Tips on How to Study for the ACT

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

Students taking an exam.

Tips on How to Study for the ACT

Preparing for the ACT can seem like a daunting task, but with the right study strategies and planning, you can feel confident and ready on test day. In this article, we will explore various tips and techniques to help you study effectively for the ACT. Whether you’re wondering how many hours to study or how to establish a study plan, we’ve got you covered. Let’s dive in!

How many hours should you study for the ACT?

One of the most common questions students have is how many hours they should dedicate to ACT study. While there is no one-size-fits-all answer, it is generally recommended to aim for around 40-60 hours of preparation. This allows for ample time to review content, practice test questions, and familiarize yourself with the exam format. However, keep in mind that the exact number of hours may vary depending on your individual strengths and weaknesses.

When determining the number of hours to dedicate to ACT study, it is important to consider your current level of knowledge and familiarity with the exam. If you have already covered most of the content in your high school classes and feel confident in your abilities, you may need less time to prepare. On the other hand, if you struggle with certain subjects or have not had much exposure to the ACT format, you may need to allocate more hours for study.

a female student in front of her laptop

It is also crucial to take into account your learning style and study habits. Some students may find that they need more time to fully grasp certain concepts, while others may be able to quickly understand and apply the material. By understanding how you learn best, you can tailor your study schedule to maximize efficiency and effectiveness.

In addition to the recommended hours of study, it is important to create a study plan that is realistic and manageable. Rather than cramming all your study hours into a few days or weeks, it is generally more effective to spread out your preparation over a longer period of time. This allows for better retention of information and reduces the risk of burnout.

When creating your study plan, consider breaking down the content into smaller, manageable chunks. This not only makes the material more digestible but also allows you to track your progress more effectively. By setting specific goals for each study session, you can stay motivated and focused throughout your preparation.

Furthermore, it is important to incorporate a variety of study techniques and resources into your ACT preparation. This can include reviewing textbooks and study guides, practicing with online resources and sample questions, and seeking guidance from teachers or tutors. By diversifying your study methods, you can engage different parts of your brain and enhance your understanding of the material.

Lastly, it is crucial to take breaks and prioritize self-care during your ACT study period. While it is important to dedicate sufficient time to preparation, it is equally important to rest and recharge. Taking breaks allows your brain to process and consolidate the information you have learned, leading to better retention and comprehension.

In conclusion, while the recommended range for ACT study is around 40-60 hours, the exact number of hours may vary depending on individual factors such as prior knowledge, learning style, and study habits. By creating a realistic study plan, incorporating various study techniques, and prioritizing self-care, you can maximize your chances of success on the ACT.

Is it hard to study for the ACT?

The level of difficulty in ACT preparation depends on several factors, including your prior knowledge, study habits, and personal motivation. While the ACT covers a wide range of subjects, including English, math, reading, science, and writing (optional), it is certainly manageable with the right approach. By breaking down the content into smaller sections and focusing on one area at a time, you can make the studying process more manageable and less overwhelming.

When it comes to studying for the ACT, it’s important to understand that everyone’s experience will be different. Some individuals may find certain subjects easier to grasp, while others may struggle with specific areas. It’s essential to identify your strengths and weaknesses early on, so you can allocate your study time accordingly.

English is one of the sections on the ACT that tests your grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure skills. To prepare for this section, you can practice reading various types of texts, such as books, articles, and essays. By exposing yourself to different writing styles, you can improve your understanding of grammar rules and develop a better sense of sentence structure.

a student writing and studying

Mathematics is another section that requires focused preparation. It covers a wide range of topics, including algebra, geometry, and trigonometry. To excel in this section, it’s crucial to review the fundamental concepts of each topic and practice solving different types of math problems. By dedicating time to mastering the underlying principles, you can confidently approach any math question that comes your way.

The reading section of the ACT evaluates your ability to comprehend and analyze written passages. To enhance your reading skills, it’s beneficial to read a variety of texts, such as fiction and non-fiction books, newspapers, and magazines. By exposing yourself to different genres and styles of writing, you can improve your reading speed, vocabulary, and critical thinking abilities.

The science section of the ACT assesses your ability to interpret and analyze scientific data and concepts. It’s important to familiarize yourself with scientific terms, graphs, and charts. By practicing with sample science passages and questions, you can develop effective strategies for quickly understanding and answering scientific-based questions.

