ACT Test Taking Strategies

There are a number of general ACT test taking strategies that everyone should know to do you best on the ACT.  Some of these test strategies are specific to the ACT and some are general.  For strategies that are specific to the ACT, check out ACT Exam Secrets, which is packed with tips, secrets, and strategies for taking the ACT.

Pace Yourself.  Time is your biggest enemy on the ACT.  Keep a close watch on time and make sure you are progressing.  Don’t spend too much time on any one problem or group of problems.  Easier questions may be ahead!  Don’t waste valuable time on questions that you are struggling with.

Read the Directions for Each Test Carefully.  You should do this ahead of time so that you save precious test time for answering questions.  Get the Preparing for the ACT booklet online or from your high school counselor and study the test directions thoroughly to make sure you understand each type of test.

Read each Question Carefully.  Helpful information is given in many questions that is sometimes easy to overlook.  Make sure that you pay attention to anything that might be important in answering the question.  ACT Exam Secrets will help you understand what some of those words might be.

Answer the Easy Questions First.  Since there is no penalty for guessing, make sure that you answer as many questions as possible by doing the easiest ones first.  If you aren’t sure of how to solve a problem or figure out the answer, either leave the question blank and come back to it if you have time (or guess if you run out of time), or eliminate some answers and make a guess, but mark the answer booklet so that you can come back and work on the question if you have time.

Use Logic on More Difficult Questions.  Many questions have answers that are obviously wrong.  If you can eliminate those answers, you increase your chances of guessing the right answer dramatically.  Many questions have clues as to the right answer.  Pay attention to those clues and they will help you correctly answer the question.  Looking at the different answers may also provide clues to how to answer the question.

Mark the right question.  Make sure you are answering the right number question, particularly if you skip questions.  The last thing you want to have happen is to have to erase and reanswer a bunch of questions because you got off by one.

Be careful in marking your answer sheet.  If you need to erase, do it completely.  Since this test is scored by an optical reader, you want to make sure that it doesn’t see marks that you have tried to erase.  If you need to change your answer, make sure that you completely erase your answer.  Make sure that you have a number of pencils with good erasers so that you don’t run out.

Answer every question.   This is applicable to the ACT since there is no penalty for wrong answers.  Always make sure you to leave yourself 30 seconds at the end to guess at all the unanswered questions.  If you were able to eliminate some answers along the way, that can help increase you chances of getting a right answer.

Review your answers.  Always ask yourself if the answer you are giving makes sense.   This is particularly helpful in the ACT math section.  Take just a moment to consider the answer you calculated and the question you were asked to see if there is any reason that your answer would not make sense.  For example, if you were calculating the value of an angle that was obviously greater than 90 degrees and you calculated an answer of 10 degrees, it would not make sense.  You probably made an error and a quick review would help you catch it.  There are also techniques for double checking your answer.  Use those to your advantage in reviewing your work.

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