Just like any test, proper study skills will make all the difference on the ACT. If you recall, the ACT covers material you have learned as a high school student, so all you are really doing is a big review! Not so bad, right?
No, it isn’t so bad, but you must give yourself enough time to study and practice properly. Cramming will do you no good. Start preparing early in order to give yourself the best chance of success!
I would recommend that students start preparing for the ACT about three months before the exam date. This might sound like a lot of time, but don’t kid yourself! You aren’t going to spend all of your time studying for the ACT. This way, you still give yourself the time you need to go over everything without becoming burnt out.
Three Months before Exam Day:
- Purchase or borrow an ACT prep book. This will help you to learn about the formatting of the test as well as skills that you will need and expectations that you will need to reach or exceed in order to get a good score.
- Consider signing up for an ACT prep course. If you learn better with an instructor’s assistance, this is the way to go. The teacher will be certified to teach the skills and techniques that you will need to get a good score on the test. You will also meet and work with other students who are trying to improve their chances at a great score.
- Find your baseline ACT score. There are many ACT practice tests, both inside of prep books and online, that will give you the score that you would have received if the practice test had been the real ACT. If this score is unacceptable to you, get practicing!
- Use the data from the practice ACT test to pinpoint areas of weakness. You will focus more on these areas later. For now, you will be doing a general review of all the concepts.
Two months before Exam Day:
- Choose the subject in which you received the lowest score when you took the practice ACT test. Begin focusing your efforts to reviewing the concepts of that subject area. Don’t be afraid to ask a teacher for help or to even find a private tutor who will help you improve your understanding of that subject.
- Continue your general review of all parts of the test, but begin to focus more closely on those ‘problem areas’. You may have problem areas within overall subject tests that you need to focus on. Don’t neglect those areas, even if you manage to compensate in other ways and get a decent composite score. You never know what can happen on the real exam day!
One month before Exam Day:
- Take another practice ACT test. See how much you have improved (hopefully)! Again, pinpoint areas of weakness and focus on improving those scores.
- Shift your thinking from overall review to honing in on those weak areas.
- Practice your general organization and test taking skills. Learn how to make logical and educated guesses to questions that stump you, learn how to skim passages for important information, etc.
The night before Exam Day:
- Try to relax! Cramming at this point will do no good. You may look over an area or two that you feel may give you trouble, but nothing more than that. If you have been preparing for months, you will be just fine!
- Practice relaxation techniques if you experience test anxiety. Picture yourself getting an amazing score! In your mind, see yourself sitting down and owning that test. There is no reason why you wouldn’t, as long as you have properly prepared yourself!
- Eat a proper dinner, get a good night’s sleep, and get everything together that you will need for the morning.