Seven Ways to Increase Your ACT Score

After gaining on the SAT for many years, the ACT became the more popular test with the Class of 2012.    Increasingly students favor the achievement-style ACT with four core sections (English, Math, Reading, Science) and an optional Writing section over the aptitude-style SAT focused on vocabulary, reading comprehension, general reasoning, writing, and problem-solving skills.

The ACT includes science and trigonometry, neither of which is found on the SAT.  Students who aren’t avid readers are often more comfortable with the less extensive  ACT vocabulary.  The SAT focuses more on vocabulary while the ACT concentrates on grammar, punctuation and syntax.  The ACT, with its knowledge-based questions, is considered more straightforward than the SAT.

Another key difference between the tests is the length.  Students are given less time to complete the ACT’s  215 questions than for the SAT’s 140 questions.  Since the ACT allows significantly less time to answer each question, it is not unusual for slower readers to have trouble completing all the ACT questions within the allowed time. Since there is no penalty for wrong answers, being able to finish the ACT is essential for maximizing your score.

Since the ACT is a curriculum-based test, many students are able to significantly improve their scores with practice and familiarity with the exam.  These resources can help:

ACT or SAT?: Choosing the Right Exam For You

Before investing a lot of time prepping for the ACT or SAT, it is helpful to consider which exam may be best suited for you.   ACT or SAT?: Choosing the Right Exam For You (College Admissions Guides) created by The Princeton Review, and available at Amazon, can help you decide based on an assessment of your strengths, weaknesses and personal test-taking skills.

ACT Testing Timer Watch

One of the biggest challenges students face on the ACT  is time management. Many students spend valuable test time checking the clock to figure out how much time is left and if they are on pace to finish.  Made specifically for the ACT, and available at Amazon, the Testing Timers ACT aTest Timer Watch contains preset timing for all 5 sections of the test: English, Math, Reading, Science and Writing.

Designed for alternate use as a regular watch, the Testing Timers ACT aTest Timer Watch,  is programmed to help students pace themselves when they prep for, and take, the ACT entrance exam.  The watch helps keep students on pace to complete each section. That is particularly important on the ACT. Because there is no penalty for a wrong answer, students should try to answer every question.

Official ACT  Website & Test Prep Book

The ACT Student Test Prep ( section of the Official Act website provides both free and inexpensive ways to prepare for the ACT including three retired exams, diagnostics, content review, practice questions and test-taking tips covering all four subjects: Math, Reading, Science and English. There are also tips for the optional essay section.  The Real ACT (CD) 3rd Edition (Real Act Prep Guide) from the ACT, available at Amazon, is the leading ACT test prep book for the exam.

Erik The Red – Math Guides and Must Know Formulas

One of my favorite resources is Erik The Red.  Compiled by a master test prep tutor, this website is full of FREE information and resources for learning SAT math and ACT math. Much of the content is in the form of PDF files available directly from the sidebar.  Many of my consulting clients have found his guides and worksheet extremely help.  Thank you Erik!

Painless Grammar

Many students complain that they were not taught proper grammar, or that they forgot what they learned. With some study, students can master what they need to know for entrance exams. Painless Grammar an A+ resource to improve your grammar and ACT score.


The ACT includes a Science section which is heavy on graph reading and data analysis.  Many students feel they don’t have enough time to carefully read the passages, analyze the graphs & tables, and answer the questions.  Some test-takers prefer to start with the questions and find the answers.   ACT Science Mastery  and Math and Science Prep for the SAT & ACT: 2 Books in 1 (College Test Preparation) can help.

Practice Makes Perfect – Princeton Review / McGraw Hill

Many students increase their ACT scores with serious preparation.  Some work with private coaches while others self-study, reviewing the fundamentals and  taking mock exams such as the ones found in  Cracking the ACT, 2013 Edition (College Test Preparation) and McGraw-Hill’s 10 ACT Practice Tests, Third Edition.

Lynn Radlauer Lubell, Publisher of and Founder of Admission By Design, an Educational Consultancy based in Boca Raton, Florida.

Print Friendly