How to Approach the ACT (part I)


No matter how long you have before test day, taking an ACT practice test at the beginning of your preparation is vital. This acts as a “diagnostic”, while it doesn’t tell you anything about your potential score on test day, it does give you a sense of what your score might be if you took the exam right now.

However, the most valuable part of taking a practice test actually isn’t the scores. The reason a lot of students invest so much time and effort into taking practice tests and then see little to no increase in their scores on test day is because they’re using the practice tests wrong.



That’s right--not all practice makes perfect! Only perfect practice makes perfect.

That doesn’t mean that you have to be perfect in your practice. After all, if you were perfect at answering ACT questions - why practice? What it does mean is that your mindset, practice materials, and test strategies should all be top-notch.

With the huge amount of ACT prep materials out there, it can be difficult to know where to start. Here’s what you need to look for:

That’s it! Of course, there are two big caveats: first, those materials should be as test-like as possible. Check out the ACT’s website to get a sense of what the test questions actually look like. Taking a diagnostic test can also help you do this.

Second, you want to make sure that both the practice tests you take and the problem sets you do have thorough and clear explanations. Just giving you the correct answer isn’t enough. If you want to check out some great practice problems while getting an overview of the content the ACT tests, Magoosh’s ACT study guide is a great place to start. 


Special thanks to Rachel Kapelke-Dale for providing us with this article. Rachel is a High School and Graduate Exams blogger at Magoosh. She has a Bachelor of Arts from Brown University, an MA from the Université de Paris VII, and a PhD from University College London. She has taught test preparation and consulted on admissions practices for over eight years. Currently, Rachel divides her time between the US and London.