How to prepare for the ACT?

Firstly, let us understand what the ACT is, how it is structured and how with dedication and the right tools you can get a high score. 

The ACT tests reading, writing and math skills. The exam has an additional writing test which is optional. Besides the English, Math, and Reading, there is a Science section which tests your interpretation and analysis skills. There is no negative marking in the ACT and you can guess without penalty. The score range for the ACT is 1-36.


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Test Questions Time Content
English 75 Questions 60 minutes Measures standard written English and rhetorical skills.
Mathematics 60 Questions 60 minutes Measures mathematical skills students have typically acquired in courses taken up to the beginning of grade 12.
Reading 40 Questions 35 minutes Measures reading comprehension.
Science 40 Questions 35 minutes Measures the interpretation, analysis, evaluation, reason- ing, and problem solving skills required in the natural sciences.
Optional Writing Test 1 prompt 40 minutes Measures writing skills emphasized in high school English classes and in entry- level college composition courses.

ACT Science Test

One of the four sections of the ACT is a Science test. The purpose of this test is to measure a student’s interpretation, analysis, evaluation, reasoning, and problem-solving skills required in the natural sciences. However, this test can be done by students who have never studied science before and should not be a deterrent in taking the ACT. Generally, the Science Test is conducted last (after English, Math and Reading but before the optional writing test) and hence a student may be tired by the time he or she reaches the Science test. Be aware of this and practice full length exams under timed conditions.

More about ACT

ACT is widely accepted at US institutions. If time permits, it might be a good idea to take the SAT as well as the ACT and then send the best scores to the institutes you are applying to.

ACT Tips


Check out the details related to your test centre location and date availability at the said location before you book the appointment. Register at least two months in advance. Create an account once you have fixed these two elements and register online for the ACT. You will need certain details including clear digital photos.

Test Prep

Before you start preparing for the ACT, you should know that the best foundation for your ACT is your schoolwork. You should focus on your school curriculum and undertake advanced coursework wherever possible. Test yourself regularly to keep track of your progress.

To avoid nerves and stress as much as possible, familiarize yourself with the ACT format. Learn how long the sections takes, how it is scored, how long the breaks are and practise accordingly closer to the test date.

You can use a permitted calculator for Math section of the ACT.

Practise a little daily.


You will find up to 4 passages on topics ranging from Prose Fiction, Social Science, Humanities to Natural Science. You will then have around 10 questions to answer for each of the passages. The first thing you should do is give the passage a quick read and then look at the questions. Then go back and carefully read the passage and find the correct answers. Look specifically for the evidence which supports your answer choice. Eliminate answers that seem wrong and double-check your answer choice. Do not spend too much time on a question that is difficult or confusing. You have 4 passages and 35 minutes for the entire section, so time management is critical. And guess! There’s no negative marking.


Questions on the ACT Math Test are distributed among Algebra, Geometry and Trigonometry questions. If Trigonometry scares you, don’t sweat as there are only 4 questions (out of 60) that are trigonometry based. Formulas are not needed and hence don’t waste your time memorizing formulas for the ACT Math test. You are permitted to use a calculator and hence save time by familiarizing yourself with a calculator. The Math test is in order of difficulty and hence you will get easier questions first and then harder ones. The best way to crack a Math section is by practice. So keep practising.


Even though the test name contains the word ‘science’, the ACT Science test is more about the logical conclusion and analytical ability. The questions are not to test your knowledge of science but instead are based on test data interpretation and experiments. Again, time management is critical to answering the passage-based questions as you have 35 minutes to review 7 passages and answer 40 questions. Remember to work through the passages you are more comfortable with first and then move on to the tougher ones that suck up more of your time.

Before test day

Get your travel plans in order before the day of the test. See how long it takes you to travel and be certain to reach before time as late entries are not allowed to give the test.
Do not change your appearance compared to your photo ID before the test day. Your face needs to match the ID perfectly so if you have any alterations, you might face issues.

Test day prep

Things you should carry- admission ticket, photo ID which is the physical original in plastic card format and not on a paper, a photocopy or an electronic version or if you cannot produce this, an ACT Student Identification Form that is completed by a school official or notary public, calculators that are approved by the ACT board, a basic watch that only shows time and does not record or store any information, a small snack for your break and water.
Things you should not carry- any electronic devices including your phones, stationery material. You will not be able to use your cellphones during your breaks as well. Any form of ID that does not conform to either of the given formats will not be accepted.

Who needs to give the SAT?

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Top Universities in the US

Even if there may be some options for students who are not planning to give the ACT, if you want to study at a well-ranked university like Harvard, MIT, Stanford, Yale, and University of California, the ACT is indispensable. Find more about studying in the US here.​

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Top Universities in the Canada

Similar to the US, there may be a few universities in Canada which can allow you to apply for a bachelors program without the ACT but if you want to enrol at the best universities in the country like the University of Toronto, University of British Columbia or McGill University, a good ACT score is required. Find more about studying in Canada here.

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Top Universities in the Singapore

Like the US, most bachelors programs in Singapore under NUS, SIM, or Nanyang University require ACT as a part of their application requirements. Find more about studying in Singapore here.


36 is the highest score you can get in the ACT.

You should ideally study for at least 3- 4 months. This depends on your ability to grasp information and the time you can dedicate to studying and practicing. 

This depends on your preferences but the most difficult questions in each section usually come towards the end of the section. This is what people find most challenging.


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