instruction and customized test taking strategies. ACT summer camps at JKCP have already helped countless students take their college eligibility and test-taking confidence to new heights.
Decide how much time you need for your studies and create a rough schedule
If you have already taken an ACT prep course and know your approximate base score, it will be easier for you to calculate the required time. This is because an ACT base score will give you awareness of the number of composite ACT points that you want to add to your score. Here is how you can calculate the required number of hours:
- 0-1 points: 10 hours
- 1-2 points: 20 hours
- 2-4 points: 40 hours
- 4-6 points: 80 hours
- 6-9 points: 150 hours
Your ACT studying schedule also depends on your studying habits and personal schedule, as high school students are typically busy with other tasks as well. Therefore, you will also need to customize your estimated point-based number of hours to your individual needs.
ACT Prep Guide: How to Study for the ACT
Now that you have your rough studying plan, it is time to begin the actual studies. As we have already mentioned, the ACT consists of four sections: English, Reading, Math, and Science. There is also an optional Writing section. Of course, you should place a greater emphasis on sections on which you have less knowledge. Let’s find out what you will need for each of these sections.
The English section checks your language usage and rhetorical skills. This section consists of 75 multiple-choice questions with the highest raw score of 75. A typical question looks like a short text paragraph with underlined words and/or phrases, which you should replace with proposed multiple choice variants, if necessary.
There is also a “no change” variant, which you can choose when you think that the text requires no corrections. During the English ACT studying, you should focus on the following areas: punctuation, grammar, sentence structure, strategy, organization, and style. You should also learn to use the context that will help you identify the correct answer.
The Reading section tests your ability to understand and process different types of written information. It consists of 40 passage-based reading questions with the highest raw score of 40. You will need to read four passages on the following topics: natural sciences, social sciences, humanities, and literary narrative.
The passages are accompanied with various types of questions related to the main idea of the passage, some details (e.g. interpret the meaning of an underlined phrase or sentence), and implied ideas (e.g. what does a line, paragraph, or the entire passage imply). When studying for the Reading section, try to become really interested in the passages and intrigued by the information that you will learn from them. Remember the literary terms that you have learned in your English classes and apply them to texts that you read.
For many students, the Math section is the hardest part of the ACT because of its breadth and time difficulty. You need to complete 60 questions in 60 minutes, i.e. you have only one minute per question.
For the ACT Math test, you need to have strong problem solving skills. Besides, the math questions are not ordered by topics, so you should quickly switch between topics like algebra, geometry, and statistics. We recommend that you do not start any ACT studying to prepare for the math test before you have completed the Algebra II course by the end of sophomore year. This is because it will be hard for you to answer the Algebra II questions without any prior knowledge.
The Science test checks your ability to read and interpret charts, graphs, results of researches, and conflicting points of view. It consists of 40 questions in total. Each question represents a graph, chart, or experiment summary accompanied by a multiple choice question about what the data shows or suggests.
If you are taking science classes each year, then you should already have a solid foundation for ACT Science. Still, it will be important to participate in ACT prep testing in order to understand the questions.
The optional Writing section is a 40-minute essay test. It will consist of one writing prompt that describes a multifaceted issue and then give three perspectives on it. You are asked to shape your own perspective on this issue.
One way to practice for this is to practice writing with similar prompts, and asking teachers, tutors, parents, or friends for feedback. Your score is not affected by the point of view you take, but rather how you expound upon it and analyze the issue against other perspectives. Remember, this is to test your writing skills, so choose a perspective that you can defend and analyze well.
Use This As Your ACT Prep Guide & Succeed
Remember that this test is important, but do not overthink it. What we’ve laid out here is a simple guide to prep for the ACT and help you study. Follow these methods and give yourself a clear path to success.