Tips for a Higher ACT Score

The key to a higher ACT score? Be strategic in your studying. Here are 10 tips to help you do just that.

If your ACT score—whether on practice tests or the official exam—isn't where you want it to be, don't give up! It may not seem like it, but now is exactly the right time to double down on your ACT prep. (Especially if you’re taking this year’s June ACT!)

The key to a higher ACT score? Be strategic in your studying, and make sure you're using the best possible resources. With that in mind, here are 10 tips to guide your studying and get you that higher score on your ACT!

Related: Standardized Test Timeline for High School Students: What to Take and When?

  • Take a diagnostic test. If you've already taken the official ACT or practice tests, those can serve the same purpose, but you may find that it's helpful to take a practice exam right now to see where your current strengths and weaknesses are. Speaking of which…
  • Take the PreACT—but don't let it bring you down! If you're worrying about your PreACT scores not hitting your ideal range, don't! The PreACT is a great way to familiarize yourself with the test, and it does give you a very general idea of where you could score on the ACT—but those results are not set in stone! There's a lot you can do between the PreACT and your official ACT test to bring your scores up…and sometimes way higher.
  • Create a realistic test prep schedule. Take out a blank calendar (you can print free ones online or use Google Calendar, also free) and calculate how long you have until test day. Then add in all of your previous commitments, from travel to after-school activities. Look at the time you have remaining and decide how much you're willing to devote to ACT study. This will help you determine exactly how to prepare, because you're going to…
  • Prioritize broadly. Using the results of your diagnostic ACT test (see tip #1), look at your sectional scores. Which scores are bringing down your average, or composite, score? Which sections do you need to focus on to really boost your score?
  • Create an error log. After looking at your test as a whole, go into each section and start making an error log. Whether you use a notebook or a Google Doc, this is where you’ll record the ACT questions you got wrong, as well as their solutions and explanations. It's useful to put the problems themselves on one side of the paper or notebook and the solutions on the other so you can cover the answers up for easier practice. Also, make sure to put a date by each problem so you can track your progress!
  • Be your own guide. The tips above will put you on the path to being your own ACT guide and tutor. Keep evaluating where you are in your studies, where you want to go, and the problem types you'll need to master in order to get there. Know that your ACT score—and your progress!—are in your own hands. With the right tools, you can achieve your dream score.
  • Use the test maker's materials. That's right; ACT (the company) has free prep material. This is a great place to start if you're not sure where to look for legitimate, real-world test prep help. However, their free resources are limited, so you're also going to want to look at…
  • The best free resources. Whether it's ACT practice tests or an ACT study guide, there are a lot of excellent materials out there that don't cost a dime. This includes products like apps and even books, so poke around before you start forking out your hard-earned cash on expensive test prep books!
  • Plan to take the test twice. Most high school students find that they get their best scores by taking the ACT two times. It can seem a little overwhelming, but think about it: it also takes the pressure off. Just go in and do your best, analyze the results, then get right back on your study path for the next test.
  • Keep going! Finally, know that everybody gets stuck from time to time as they study for any standardized test. Plateaus are really, really common. So when you hit one, just evaluate what's holding your progress back, do some drills, take more practice tests, update your error log—and know that with smart and regular practice, you will get ACT higher scores!

How are you prepping for the ACT, and what’s your plan for getting a higher score? Leave your expert tips (or your questions!) in the comments below.

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About Rachel Kapelke-Dale

Rachel Kapelke-Dale blogs about graduate school admission for Magoosh. She has a BA from Brown University, and did her own graduate work at the Université de Paris VII (Master Recherche) and University College London (PhD). She has taught and written about test preparation and admission practices for eight years.


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