Lastly, the optional writing section of the ACT requires you to construct a well-organized and coherent essay. To prepare for this section, it’s helpful to practice writing essays on various topics and familiarize yourself with the scoring rubric. By honing your writing skills and understanding the expectations of the graders, you can confidently approach the writing section and showcase your ability to express ideas effectively.

In conclusion, while studying for the ACT may seem daunting at first, it is definitely achievable with the right mindset and approach. By breaking down the content into manageable sections, focusing on your strengths and weaknesses, and practicing with sample questions, you can improve your chances of success on test day. Remember, consistent effort and dedication are key to mastering the ACT and achieving your desired score.

Tips on how to study for the ACT

To excel on the ACT, it’s not just about studying harder; it’s about studying smarter. Below, we will provide you with valuable strategies and tips to help you create an effective study plan, understand the format of the ACT, and target your areas of improvement. Whether you’re a first-time test-taker or looking to improve your previous score, these insights will empower you to approach the ACT with confidence and achieve your best results. 

Establish a Study Plan and Stick to It

To ensure consistent and efficient study sessions, it is crucial to establish a study plan and stick to it. Start by assessing your current commitments and creating a schedule that allows for dedicated study time. Allocate specific blocks for each subject and include breaks to avoid burnout. By following a structured study plan, you can stay organized and make steady progress toward your goals.

A female student studying in the library.

When creating your study plan, it is important to consider your individual learning style and preferences. Some people may prefer studying in shorter, focused bursts, while others may thrive with longer study sessions. Experiment with different study techniques and schedules to find what works best for you.

In addition to allocating specific blocks for each subject, it is also helpful to prioritize your study sessions. Identify the subjects or topics that require more attention or are more challenging for you, and allocate more time to those areas. This will ensure that you are dedicating enough time to fully understand and master the material.

Furthermore, it is essential to set realistic goals within your study plan. Break down larger topics or subjects into smaller, manageable chunks. This will not only make your study sessions more focused but also give you a sense of accomplishment as you complete each smaller goal. Celebrating these small victories along the way can help keep you motivated and engaged.

When creating your study plan, don’t forget to include regular breaks. Taking short breaks during your study sessions can actually enhance your productivity and focus. Use these breaks to rest, stretch, or engage in a quick physical activity to refresh your mind and body. Additionally, consider incorporating longer breaks into your study plan, such as a day off or a weekend break, to give yourself time to recharge and prevent burnout.

Remember that a study plan is not set in stone. It is important to regularly evaluate and adjust your plan as needed. If you find that certain study techniques or schedules are not working for you, don’t be afraid to make changes. Flexibility is key to maintaining a study plan that is effective and sustainable in the long run.

In conclusion, establishing and adhering to a well-structured study plan on how to study for the ACT is paramount for consistent and effective study sessions. By assessing your commitments, creating a schedule, prioritizing your study sessions, setting realistic goals, and incorporating regular breaks, you can stay organized, and motivated, and make steady progress toward your academic goals. Remember to be flexible and make adjustments as needed to ensure that your study plan is tailored to your individual needs and preferences.

Understand the Format of the ACT

Before diving into content review and practice questions, take the time to familiarize yourself with the format of the ACT. Understanding the format of the exam is crucial for success. Let’s explore the different sections, time limits, and question types so that you can strategize your study approach and manage your time effectively during the actual exam.

A students on his desk

The ACT is divided into four main sections: English, Math, Reading, and Science. Each section assesses different skills and knowledge areas, providing a comprehensive evaluation of your academic abilities.

The English section measures your understanding of grammar, usage, and rhetoric. It consists of multiple-choice questions that test your ability to identify errors, improve sentences, and enhance the overall clarity and effectiveness of written communication. This section is designed to evaluate your language skills and your ability to express ideas clearly and concisely.

The Math section evaluates your mathematical knowledge and problem-solving skills. It covers a wide range of topics, including algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and basic statistics. You will encounter multiple-choice questions that require you to apply mathematical concepts and formulas to solve problems. This section assesses your ability to analyze and interpret data, as well as your proficiency in mathematical reasoning.

The Reading section measures your reading comprehension skills. You will be presented with passages from various genres, such as fiction, humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. The questions will test your ability to understand the main ideas, draw inferences, analyze arguments, and evaluate the author’s tone and purpose. This section evaluates your ability to comprehend and analyze complex written texts.

