How Do You Improve Your ACT Scores?
Updated: Dec 13, 2021
Most students take the ACT for the first time in either February or April of their junior year. Unfortunately, not many students will hit a home run on their first ACT sitting. But don’t worry, you can take the ACT again; actually, you can take the ACT up to 12 times but I wouldn’t advise doing that!
Of the students who took the ACT more than once, 57% increased their overall Composite score. With tutoring and rigorous preparation, re-takers could surpass a 57% increase.
1. Review ACT Score Report
First, look at the score report to see if you omitted any questions. If you left blank any questions on the ACT, then make sure you don’t skip any on the next sitting; there is no guessing penalty on the ACT, so answer all questions!
2. Focus On What Needs Your Attention
Next, use the score report to identify the types of academic skills that you need to focus on the most. If you scored wrong on most of the geometry questions, then you need to spend the next few months solidifying your lines and angles, triangles, circles, quadrilaterals, solids, and coordinate geometry.
3. Utilize Your Time Wisely
Also, analyze your mistakes to see if your time would be better utilized by skipping around on certain sections. For example, if you want to score higher on the science, then you might want to find all of the chart-based “data representation” passages and tackle those before working on the more challenging “research summaries” and “conflicting viewpoint” passages.
4. Review For String of Errors
Finally, look to see if you had a string of errors toward the end of each section. If so, you probably need to work on pacing. Did your errors on the reading comprehension appear toward the end?
If so, you need to work on reading faster; remember, you want to spend about 8 minutes and 45 seconds per reading passage to finish on time.
On the math section, you want to work quickly but carefully through the first 30 easy questions, so you give yourself ample time to get through the last 30 medium/difficult math questions.
ACT Suggestion: My suggestion is to practice finishing the first 30 math questions in 25 minutes. If you can give yourself 35 minutes to do the last 30 math questions, then you’ll feel much more confident once the proctor says “pencils down”.
Taking the ACT like any standardized test is a marathon that requires ample preparation to ensure success. If you didn’t prepare enough the first time around, then use the time in between tests to double, or triple up on the homework. I recommend studying 3-6 hours per week for maximum benefit. Check out our Podcast or Blog and you’ll find free helpful ACT tutorials there.
In preparation for your ACT re-take, I discourage enrolling in ACT group classes because group sessions typically will not address the areas you need to focus on the most.
ACT Suggestion: My suggestion for optimal preparation is to find either an experienced private tutor who can work with you one-on-one or study on your own.
If you haven’t already done so, purchase the latest edition of The Real ACT Prep Guide and take one practice test per week or every other week. Get it on amazon.com for the best rate.
Good luck students!
Author: Alexis Avila is a private tutor and founder/CEO of Prepped and Polished, LLC – a tutoring and test preparation company out of Boston, Massachusetts. He has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan - Ann Arbor and a master's in counseling psychology from the University of Wisconsin – Madison. He has more than ten years of full-time tutoring experience with a specialty in the ACT and SAT.