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How to Study for Each Section of the ACT

Studying for the ACT can be a really daunting and boring task. How do you prepare for a test with multiple sections when there's no specific chapters or lessons to study from? Well, it can be done...here's how.

Studying for the ACT can be a really daunting and boring task. How do you prepare for a test with multiple sections when there’s no specific chapters or lessons to study from? Well, studying for the ACT can be done, and here’s how it can be done effectively.

Related: So You Want a 36: How to Study for the ACT in 4 Easy Steps

Understanding each section of the test

Make sure you know what each section of the ACT entails, how much time you have to complete each section, and how many questions there are. You can find sample questions for each section online to familiarize yourself with the exam.

The English section

75 questions

45 minutes

For the English section, you have to focus on your grammar skills and understanding of paragraph structure. To study for this section, you can brush up on your basic grammar techniques such as comma placement, semicolons, clause structure, etc. To tackle paragraph structure, make sure you know the proper way in which paragraphs are formed, including topic sentences, supporting sentences, and concluding sentences.

The Reading section

40 questions

35 minutes

Preparing for a section that deals with reading comprehension can seem difficult because the passages change for every version of the ACT, but it is possible. Find practice ACTs and do as many of the reading passages as you can. Practice finding answers within the reading and recognizing/eliminating the answers you automatically know are not correct. It is especially important to practice reading ACT passages in order to get your timing correct, because time is valuable on the ACT.

The Math section

60 questions

60 minutes

The Math section of the ACT has easy questions, medium questions, and hard questions. Use practice ACTs and do the easy problems first, leaving the ones you may not be able to do immediately until you are done with all of the easy problems. Brush up on simple formulas such as areas, circumference, and trigonometric functions. Make sure you know how to plug these formulas into your calculator.

The Science section

40 questions

35 minutes

The Science section is more about interpreting graphs and passages than knowing chemistry or biology. To study for this section of the ACT, practice looking at scientific graphs and understanding them. Again, look at practice ACTs to get a feel for what types of graphs and passages you will have to interpret, and practice analyzing them. You’ll need to find data directly from these sources and also be able to infer information from them.

The Writing section (optional)

1 essay

40 minutes

The Writing section of the ACT is completely optional, but some schools do require it in order to apply. A lot of high schools will recommend that you do the Writing section just in case you end up applying to a college that requires it. This section includes a prompt and three blurbs framing different perspectives on the prompt. You will have 40 minutes to write an essay that discusses your opinion on the prompt and how each perspective may agree or disagree with what you believe. It’s very important that your paragraphs transition nicely into each other and that your writing is clear. It can help to practice writing out five-paragraph essays so you can get the timing right. Make sure you allot a few minutes before you begin writing to outline your essay. Just remember: the quality of your writing is more important than how long the essay is!

Related: Essential Tips, Tricks, and Strategies for Taking the SAT and ACT

Overall, studying for the ACT can seem overwhelming, but you’ll be in good shape if you follow these tips. Make sure you look at practice ACTs and even complete some before you take the ACT for real. And don’t forget: there are no penalties for wrong answers, so if you’re not sure about something, you may as well guess. You’re on your way to doing well. Good luck!

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