ACT Strategies

September 15, 2023
By AdmissionSight
Students taking an exam.

ACT Strategies

ACT is a test that can feel like the gatekeeper to your college dreams. You’ve probably heard that it’s a challenging exam, but you may not know it’s about more than just how much you’ve studied. It’s also about how you approach the test itself.

It is crucial to remember that ACT strategies are a fundamental component of test preparation and should not be overlooked. The ACT requires academic knowledge, time management, resilience, and a game plan.

This article aims to be your comprehensive guide to mastering these elements, focusing mainly on the often-overlooked aspect of time management.

Why is Time Management Crucial for the ACT?

Time management is the linchpin that holds your ACT Strategies together. Imagine you’re an athlete; you wouldn’t dream of entering a race without knowing its distance, would you?

Similarly, the ACT is a marathon of mental agility; proper time management is necessary for even the most academically gifted to succeed. The ACT is not just a test of what you know; it’s also a test of how efficiently you can showcase that knowledge.

You have a limited time to answer many questions designed to probe your academic prowess. Mismanage that time, and you risk leaving questions unanswered or rushing through them, compromising accuracy.

The ACT’s Unique Time Constraints

The ACT is a timed test, but its time constraints are not uniform across all sections. For instance, the Math section gives you 60 minutes to answer 60 questions, while the Reading section allocates only 35 minutes for 40 questions.

These unique time constraints necessitate tailored ACT Strategies for each section. The clock is ticking from the moment you begin, and there’s no room for dilly-dallying. The time pressure is an intentional design element of the ACT, aimed at testing your academic knowledge and ability to perform under constrained conditions.

Therefore, understanding the time limitations of each section is crucial for devising an effective test-taking strategy.

The Psychological Toll of Poor Time Management

Poor time management can wreak havoc on your mental state, significantly impacting your ACT performance. The stress of watching the clock while knowing you have multiple questions left to answer can be paralyzing.

a student thinking while holding his pen

This stress can trigger a cascade of negative thoughts, leading to a self-fulfilling prophecy of failure. It’s not just about losing precious seconds or minutes; it’s about the psychological burden that poor time management places on you.

This burden can cloud your judgment, make you second-guess your answers, and ultimately lead to a lower score than you can achieve. ACT Strategies that include effective time management can help mitigate this psychological toll.

Techniques for Effective Time Management

So, how can you manage your time effectively on the ACT? First, familiarize yourself with the format and time constraints of each section. Use practice tests to simulate actual test conditions, and always keep an eye on the clock.

One popular technique is the “Pomodoro Technique,” where you work in bursts of intense focus and then take short breaks. Another strategy is the “2-pass approach,” where you first answer questions you’re confident about and then return to more challenging ones.

These ACT Strategies aim to optimize your cognitive resources, ensuring you allocate your time wisely. Remember, every second counts, and the more efficiently you can navigate through the test, the higher your chances of achieving your desired score.

How Can You Maximize Your English Score?

The ACT English section is a labyrinth of grammatical rules, rhetorical skills, and contextual clues. It’s not just about knowing the difference between “your” and “you’re”; it’s about understanding the nuances of the English language and how to manipulate them to your advantage.

ACT Strategies for the English section should be as nuanced as the test. You’ll need to be adept at identifying errors, understanding sentence structure, and making rhetorical choices that enhance the meaning and tone of a passage. But fear not!

Maximizing your English score is entirely achievable with the right strategies. This section will delve into the format of the ACT English section, common pitfalls you should sidestep, and specific strategies for tackling rhetorical skills questions.

Understanding the ACT English Section Format

The ACT English section contains 75 questions you must answer in 45 minutes. The questions are spread across five passages, each accompanied by multiple-choice questions. Understanding this format is the first step in your ACT Strategies for English.

The questions generally fall into two categories: usage/mechanics and rhetorical skills. The former tests your grasp of grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure, while the latter assesses your ability to improve the style and organization of the passage.

Knowing the types of questions you’ll encounter can help you allocate your time more effectively, allowing you to give each question the attention it deserves.

Common Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them

Common pitfalls in the ACT English section often involve tricky wording, misplaced modifiers, and subject-verb agreement errors. One moment, you think you’ve nailed a question, and the next, you realize you’ve fallen into a well-laid trap. These pitfalls are not just errors; they’re learning opportunities.

ACT Strategies should include a robust review process where you analyze your mistakes and understand the reasoning behind the correct answers. For instance, if you consistently miss questions about parallel structure, it’s a sign you need to revisit that topic.

Turning your weaknesses into strengths and transforming pitfalls into stepping stones toward a higher score is critical.

Strategies for Tackling Rhetorical Skills Questions

Rhetorical skills questions are the chameleons of the ACT English section. They blend into the passage, requiring a keen eye for detail and a deep understanding of context. These questions may ask you to reorganize sentences, choose a word that best fits the tone, or identify the purpose of a paragraph.

ACT Strategies for tackling these questions include reading the passage actively and annotating as you go. Look for transitional words, note the tone, and identify the main idea of each paragraph. Another strategy is to answer the question in your own words before looking at the options.

