How to prepare for the ACT?

To prepare for the ACT, start by familiarising yourself with the test content, which includes English, Maths, Reading, Science, and an optional Writing section. Study using official ACT materials, such as practice tests and review guides, to understand the format and types of questions asked. Master test-taking strategies by practising time management, understanding how to approach different question types efficiently, and reviewing mistakes to learn from them. Consistent practice, coupled with strategic preparation, will enhance your confidence and readiness for success on the ACT.

What Are the ACT Sections?


Purpose: The English section assesses your understanding of grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, and rhetorical skills.

Format: Multiple-choice questions primarily based on passages that test your ability to revise and edit written text for clarity, coherence, and style.

Skills Assessed: Grammar, usage, punctuation, sentence structure, strategy, organisation, and style.



Purpose: The Math section evaluates your mathematical reasoning and problem-solving abilities.

Format: Multiple-choice questions covering algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and precalculus. Calculators are allowed for certain questions but not all.

Skills Assessed: Number and quantity, algebra, functions, geometry, statistics, probability, and trigonometry.



Purpose: The Reading section measures your comprehension of complex texts and your ability to make inferences and draw conclusions.

Format: Multiple-choice questions based on passages from various subjects like prose fiction, social science, humanities, and natural science.

Skills Assessed: Understanding main ideas, identifying supporting details, making inferences, analysing literary devices, and evaluating arguments.



Purpose: The Science section tests your interpretation, analysis, evaluation, and problem-solving skills related to scientific information.

Format: Multiple-choice questions based on passages and data sets related to biology, chemistry, physics, and earth/space sciences.

Skills Assessed: Interpretation of data, scientific investigation, evaluation of models, understanding of experimental methodologies, and reasoning skills.


Writing (Optional)

Purpose: The Writing section assesses your ability to produce a written response to a given prompt.

Format: One essay prompt requiring you to present your perspective on an issue and support it with evidence and reasoning. This section is optional.

Skills Assessed: Writing skills, clarity of expression, logical reasoning, coherence of argument, and ability to use evidence effectively.

How Long is the ACT?

The duration of the ACT exam varies depending on whether you choose to include the optional writing section. Without the writing section, the ACT lasts 2 hours and 55 minutes. If you opt for the writing section, the total time increases to 3 hours and 35 minutes.

How Much Does the ACT Cost?

Test Description Fees

The full ACT (no writing)

Generate reports for yourself and up to four colleges by providing their respective codes during registration.


The full ACT with writing

Generate reports for yourself and up to four colleges by providing their respective codes during registration.


Test option change

You have the option to include or exclude the writing test in your MyACT registration up until the late deadline.


Late registration

A modification to the registration or test date is requested after the regular deadline has passed.


Change fee

Includes making a Test Centre Change or Test Date Change


Score reports to 5th and 6th college choices

Submit your request online before the test date. If you opt not to take the test, refunds are available upon written request.


Additional Score Reports

After registering, you have the option to request additional score reports online.


What Should You Bring to the ACT?

Please ensure you bring the following items with you to the test centre:


Admission ticket: 

Print a copy of your admission ticket containing vital information like your reporting location.


Photo identification: 

You must have valid photo identification issued by a city, state, or federal government agency or your school. The ID must be in plastic card format, with your first and last names matching the roster. Ensure the photo is recognisable as you.



You may bring a watch to manage your time during the test. However, smartwatches or those with alarms are not permitted. During the test, your watch must be placed on your desk face up. If your alarm sounds, you will be dismissed and your test will not be scored. Note that the computer-based ACT® test provides an onscreen timer to assist with pacing.


Approved calculator: 

A permitted calculator is allowed for use in the mathematics test only. It is your responsibility to ensure your calculator meets the required criteria.



Snacks are permitted only during breaks outside the test room. Keep them under your desk and refrain from accessing them during the test.

ACT Tips for Practice Tests

Mimic Test Conditions:

When you sit down to take a practice test, try to recreate the exact conditions of the real exam. Find a quiet place where you won't be disturbed, gather all the necessary materials (pencils, erasers, calculator), and strictly adhere to the time limits for each section. This will help you get accustomed to the actual test conditions.


Review Mistakes: 

After completing a practice test, don't just move on to the next one. Take the time to review any mistakes you made. Identify any patterns in your mistakes so you can focus on improving those specific areas.


Focus on Time Management: 

Time management is crucial for success in the ACT. Practice pacing yourself so you can complete each section within the allocated time. If you find spending too much time on a particular question, it may be better to guess and move on rather than risk running out of time later. Use practice tests to refine your time management strategies.


Simulate Real Exam Settings: 

Try to make your practice tests feel as much like the real exam as possible. This means taking the test in one sitting, with short breaks between sections, just like you would on test day. Avoid distractions and stay focused throughout the entire duration of the test. By simulating the real exam environment, you'll be better prepared for the test day experience.


Focus on Difficult Sections

Identify the sections of the ACT where you struggle the most.

Allocate more time to practising these challenging sections.

Seek additional resources or guidance to improve your understanding of topics.

Pay attention to other sections, but give extra attention to those needing improvement.


