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20 Top ACT Prep Hacks for a Great Score

Congratulations ACT scholars! If you’re here, it means you already believe that you can get a great score and that’s half the distance covered! You must be putting in a ton of hard work into your ACT prep either through ACT tutoring or ACT online prep and we trust that you’re heading in the right direction. Now we’re going to pack some punch into your prep by giving 20 top ACT prep hacks for a great score that can potentially land you in your dream college.

Planning your ACT Prep

In this section we’ll tell you how to set your priorities in test prep, how many hours of study you need for ACT prep, how to make a solid ACT practice plan and what to include in that plan.

#1 Using every opportunity to get familiar with ACT

If you’ve appeared for ACT Aspire or PreACT tests in the past, you’d already be acquainted with the test. If you’re not familiar with these pre-tests, then we would recommend you appear for an ACT diagnostic test. There are several ACT online tutoring options that offer diagnostic tests for free. Be sure to discuss the results with your ACT prep tutors. This will help you gauge your level and the specific strengths and weaknesses you need to work on.

#2 Subject-wise assessment

Ideally, a subject-wise assessment of your strengths and weaknesses is advisable. With this you can develop a well-rounded ACT study plan covering all the subjects, crucial for a high ACT score. Based on this, you can decide your ACT tutoring options – whether you need an ACT math tutor, an ACT reading tutor or a tutor for ACT English practice. There are several ACT online prep platforms that not only run diagnostic tests but also help you make this assessment and let you interact with potential tutors.

#3 Pin up a broad ACT study plan ASAP

Your ACT math tutor may recommend 5 hours of basic concept and 5 hours of test math prep in addition to practice tests. Your ACT reading tutor may ascertain 5 hours of concepts and 2 hours of test prep. Likewise, your ACT English practice tutor and ACT science tutor will each give you their estimate of how many hours of study you’re going to need. Total that up. Let’s say you arrive at 30 hours of study. To this, add the time you need to do about 5 to 10 full length tests. It is recommended that you do at least one full-length test per 10 hours of study but for students without prior test experience ACT prep tutors recommend more.

So, a good ACT study plan for you would be 3 – 4 hours of study a week + 1 full-length test on the weekend = 2 months to test date. Now this is NOT set in stone.

Only you and your ACT prep tutors know what’s best for you. There are those who base their ACT practice plan entirely on full-length tests, packing in 2 full-length tests a week and spending their remaining prep time analyzing their scores with their ACT online tutoring. And that’s fine too. The important thing here is to have a broad and practical plan.

#4 Sacrificing school and extracurricular activities for ACT prep is a bad choice

If you sacrifice all high school activities and extracurriculars that make you stand out as a student just to put in 2 hours of ACT tutoring every day, you’re perhaps making the wrong choice. You need much more than scores to be a great well-rounded student and all the super elite colleges for which you’re aiming a 33-36 score recognize this. Keep that in mind and get smart with your ACT prep. You can explore ACT online prep options to save you travel time. They enable you to take your sessions on video from the comfort of home and schedule them with flexibility.

The best ACT tutoring professionals will tell you that the secret to success is consistency. What they mean is the plan has to be realistic and one that you’re able to follow through.

#5 Give yourself sufficient time to execute the ACT practice plan

Now that you have your priorities set, choose a test date that gives you sufficient time to cover all the subject areas with your realistic ACT practice plan. In our example, that would be 2 months later. Remember, there is no shame in giving yourself more time with your ACT study plan if that’s what you need to get to a great score. You may come across seniors who’ll tell you they got a 35 with just 10 hours of ACT prep. Don’t get carried away by what others tell you and don’t feel awkward about choosing a farther test date if your ACT tutoring counsels you do so. Your ACT prep tutors are experienced professionals and in a better position to guide you.

#6 Optimize rather than maximize study time

Some students prefer 2 hours of focussed study at a time. Some prefer to spread out their study timings, for example, doing a short 10 to 20 min topic-wise test twice every day. Whatever your style, get the best out of every minute you put in. Spending hours at your desk distracted will only burn you out. With the help of your ACT prep tutors set the agenda for the week. Choose a time of the day when there’s zero distractions around you. Turn off every gadget and every chat window during your study time. You may find it tough on the first couple of occasions. But within a week or two you’ll get used to it and you’re going to love the sense of control you feel on sticking with your plan.

#7 Mix topics up tasks, from ACT math to Act English practice

It’s common to find students taking an ACT diagnostic test and finding out that they’re pretty darn good at ACT reading but weak in math. They will promptly hire an ACT math tutor to help out but won’t do their ACT English practice or ACT science practice until test day. This is not a good idea. It’s very important to be in touch with all the sections on a weekly basis. Not just that, you need to touch upon all the topics within each section and even revisit them. Maintaining a mix is the prime feature of a solid ACT study plan. It is a crucial ACT prep strategy that every top student follows. The role of ACT tutoring is to help you balance out your study time across all the four sections.

#8 Read for 30 minutes every day to do well in ACT reading, without fail

While your tutor for ACT English practice takes care of the mechanical skills needed in the English section, there’s one thing you can do to improve your scoring ability across English, Reading and Writing sections. Read. Marvel comics won’t do. Get recommendations from your ACT reading tutor and dive in 30 minutes every day. The important thing is to be 100% engaged with the content. Make the 30 minutes count. Note down unfamiliar words, usages and expressions and discuss them later with your ACT reading tutor. Your reading should expose you to the four different subject areas relevant in ACT, viz. humanities, natural science, social science, and literary fiction.