This prevents you from being swayed by the choices and allows you to evaluate them more critically.

What are the Secrets to Conquering the Math Section?

The Math section of the ACT can feel like a Herculean task, but it doesn’t have to be. The secret sauce to conquering this section lies in comprehensive understanding, quick mental calculations, and strategic problem-solving.

man is studying for his exam, solving math problems to practice.

ACT Strategies for the Math section are not a one-size-fits-all affair; they require a nuanced approach considering the diversity of topics covered and the varying question types. Whether it’s algebra, geometry, or trigonometry, each topic has unique challenges and shortcuts.

The Diversity of Math Topics Covered

The ACT Math section is an array of mathematical concepts, ranging from basic arithmetic and algebra to more advanced topics like trigonometry and probability. This diversity can be both a blessing and a curse.

On the one hand, the test is unlikely to focus too heavily on any single topic. On the other hand, it demands a broad and deep understanding of various mathematical principles. ACT Strategies for tackling this diversity involve a well-rounded study plan that covers all the bases.

Don’t just focus on your strengths; pay attention to your weaknesses. The more versatile your mathematical toolkit, the better equipped you’ll be to handle whatever the ACT throws your way.

The Importance of Quick Mental Calculations

In a test where time is of the essence, the ability to perform quick mental calculations can be a game-changer. The ACT Math section gives you 60 minutes to answer 60 questions, which means you have, on average, just one minute per question.

ACT Strategies emphasizing quick mental calculations can help you save valuable time, allowing you to allocate those extra seconds to more complex problems requiring more profound thought.

Practice mental arithmetic regularly, get comfortable with approximations, and learn shortcuts for standard calculations. The faster you can crunch numbers in your head, the more time you’ll have for critical thinking and problem-solving.

Strategies for Different Question Types

The ACT Math section is not monolithic; it features a variety of question types that test different skills. You’ll encounter straightforward questions that test your knowledge of formulas, word problems that require translation into mathematical expressions, and complex problems that require applying multiple concepts.

ACT Strategies for these different question types include categorizing questions by difficulty and deciding on an approach for each. For straightforward questions, aim for speed and accuracy.

For word problems, focus on understanding and translating the problem statement into mathematical terms. For complex problems, break them down into smaller parts and tackle each one systematically.

A strategy for each question type can significantly enhance efficiency and accuracy.

How to Decode the Reading Section?

The Reading section of the ACT is a complex tapestry of texts that test your comprehension, analytical skills, and speed. It’s not just about reading quickly; it’s about reading smartly.

Asian students taking an exam

ACT Strategies for the Reading section should be multifaceted, addressing not only the challenge of dense passages but also the techniques of skimming and deep reading and strategies tailored to different passage types.

This section is your comprehensive guide to decoding the Reading section, offering actionable insights that can help you elevate your score. So, let’s unravel the intricacies of this section and explore how you can master it.

The Challenge of Dense Passages

Dense passages are the Reading section’s equivalent of a minefield. They have complex ideas, intricate sentence structures, and specialized vocabulary. These passages are not just a test of your reading speed but your ability to extract meaning from complex texts.

ACT Strategies for tackling dense passages involve active reading. This means annotating the text, identifying the main ideas, and noting their relationships. The more engaged you are with the passage, the better you can navigate its complexities and answer the following questions.

Skimming vs. Deep Reading: When to Use Each?

Skimming and deep reading are valuable in your ACT Strategies toolkit, but knowing when to use each is crucial. Skimming is effective for getting a general sense of the passage and identifying the main ideas.

It’s beneficial for questions about the passage’s overall theme or the author’s purpose. On the other hand, deep reading is necessary for questions requiring a detailed understanding of specific points or the relationships between different ideas.

The trick is to start with a quick skim to get the lay of the land and then dive deeper into sections that require more attention. This hybrid approach allows you to be fast and accurate, optimizing your performance on the Reading section.

Strategies for Different Passage Types

The ACT Reading section typically includes various passage types, ranging from literary narratives and social sciences to natural sciences. Each passage type has its unique challenges and requires specific ACT Strategies.

For literary narratives, focus on understanding the characters, plot, and themes. For social sciences, pay attention to the arguments and evidence presented. For natural sciences, concentrate on the methodology and findings.

Tailoring your approach to each passage type can significantly improve efficiency and accuracy. For example, literary passages often benefit from a more empathetic reading style, where you immerse yourself in the characters and storyline, while scientific passages may require a more analytical approach.

What Makes the Science Section Unique?

The Science section of the ACT is a unique beast, distinct from the other sections in its focus and demands. While the English, Math, and Reading sections test your knowledge and skills in their respective subjects, the Science section assesses your ability to think critically and interpret data.

It’s not a straightforward quiz on your scientific knowledge but a test of your scientific reasoning. Therefore, ACT Strategies for the Science section should focus less on rote memorization of facts and more on developing analytical skills.

This section aims to debunk some common misconceptions about the Science section, highlight the importance of data interpretation, and offer strategies for tackling questions that present conflicting viewpoints.

