How Should I Study for the ACT?
As we approach summer, students all around the world are beginning to gear up for their big exams. Here we’ll discuss how to prepare for one in particular: the ACT. The ACT exam is 2 hours and 55 minutes, plus an additional optional 40-minute writing section. The test has 4 sections: 45-minutes of English, 60-minutes of math, 60-minutes of reading, and 35-minutes of science. Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s look at how to study for the ACT.
Strategize your time
The biggest difference between the SAT and the ACT, besides the science section, is the time students have per question. The SAT is designed so that students can answer every question, but the ACT will be more of a challenge. When considering how to study for the ACT, remember: it will be difficult to answer every question on the ACT. I remember leaving a handful of questions blank on my ACT answer sheet, and I still scored well. I’m not saying that the ACT is an easy test – but skipping a question is a fruitful strategy. This way, you knock out as many questions as possible, without getting hung up.
Months or weeks before you take the exam, you should come up with a study plan. Divvying up your ACT practice book sections over a number of weeks would be a great way to do it. A golden rule is that any time spent studying is better than no time spent studying. Review concepts when you find yourself in an in-between moment.
Strategize study concepts
While there are a variety of concepts on the exam, there are certain topics and skills that test-makers favor. Let’s break down how to study for the ACT section-by-section:
- English – This section has passages with questions related to the passage. The main concepts being tested in these questions are: correct forming of sentences, correct use of syntax (commas, colons, etc), correct use of pronouns, correct verb tense and form, logical transitions, and conciseness in writing
- Math – In this section, some problems will have a single question while others will have a set of linked questions. The math section tends to get more difficult as it goes on, meaning the last 20 questions will be noticeably harder than the first 20. Most commonly, these math questions are testing for skills in: pre-through-intermediate algebra, coordinate and plane geometry, and trigonometry
- Reading – The reading section contains within it four different subsections, each with either 1 long passage or 2 paired short passages. The genres of the passages will always appear in this order: prose fiction, social science, humanities, and natural science. Questions will be about big-picture ideas (like plot, character), to minuscule details, to vocabulary usage, to story development
- Science – The science section has a series of longer questions. These questions are either a passage, a graph or a table. They present some kind of data that the test-taker is then asked to interpret. The topics covered in the science section are generally biology, chemistry, Earth science, and physics. The skill of interpretation is most important
Then, of course, there is the optional essay. The prompt will be a topic that presents three different perspectives. For the essay, you’ll have to choose a perspective, defend it, and contrast it to the other perspectives. You can practice this by simply writing and defending your own opinions, or, of course, through practice tests. There is a well of old ACT writing prompts available online and in workbooks, and you should certainly use it to your advantage.
We’ve discussed how to study for the ACT. Now there’s only one thing to do: get to it! You have all the tools you need to ace this test.
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