The Science section assesses your scientific reasoning and problem-solving skills. It includes passages related to biology, chemistry, physics, and Earth/space sciences. The questions will require you to interpret data, analyze experimental designs, and draw conclusions based on scientific principles. This section evaluates your ability to think critically and apply scientific concepts to real-world scenarios.

Now that you have an overview of the sections, let’s talk about the time limits. The English section consists of 75 questions and has a time limit of 45 minutes. The Math section has 60 questions and a time limit of 60 minutes. The Reading section has 40 questions and a time limit of 35 minutes. Lastly, the Science section also has 40 questions and a time limit of 35 minutes. It is important to manage your time effectively to ensure that you have enough time to answer all the questions in each section.

Lastly, let’s discuss the types of questions you can expect on the ACT. The exam primarily consists of multiple-choice questions, where you will choose the best answer from the given options. However, the ACT also includes a Writing section, which is optional. If you choose to take the Writing section, you will be required to write an essay based on a given prompt. This section assesses your ability to develop and support a persuasive argument within a specified time frame.

By understanding the format of the ACT, you can tailor your study plan to focus on the specific skills and knowledge areas required for each section. This knowledge will help you approach the exam with confidence and maximize your chances of achieving your desired score.

Focus on Strengthening Weak Areas

Identifying your weak areas is crucial for targeted improvement. Take a practice test or review your previous scores to pinpoint the subjects or question types that challenge you the most. Allocate extra study time to these areas, seeking additional resources such as online tutorials or study guides. By focusing on strengthening your weak areas, you can boost your overall performance on the exam.

Utilize Quality Test Prep Materials

Investing in quality test prep materials can significantly enhance your study experience. Look for reputable ACT prep books, online courses, or mobile apps that provide comprehensive content review, practice questions, and test-taking strategies.

two people studying

These resources are specifically designed to align with the ACT exam and can give you valuable insights into the test structure and content expectations.

Take Advantage of ACT Practice Tests

Practice tests are invaluable tools for ACT preparation. Take advantage of official ACT practice tests or those offered by reputable test prep providers. Set aside time to simulate test conditions and work through each section within the designated time limits. By practicing under exam-like conditions, you can familiarize yourself with the pacing and build confidence in your abilities.

Break Up Your Study Time

Long study sessions can lead to mental fatigue and decreased productivity. Instead, break up your study time into smaller, focused chunks. Aim for sessions of 30-60 minutes, followed by short breaks. This approach can enhance concentration, retention, and overall learning efficiency. Remember to adjust the duration based on your personal preferences and attention span.

Learn Test-Taking Strategies

While content knowledge is essential, understanding effective test-taking strategies is equally important. Familiarize yourself with techniques such as process of elimination, time management, and question prioritization. By employing these strategies during practice and on test day, you can maximize your score potential and approach questions with greater confidence.

Get Plenty of Rest

As you devote time and effort to studying for the ACT, it is crucial to prioritize your sleep and overall well-being. Aim for at least 7-8 hours of sleep each night to ensure optimal cognitive function. A well-rested mind retains information better and performs more effectively during the exam. Additionally, maintain a healthy lifestyle by eating nutritious meals and engaging in regular physical activity to support your overall well-being.

Make a Study Schedule

A study schedule is an essential tool to keep yourself accountable and track your progress. Create a weekly or monthly plan that outlines your study goals, designated study times, and specific tasks you need to complete. This visual representation of your study commitments can help you stay motivated, organized, and on track toward achieving your target score.

Review Material Regularly

Consistent review is key to reinforcing your knowledge and staying engaged with the content. Set aside dedicated time to review previously studied material, even if you’ve moved on to new topics. Regular review sessions can help solidify concepts in your mind and prevent information from fading over time.

Young male studying in a library.


In conclusion, studying for the ACT requires careful planning, dedication, and a structured approach. By following these tips on how to study effectively for the ACT, you can maximize your score potential and approach the exam with confidence. Remember to establish a study plan, focus on your weak areas, and utilize practice tests and quality resources. With consistent effort and a positive mindset, you can achieve success on this important college admissions exam.

Having all the necessary information is important before choosing any course of action. AdmissionSight is always here to assist you with any questions or concerns. We have more than ten years of expertise assisting students in successfully navigating the challenging admissions process.

Consult with AdmissionSight and find out what we can do to help you get into the school of your choice by ensuring that you are sufficiently aware and well-prepared for the application process.


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