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1. The ACT is given several times per year and must be registered for at least one month before the test date.
2. Plan to take the ACT at least once during your high school career and prepare with practice tests, general academic preparation, etc.
3. Skip Hard Questions. On the ACT, time pressure is a very real problem for many students. To avoid losing points, you need to learn to skip questions that are giving you trouble before they eat up too much of your time. “Too much of your time” means something different for each section:
• English: more than 30 seconds per question
• Math: more than 60 seconds per question
• Reading: more than 45 seconds per question
• Science: more than 45 seconds per question
As a rule of thumb, if you feel like you’re not any closer to figuring out a question after about 30 seconds, move on. Circle that question so that it’s easier to spot later on when you want to go back to it. Then, make a quick pass through the whole section and answer all of the easy questions first so you don’t miss points by running out of time before you're able to get through everything.
4. Use the Process of Elimination. For every section of the ACT, use the process of elimination as your main strategy for attacking tough or confusing questions. This ties into the fundamental rule of ACT reading, which says that for every question there is only one completely correct answer—the rest can be eliminated based on evidence in the passage. The process of elimination is more foolproof than trying to pick out the correct answer from the pack. Look for reasons to get rid of choices rather than reasons why they might work. This will help you be more picky about which answer you bubble in, and will also prevent you from thinking that more than one answer might be correct. If there’s even one tiny thing out of place in an answer choice, get rid of it!
5. Bubble at the End. You can save time on the ACT by waiting until the end of a section to bubble in your answers. This cuts down on your time per question by letting you avoid the process of going back and forth between your test booklet and answer sheet. It’s more efficient to circle the answers you choose in your test booklet and then fill them in all at once later. Before using this tip, though, make sure you can reliably finish the section with at least three to five minutes to spare! Don't risk running into a situation in which you don’t have enough time to bubble in your answers even though you’ve gone through all of the questions.
6. Answer Every Question. Since there is no penalty for guessing on the ACT, make sure you fill in every bubble! An incorrect answer and an unanswered question both have the same impact on your raw score, so even if you have no idea how to answer something, it's best to go ahead and guess anyway.
7. Get a Good Night's Sleep the Day Before the Test. It might sound cheesy, but you'll feel a lot more prepared (and awake) on test day if you get a solid amount of shuteye the night before the test. How many hours you need to feel well rested varies depending on the person, but generally it's good to aim for at least eight hours of sleep. Heading into test day feeling sleepy and exhausted can dramatically affect your ability to focus and potentially lower your score. So get to bed early!
8. Eat a Hearty Breakfast. In addition to the tip above, it's equally important to eat a healthy, satisfying breakfast before you take the ACT. This way you'll feel more awake and energized before taking the test.
9. Stay Calm. The most important thing to remember during the ACT is to keep a cool head. Especially given the time pressure, students who suffer from test anxiety often freak out if they have to skip a few questions. Don’t let this happen to you! Keep moving forward and answer what you can. You might find questions that initially seemed impossible are much easier when you come back to them.
The nice thing about the ACT is that once you get through a section, you’re completely done with that subject. So you won’t have to worry about it until the next time you take the test (if that time even comes!).