ACT Test Taking Tips

The ACT is a widely used college admission standardized test. It has four mandatory subject tests: English, Reading, Mathematics, and Science. There is also an optional Writing test which some colleges require.

General Tips

  • Answer the questions you find easiest first. Come back to the others later.
  • Don't spend more than a minute or two on any question.
  • As you work on a section, keep track of how much time remains. (It's a good idea to bring a reliable watch.)
  • Answer every question. There is no penalty for guessing.
  • Be careful to mark only one answer choice per question.
  • Write in the test book in any way that will help you.
  • Consider all answer choices before you choose one. Use the process of elimination to narrow your choices.

English Section Tips

  • Consider the writing style used for each section. The correct answer choice will be the one that works best with the writing style used.
  • When asked a question about something that is underlined, consider how the underlined portion fits with the rest of the section.
  • Examine each answer choice to see how it differs from the others.
  • For items that include "No Change" as an answer choice, choose this as your answer only if you are sure none of the other answer choices are correct.
  • Reread the underlined portion with your answer choice to be sure it is correct.

Reading Section Tips

  • Read the passage carefully before you read the questions.
  • Focus on the main ideas in the passage. Underline these. Don't get lost in the details.
  • Try to identify how ideas in the passage are connected.
  • Refer to the passage as you answer each question.

Mathematics Section Tips

  • Work out the problem before looking at the answer choices. When done, choose the answer choice that matches your answer. If none match, redo the problem.
  • Don't overly rely on your calculator. Some problems are best worked out manually. Some don't even require calculation.
  • The questions focus much more on reasoning than on calculation. If you find yourself doing complicated calculations, you're probably on the wrong track.
  • Make sure your answer choice makes sense. A calculation error can lead you to a wrong answer choice.
  • Check your work.

Science Section Tips

  • Given the complexity of the passages, it may help to make some simple notes as you read them.
  • Cross out irrelevant information.
  • Don't be overly concerned with any technical terminology. Technical terms usually have little to do with the correct answer choice.
  • Be watchful for conflicting viewpoints in some of the passages.

Writing Section Tips

  • Organization of your response is very important. Use a five-paragraph essay that includes an introduction, supporting paragraphs, and a conclusion.
  • Plan your response before you begin to write it.
  • Stay with the topic throughout your response.
  • Vary your sentence structure and word choices.
  • Use specific examples wherever possible.
  • Write legibly.
  • If you have time, check your grammar, usage, punctuation, and spelling.

ACT Changes for 2015:

The Writing Test has changed to a format that asks students to come up with their own analysis and evaluate multiple perspectives of complex issues. The time allowed will increase from 30 minutes to 40 minutes. The Writing test will remain optional and will not affect the composite score. Students who take the Writing Test will receive a breakdown of their scores in the areas of ideas and analysis, development and support, organization, and language use.

Several new scores will be introduced including a STEM score (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics), and an English language score. Scores will also be provided related to career progress and progress toward more complex tests likely to be encountered in college and careers.

These tips can help you get the most out your knowledge, skills, and abilities when you take the ACT.