10 Tips for Smooth-Sailing on ACT Test Day

10 Tips for Smooth-Sailing on ACT Test Day

This post originally appeared on the Magoosh ACT blog.

It’s ACT test day! You’ve studied thoroughly, reviewed key resources (like a math problem or two from Magoosh’s free ACT eBook) and have packed your backpack with your sharpest #2 pencils. You’re aiming for a good ACT score, but really, you just want to get through today. Here are some easy, breezy tips for smooth sailing on ACT test day: 

  1. Use the answer choices on the ACT Math Test. If you can’t figure out how to set up the algebra to solve, using an ACT Math strategy like plugging in can definitely lead to better scores. Use the answer choices to your advantage, trying each one out, by backsolving, then looking for the choice that confirms the information in the question-stem.
  2. Bubble in as soon as you find the answer. Don’t wait until the end of the ACT test to mark your answers. If you accidentally run out of time and haven’t bubbled any in, you won’t get any points for answers circled in the test booklet, so get them down on that scantron as you go!
  3. Write a strong thesis for the ACT Writing Test. To ace the ACT Writing Test, make sure you only choose ONE side of the ACT Writing prompt to support. Don’t try to “hedge your bets” or have it both ways. Choose the side of which you can think of the best examples, and make the best argument you can. Remember, this is a test of your writing abilities, not your opinions!
  4. Don’t be tempted to cheat! A surefire way to get a bad ACT score is to constantly compare yourself to the test-takers around you. The ACT is only one step in the college admissions process. Don’t put so much pressure on yourself that you can’t focus. And definitely don’t copy your neighbor’s answers. Your best guess is probably better than theirs!
  5. Don’t leave any questions blank. The ACT is a nice alternative to the SAT for some test-takers because unlike the SAT, the ACT has no wrong answer penalty. This is a very importance difference. This means you should answer every single ACT test question. Don’t leave anything blank on your ACT practice tests; set a standard and follow it throughout your test prep.
  6. Leave the pens at home! Use a soft lead No. 2 pencil with a good eraser. According to the official ACT website, a mechanical pencil or ink pen is not recommended. If you use one, you run the risk of your answer sheet not being scored accurately on test day.
  7. Skip the harder questions if you need to.  If you find yourself spending more than 2 minutes on any one ACT test question, you might want to consider skipping it. Better scores come from good pacing, and the most important ACT test tip is to manage your time wisely. In fact, time management is a very necessary skill you will need in college, so if you can demonstrate that ability in your college application with a good ACT score, you will already have a leg up!
  8. Underline, circle and jot down notes on the ACT Reading Test. These passages can be long. Combat boredom, confusion, and tedium with “active reading.” Look for the main idea of each paragraph, the author’s point of view, and the overall purpose of the passage as you read. Don’t be afraid to circle, underline, or make marks in your test booklet!
  9. Don’t try to do complex calculations in your head. Act the ACT Math test by solving each problem methodically. It’s possible to make mistakes on even the most straightforward calculations, especially when you are under timing pressure.
  10. Remember some basic Science-related vocabulary words. Vocab like independent variables, dependent variables, direct variation, and indirect variation. Look for how the data is presented and how the different variables interact with one another.

Now deep breaths, chin up, and go conquer that ACT!

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