Skip to content

Easy Does It: Simple Tips for the ACT Test Taker

ACT-testIf taking the ACT test is in your future, I feel for you–I really do. It is long and challenging and almost everybody who takes it collapses in relief once its over. But besides my sympathy, I have a number of helpful tips that can really take the edge off so that this monster of a test is actually bearable if not downright enjoyable. (Well–I had to try…). It should go without saying that starting your preparation at least three months before the exam is ideal, but this is the real world we live in, and that often doesn’t happen. So, with realism in mind, the following advice works for planners and procrastinators alike. Consider the following hints to be universally effective li’l nuggets-o-wisdom for every skill level, for every test taker, for every time the test is taken.

Take a Dry Run

It is very important that you take a practice test before you tackle the ACT “for real.” This is really the only way for your to see exactly what the test is like in content and format. When it is time for you to take the test as a junior (or perhaps even as a senior) you don’t need the added stress that comes from unpleasant surprises. I also urge you to visit the official ACT webpage for loads of helpful information on test questions, regulations, and procedures.

Twice Is Nice, Thrice is Better

Unless you are one of those wizards who scores a 33 on the first try (and if you did you should be writing this blog post) you have absolutely NOTHING to lose and EVERYTHING to gain by re-taking it at least once. But–and this is important–don’t just get right back in the test-taking line without doing something to improve your score. At the minimum, trot down to your neighborhood bookstore and pick up one of the many ACT study guides available. (As you might imagine, though, these are about as exciting as dried paste). Wishful thinking is not going to cause your score to magically move upward.

Watch that Clock

To score well on this test,  you must keep very close track of your time. Actually, you have my permission to become obsessive about it. When you are in the throes of the ACT, the hands on the clock seem to spin like a windmill.  This does not mean that you skim over questions and guess haphazardly, as common sense should tell you. However, you must pace yourself. Know how long you have for each section of the test and keep that number in the forefront of your mind. Realizing that you have two minutes to complete an entire reading passage is the absolute worst scenario that you have the power to prevent.

One Step at a Time…and Don’t Forget to Breathe

Listen, the ACT is one long test. It is totally normal to feel overwhelmed. Try not to anyway. A good part of your success is going to spring from your ability to get a grip on your anxiety. When you are reading one passage, fully concentrate on it without sneaking a peek at what follows. And you may dread the trig questions, but thinking about how difficult they might be may cause you to fumble the algebra you know like the back of your hand. One thing on your mind, one step at a time.

I Took the Stupid Test and Bombed It.  Now What?

So you made it through the ACT, but you are less than thrilled with the outcome. You already know that you must dust yourself off and try again. But maybe you shouldn’t go it alone this time. If you are a do-it-yourselfer, that is swell. I sincerely mean it–you are really going to save some big bucks if you become a home owner some day. The reality for you as it stands now, however, is that any future plans depend quite a bit on what you achieve right now. Getting the help of someone who knows how to help you to get to where you want to be is not a cop-out. A qualified tutor can also enable you to get the job done a whole lot faster than if you insist on going it alone. Your troubles are not unique…do you know how many people are in your shoes? If you know you could use some help, be good to yourself and seek it out.




Jennifer Nevins

Jennifer Nevins has taught students of varying ages and abilities for over fifteen years. An alumna of North Central College and Northern Illinois University, she earned a Bachelor of Arts and a Masters of Arts, respectively. Jennifer also is designated by the State of Illinois as "highly qualified" to teach language arts and history. She provides ACT, SAT, and subject specific tutoring that is distinctively efficient and effective.

Back To Top