Tips for Taking the ACT

The ACT is a national college admission examination that consists of subject area tests in English, mathematics, reading, and science with an optional writing exam.  The ACT includes 215 multiple-choice questions and takes approximately three hours and 30 minutes to complete with breaks (or just over four hours if taking the Writing Test).  Actual testing time is two hours and 55 minutes (plus 30 minutes for the Writing Test).

ACT results are accepted by all U.S. colleges and universities. The basic registration fee includes score reports for up to four college choices for which a valid code is listed at time of registration.

The ACT can be an important factor in college education. Not only is it an important criteria for admission to most universities but some degree programs also use scores to determine admission. For these reasons it is important to prepare carefully before taking the exam.

The best preparation for the ACT is taking a solid high school program that includes courses in English, math, science, and social studies and taking your school work seriously.  But it’s also true that attitude, emotion, and physical state may influence performance.

So start preparing early and know what to expect on the test day.  Read all the information in the registration packet and take the complete practice test included.

On test day itself make sure to:

Carefully read the instructions on the cover of the test booklet.

Read the directions for each section carefully.

Read each question carefully.

Pace yourself—don’t spend too much time on a single passage or question.

~ Use a soft lead No. 2 pencil with a good eraser; do not use a mechanical pencil, ink pen or correction fluid.

Answer the easy questions first, then go back and answer the more difficult ones.

On difficult questions, eliminate as many incorrect answers as you can, then make an educated guess among those remaining.

Answer every question. Your scores on the multiple-choice tests are based on the number of questions you answer correctly. There is no penalty for guessing.

Review your work. If you finish a test before time is up, go back and check your work.

Mark your answers neatly. If you erase, erase completely and cleanly without smudging.

Do not mark or alter any ovals on a test or continue writing on the writing Test after time has been called or you will be disqualified from the exam.

~ You’ll have 30 minutes to read and think about the issue in the writing prompt, and to plan and write your essay.

Do some planning before writing the essay. Carefully consider the prompt and make sure you understand it. Think of how best to organize the ideas in your essay. Use specific examples.

Preparing for the ACT is important for your college education and your future.

About the Author

Deanna Mascle writes about many college, learning and education topics. Visit her blog Teens Learn More at

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