Brain benders

In this section we shall go through scientifically proven learning methodologies that prepare your brain. All ACT tutoring platforms use these time-tested strategies to help students ace the test. A perfect scorer is just a person who employs these methods to the fullest, and not necessarily someone with a high IQ.

#9 Cover the basics

Test taking strategies are advanced skills that can only be built on a strong foundation in the subjects. Take math for instance. All competitive exams test the same underlying mathematical concepts but the approach to solving them differs. (SAT Math slightly leans towards critical thinking skills whereas ACT Math slightly leans towards remembering how to perform calculations). A skilled ACT math tutor will first lay emphasis on getting you up to speed on all the basic concepts. In the same way, ACT English practice should start with getting your grammar basics in order. Without the basics, learning test strategies will feel alien and may even cause you to mark wrong answers in the test.

#10 Learning by chunking

Chunking is a strategy of reducing the load on the brain by dividing content into manageable chunks. For example, you might want to focus only on linear equations and attend to inequalities on another day. Discuss with your ACT math tutor and chunk up your lesson by all means. Several ACT online prep platforms understand this learning pattern and assist your ACT prep by giving topic wise tests and practice questions.

#11 Spaced Repetition

Every ACT prep tutor uses spaced repetition to help you consolidate your learnings. It is a learning technique that strengthens memories of things you see frequently. This is especially useful for learning formulas in math. Your ACT math tutor will help you systematically revisit previously learned concepts and formulas until you have them all in your head.

ACT prep habits that work

#12 Revision through timed full-length tests

In ACT prep revising what you know is as important as learning new things. A perfect way to revise all the sections is practice with timed full-length tests. There are several ACT online prep options that allow you to enroll for test series where you can get yourself scored. What’s measured improves.

#13 Analyze every full-length test

What’s measured improves, but not automatically. Your ACT prep tutor and you must spend time analyzing your performance in the full-length tests and identify weaknesses. It could be in a certain specific topic or a general pacing problem. Make changes to your study plan to work on those weaknesses.

#14 Play to your strengths

A word of caution on test analysis. Students often spend much time fixing weak areas and take their strength areas for granted. There are two things to be mindful of in your ACT prep. Firstly, strengths won’t remain strengths unless practiced. Secondly, only your strength areas can save the day for you. Your ACT tutoring should be well-rounded enough to ensure that your strengths get better and with time while your weaknesses are “managed” by acquiring specific competencies.

#15 The 30/70 rule

It is loosely said that 70% of the questions come from 30% of the topics. The essence of this rule is particularly relevant for math. A smart ACT study plan would be to get up to speed on those crucial 30% of topics so that you’re 70% prepared. Your ACT math tutor would tell you that the majority of the questions in ACT focus on algebra and pre-algebra. So, being thorough with algebra is going to keep your scores up at all times.

#16 Intuition isn’t an option

It’s one thing to be clueless about a question and making a random guess. It’s another thing altogether spending time on a question and finally solving it through intuition. We warn you not to get into the habit of choosing an answer based on intuition. There are several techniques to employ such as elimination, plugging a choice in the formula, etc., that your ACT math tutor will train you up on. You could make an “educated guess” as a last option, but pure intuition isn’t an option.

#17 Is C the most common answer on the ACT?

First of all, since there is no penalty for choosing a wrong answer on the ACT it is in your interest to answer all the questions. On whether C is the most common answer on the ACT, we don’t believe there’s any science behind this fascinating urban legend. In the last one minute of your test if you still have a bunch of questions left to tackle, you might as well make wild guesses rather than leaving them unanswered. And if choosing C makes you feel better, go for it.

Managing ACT Test Anxiety

We hear you. Test anxiety is real. We are not going to ask you to drink chamomile, exercise or sleep 8 hours, because you already know these tips. We are going to give you some perspectives that will help you view the experience differently.

#18 Embrace Stress

A little stress and anxiety is actually good for ACT prep. Researchers have found that people with anxiety are actually better at responding to test situations, since their brains process problems more efficiently. You stay on your toes and you prepare better as well. Just don’t stress overpower you and here chamomile, exercise and sleep will indeed help.

#19 Take heart in numbers

Know that you’re not alone in this. If it’s tough, it’s tough for everyone taking the test. Your tutors can help you put things in perspective. Take up ACT tutoring. If travel is a problem, explore ACT online tutoring. They will build your confidence, train you not dwell on mistakes, and streamline your ACT prep.

#20 Underdog syndrome

Do you feel like an underdog? Do you panic sometimes that you’re going to fail miserably? It might interest you to know, according to psychologists, underdogs do unexpectedly well in the world in every domain. That’s because underdogs don’t take anything for granted. They rely on structured preparation and follow their ACT study plan with discipline. People count you out. But you still win.

There you go ACT scholars! We have armed you with the 20 top ACT prep hacks for a great score that are recommended by the best ACT tutors out there and have been successfully adopted by perfect scorers. A smart ACT practice plan is obviously one that is effective in attaining your ACT score goal. If you have enrolled for ACT tutoring, you’ll receive counselling on the ACT score to aim for admission in the colleges/universities of your choice. Feel free to explore the ACT online prep options on, where you can easily find highly experienced ACT prep tutors for all skills, subjects and budgets.

Related Articles

The Definitive Guide to Preparing for ACT

Best ACT Prep Strategies to Score High

Additional ACT Resources

ACT official site

Free Official ACT Practice Tests

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