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  • Writer's pictureZitlali Garcia

Mastering the ACT: Proven Tips and Strategies for Success

Hey Jags!

Tuesday October 3rd, all 11th and 12th-grade students at IDEA Judson will take the ACT exam. For the juniors, this will be the first time they take the ACT while for the seniors, this will be the last time they can take the ACT for it to count towards their college applications.

Basics of the ACT

ACT Logo

The ACT is a standardized college admissions exam. Some colleges are test-optional, meaning they don't require you to submit your scores, but they still allow you to submit them if you feel they strengthen your application. However, many schools require an ACT score. Whichever school you apply to though, test-optional or not, getting a high score on the ACT can strengthen your college application and allow you to receive more financial aid. For more information about the ACT, head to our blog "Unlocking Success: Your Comprehensive Guide to Acing the ACT".

Tips & Tricks


As someone who has taken this exam four times, (including one time in seventh grade!) I'd say I'm fairly familiar with the ACT. I won't lie; the ACT is a challenging exam that not only requires vast knowledge about English, Reading, Science, and Math, but also demands high testing-stamina due to its length (it's a 3-hour and 35-minute exam). However, with these tips, you'll be on the path to success.


The English section is 45 minutes long and has 75 questions, which means you have about 36 seconds per question. Although this is a very small amount of time per question, the key to answering as many questions as possible is to skim the passages and focus only on the sentences the questions ask you about. This section of the exam tests your ability to revise and edit, not your comprehension, so don't get caught up trying to find the plot of these stories!


The Math section is 60 minutes long and has 60 questions, which means you have exactly one minute per question. For the most part, these questions are arranged in order of difficulty, with the easy ones first, and the hard ones last. However, this isn't always the case as there may be some easy questions near the end, so don't waste time on a question you don't understand. Instead, find questions you know how to do. If there's time left, you can go back to those questions you skipped.


The Reading section is 35 minutes long and has 40 questions, which means you have about 52 seconds per question, without factoring in reading time. As the name of this section suggests, you will have to read; skimming the stories will not suffice. Although it's important to have a basic understanding of the story as a whole, don't dwell too much on the specifics of the whole story. Focus on the specific parts each question asks about. Truthfully, many of the readings on the ACT are challenging; it is a college-level exam after all, so be prepared to encounter words you don't understand and make educated guesses.


And finally, the science section. This section is also 35 minutes long and has 40 questions, which means you have about 52 seconds per question. The name of this section can be slightly misleading as this section primarily tests your ability to analyze & interpret data & graphs rather than actual scientific concepts. A few questions ask you to interpret information based on the graphs; these are usually the easier questions as the answers are always on the data/graphs provided. Some questions ask you to summarize the research provided; on these questions, it's important to read all of the information provided for each given scenario as these questions will ask you about the context and other pertinent information. The rest of the questions will ask you to compare and contrast conflicting viewpoints in the context of the given scenario; for these questions, it's important to have a fundamental understanding of the research given and a clear understanding of each of the viewpoints provided.


ACT MASTERY - Math workbooks in RTTC III

Make sure to make good use of the resources provided by our school, IDEA Judson. Taking a practice exam on Mastery Prep is one of the best ways to assess your skill level and familiarize yourself with the format. In your RTTC classes, you should be given time to study and take these practice exams; however, don't just click through the questions to get it over with - actually try. This is your ACT: your college application strength largely depends on your ACT score.

Additionally, IDEA waives the exam fee, meaning you get to take this exam for free. This is a privilege, and you should be taking advantage of this. Just because you aren't paying for it doesn't mean you can decide to just not show up or not even try. Remember, other students pay $52-$98 to take this exam! 💵

Final Tips

Per usual, the night before a big exam it's important to get good rest. That means at least 8 hours of good quality sleep. The morning of the test, make sure you wake up on time to get ready and eat a good breakfast. My favorite breakfast is a huge stack of protein pancakes with strawberries, yogurt, & lots of maple syrup. A coffee could also help wake you up and keep you up during the test; the last thing you want to do is fall asleep during an ACT where every minute counts.

Although a break is provided halfway through the exam (after the Math section), use the restroom before the exam starts so you won't have to during the exam. The break is usually about 10 minutes long so make sure to use the restroom and eat any snacks during the break.

One last thing though, you are not penalized for incorrect answers! In simpler terms, if you are running out of time (for example, if you have 5 minutes left on a section and still haven't answered half of the questions), just guess. There's a chance you may get the right answer, and if you don't, that's OK, points aren't taken away for wrong answers.

That was a lot about the ACT! Even preparing for this exam can seem daunting, but if you take this test seriously the first time and prepare well, this may be the only time you have to take this exam!

Best of luck to you all!!! Go Jags!!!

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