Make a Study Plan

Create a structured study plan that outlines when and how you will practice for the ACT.

Set specific goals for each study session, focusing on different sections or skills.

Allocate sufficient time for regular practice while balancing other commitments.

Review and adjust your study plan to stay on track and address weaknesses effectively.


Practice Efficiency

Prioritise quality over quantity in your practice sessions.

Focus on understanding the concepts behind each question rather than simply memorising answers.

Use resources such as practice tests, study guides, and tutoring to maximise the effectiveness of your practice.

Analyse your performance to identify areas for improvement and adjust your approach.


By following these tips and regularly practising with official ACT practice tests, you'll be able to improve your performance and feel more confident on test day.

How Many Times Can You Retake the ACT?

Under the guidelines for retaking the ACT, candidates have the opportunity to retake the examination up to a total of 12 times. However, there is a restriction imposed, allowing a maximum of three attempts per testing year. It means that within a single year, candidates can sit for the test a maximum of three times. This provision aims to ensure that individuals have adequate chances to improve their scores while also maintaining fairness and preventing excessive test-taking. Therefore, candidates should strategically plan their attempts to utilise the allotted opportunities effectively.

ACT Tips and Tricks

Here are some ACT tips and tricks tailored to help you manage your time effectively, employ subject-specific strategies, utilise practice tests, and reduce stress:


Time Management:


Set a Pace: Allocate a specific amount of time to each section based on the number of questions and the total time given. For instance, the English section has 75 questions and 45 minutes aim to spend about 36-37 seconds per question.

Prioritise: Begin with the questions you find easiest to tackle. It helps you build momentum and gain confidence, leaving more time for difficult questions later.

Skip and Return: If you encounter a particularly challenging question, don't dwell on it. Mark it and move on. Return to it later if time permits.

Use Breaks Wisely: The ACT provides short breaks between sections. Use these to stretch, take deep breaths, and mentally prepare for the next section.


Subject Strategies:


English: Focus on grammar rules and punctuation. Look for errors first and then consider sentence structure and coherence.

Mathematics: Understand the formulas and concepts thoroughly. Practice mental math to save time. Don’t spend too long on one question; if you get stuck, move on and return later.

Reading: Skim through passages quickly before delving into the questions. Look for keywords and main ideas. Practice summarising paragraphs to improve comprehension.

Science: Prioritise data interpretation and analysis. Focus on understanding graphs, charts, and experimental setups. Remember, the Science section is more about critical thinking than prior scientific knowledge.


Practice Tests:

Regular Practice: Consistent practice is the key. Use official ACT practice tests to simulate exam conditions as closely as possible.

Review Mistakes: After completing a practice test, thoroughly review incorrect answers. Understand why you got them wrong and learn from your mistakes.

Time Yourself: Time yourself during practice tests to simulate exam conditions. It helps in building stamina and improving time management skills.


Stress Reduction Techniques:

Deep Breathing: Practice breathing exercises to calm your nerves before and during the exam. Inhale deeply,  hold your breath for a few seconds and exhale slowly.

Positive Visualisation: Visualise yourself succeeding in the exam. Imagine confidently answering questions and completing the test within the allocated time.

Physical Exercise: Engage in light physical activity such as walking or stretching to alleviate stress and boost focus.

Healthy Habits: Maintain a healthy lifestyle with proper sleep, nutrition, and hydration in the days leading up to the exam.



Know Your Time Limits

Familiarise yourself with the time constraints for each section of the ACT.

Allocate time wisely, ensuring you don't spend too much time on a question or section.


Be Sure to Read the Directions

Take a moment to carefully read the instructions for each section to avoid making careless mistakes.

Understanding what is expected of you can help you approach questions more effectively.


Consider Returning to Difficult Questions

If you encounter a challenging question, don't dwell on it for too long.

Mark it, and move on to other questions. Return to the difficult ones if you have time left.


Set a Target Score

Determine a realistic target score based on your college or scholarship requirements.

Having a clear goal can motivate you during preparation and help you stay focused during the exam.


Answer Every Question

There's no penalty for incorrect answers on the ACT, so ensure you respond to every question, even if unsure.

Eliminate wrong choices and make an educated guess to increase your chances of scoring points.


Remember, preparation is the key to success in the ACT. Implementing these tips and strategies can boost your confidence, manage your time effectively, and perform your best on test day.


In conclusion, achieving success in the ACT requires a multifaceted approach centred on subject mastery, practice tests, time management, and stress reduction techniques. Firstly, mastering the subjects tested is crucial; this involves understanding key concepts and practising them regularly. Additionally, taking practice tests under exam conditions helps to familiarise oneself with the format and time constraints of the ACT, thereby improving performance on the actual exam. Effective time management during the test ensures that each section is completed within the allocated time, maximising the opportunity to answer all questions accurately. Finally, implementing stress reduction strategies, such as mindfulness or deep breathing exercises, can help maintain focus and confidence during the exam. By prioritising these aspects, students can optimise their preparation and increase their chances of success in the ACT.

Who needs to give the ACT?

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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.​

Karan gupta consulting

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.

Karan gupta consulting

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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