The Misconception That It’s All About Scientific Knowledge

One of the most pervasive misconceptions about the ACT Science section is that it tests your scientific knowledge. While a basic understanding of scientific concepts can be helpful, the section is not designed to quiz you on the periodic table or the laws of physics.

Instead, it assesses your ability to interpret scientific data, understand experimental designs, and evaluate hypotheses. ACT Strategies for this section should focus on honing these skills.

You’ll often be presented with graphs, tables, or descriptions of experiments and asked to draw conclusions or make predictions based on the information provided.

The Importance of Data Interpretation

Data interpretation is the linchpin of the ACT Science section. You’ll be presented with various data forms—graphs, tables, charts—and asked to interpret them. This is where your analytical skills come into play.

ACT Strategies for data interpretation include understanding the axes and variables in graphs, identifying trends, and making inferences. It’s not just about reading the data; it’s about understanding what it means in the context of a scientific question or problem.

The better you interpret data, the more likely you are to answer questions correctly, even if you’re unfamiliar with the discussed scientific topic.

Strategies for Tackling Conflicting Viewpoints

Conflicting viewpoints questions are a unique feature of the ACT Science section. These questions present you with differing opinions or hypotheses and ask you to evaluate them based on the data provided.

ACT Strategies for tackling these questions involve carefully reading each viewpoint and assessing its merits and flaws. Look for evidence that supports or contradicts each stance. It’s also essential to understand the underlying assumptions of each view, as questions may ask you to identify them.

These questions test your ability to think critically and evaluate scientific arguments, skills essential for the ACT, and understanding science in the real world.

How Can Practice Tests Elevate Your Score?

Practice tests are the unsung heroes of ACT preparation. While studying the content is crucial, practice tests offer something that textbooks and flashcards can’t: a simulated experience of the actual test.

a female student studying in a library

They are essential for testing your knowledge, time management, and test-taking strategies. ACT Strategies incorporating practice tests can significantly elevate your score by providing a holistic training ground.

These tests help you familiarize yourself with the test format and question types and offer invaluable insights into your performance. This section aims to delve into the multifaceted benefits of practice tests, from creating realistic practice conditions to analyzing your performance and the pivotal role of feedback loops in your improvement journey.

The Value of Realistic Practice Conditions

Creating realistic practice conditions is a cornerstone of effective ACT Strategies. When taking a practice test, mimic the needs of the actual test as closely as possible. This means adhering to the time limits, taking short breaks as you would on test day, and even using a similar pencil or computer setup.

The goal is to acclimate yourself to the test environment, reducing the element of surprise and anxiety on the actual test day. This practice helps you build stamina and trains your brain to function optimally under test conditions, making the real test feel less like a daunting challenge and more like another practice session.

Analyzing Your Performance: What to Look For?

Once you’ve taken a practice test under realistic conditions, the next step in your ACT Strategies is to analyze your performance meticulously. Don’t just look at your score; go through each question you got wrong and understand why you missed it.

Was it a content gap, misreading the question, or perhaps a careless mistake? Identifying patterns in your errors can offer actionable insights for targeted improvement. For instance, if you consistently struggle with time management in the Reading section, that’s a cue to focus on speed-reading techniques or skimming strategies.

The aim is to turn each practice test into a diagnostic tool that informs your study plan.

The Role of Feedback Loops in Improvement

Feedback loops are the engines of improvement in any practical set of ACT Strategies. After analyzing your performance on a practice test, the next step is to adjust your study plan based on the insights gained.

Female teacher working with college students in library

Then, take another practice test to gauge the effectiveness of these adjustments. This iterative process creates a feedback loop that facilitates continuous improvement. Each test becomes an opportunity to refine your strategies, deepen your understanding, and bolster your confidence.

The more tightly-knit this feedback loop, the more targeted and effective your preparation will be, maximizing your chances of achieving your desired ACT score.


In the labyrinthine journey that is ACT preparation, getting lost in the minutiae of content review, practice questions, and test-taking strategies is easy. However, as explored in this article, effective ACT Strategies are about more than rote memorization or mechanical practice.

They are a nuanced blend of understanding the test’s unique demands, honing specific skills like time management and data interpretation, and employing a targeted approach to practice tests and feedback loops.

The ACT is not just a hurdle to clear your path to college; it’s an opportunity to develop a versatile skill set that will serve you well in higher education and beyond. So, as you embark on your ACT preparation journey, remember that each practice test taken, each question analyzed, and each strategy employed is a stepping stone to a higher ACT score and a more enriched intellectual toolkit.

Ready to Ace the ACT and Unlock Your Dream College?

You’ve just delved into a comprehensive guide on ACT Strategies, arming you with the knowledge and techniques to elevate your score. But what if you could take your preparation to the next level? What if you had personalized guidance tailored to your unique strengths and weaknesses?

That’s where AdmissionSight comes in. We’re not just another college admissions consultancy, but your strategic partner in turning your college dreams into reality. Our expert team provides personalized ACT preparation, college application guidance, and holistic educational planning to set you on the path to success.

Why Choose AdmissionSight?

  • Expert College Application Reviews
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Don’t leave your future to chance. Take the first step towards achieving the ACT and securing your spot in a top-tier college.

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