How to Cram for the ACT Test
When it comes to studying for the ACT, most people need several months to do their best. But if you’ve got less than three weeks to go and you’re feeling under-prepared, there’s no reason to panic. Smart, targeted preparation can help you make the most of your remaining prep time. Keep reading to learn how to cram for the ACT test. The basic steps to cramming for the ACT test are:
- Review Test Directions
- Take Several Practice Exams
- Review English Grammar
- Practice Reading
- Know Your Math Formulas
- Analyze Scientific Writing
- Prepare Your Calculator
Before the Test
Follow these tips the week or two before the ACT to maximize your study hours.
Review Test Directions
Time is critical on the ACT, so make sure you understand all test directions and how to fill in the bubbles before taking the test. While test instructions may seem like the least of your worries, familiarizing yourself with them beforehand will ensure you don’t waste valuable time on exam day.
Take Several Practice Exams
The most effective way to cram for the ACT is by taking as many timed practice exams as you can. Practice tests get you used to the rhythm and length of the test. They also teach you how to manage your valuable time on exam day, which will help you feel less anxious.
Another reason to take practice exams is that they reveal your weaker areas. For example, you may notice after doing a few that your English or math scores are lower than the rest of the subjects. Low scores show you where to focus your efforts.
As you work through the practice exams, go over every wrong answer and take some time to understand why you got it wrong. This process helps you to understand the logic of the exam.
Review English Grammar
Knowing the rules of English grammar is imperative for ACT success. Go back and review things like subject-verb agreement, punctuation, verb tenses, and parts of speech. While the exam doesn’t require you to explain grammar rules, you do have to understand how to apply them in different contexts.
Mimic the exam by critically engaging with challenging material in the weeks and days leading up to the test. Read newspaper articles, difficult books, and academic texts to get more comfortable with advanced content and analyze them. Practice asking questions and making observations, which will help make you more comfortable with this process on exam day.
Know Your Math Formulas
Whereas the SAT provides you with equations and formulas, the ACT requires test-takers to know these formulas by heart. If you can’t remember a particular formula, you won’t be able to solve the problem, so take time to write down and memorize the most crucial ones.
Analyze Scientific Writing
The good news about the scientific portion of the test is that it’s not a science test like one you’d take in school. Knowledge of chemistry, biology, or physics isn’t required; instead, you answer the questions solely based on information in the texts provided.
Brush up your analytical skills by reviewing science passages and identifying elements like variables (independent and dependent), the goal of the experiment, and hypotheses, if provided.
Prepare Your Calculator
The ACT allows you to have simple programs that can solve functions, so prepare your scientific calculator for test day by downloading the ones you’ll need. Some of the most helpful formulas include the following:
- Quadratic formula
- Distance formula
- Volume and surface area of a cone
- Midpoint formula
- Standard deviation
Not sure how to download programs for your calculator? Check out this guide to learn how.
A word of caution: the ACT has a strict calculator policy about which programs test takers can use and which calculators are allowed, so make sure you comply before test day.
The Day Before the Test
What you do the day before the test is less about studying and more about ensuring your body is primed to help your mind do its best.
Prepare Your Backpack
Make a checklist of everything you’ll need for test day, and gather your things the night before. Aside from your printed ticket to the test center and your ID, make sure you have the following items:
- A calculator
- Two to three pencils
- A pencil sharpener
- A jacket or sweatshirt
Get Enough Rest
The night before the exam, it may be tempting to stay up late cramming. However, you need to be well-rested to do your best, so go to bed at a reasonable time.
The Day of the Test
Here are some tips to maximize your performance on test day.
There’s nothing more distracting while trying to solve math problems than a growling stomach. So be sure to eat a high-energy breakfast with plenty of protein and healthy fats to sustain yourself on test day. You should also get enough food in the days leading up to the exam to keep energy levels high.
And even if you normally drink coffee, your daily caffeine kick can make you jittery–not to mention, it’s a diuretic. Needing to go to the bathroom during the exam can be distracting and affect your performance, so you may want to forego coffee.
Don’t Be Afraid to Guess
Unlike other exams, the ACT does not penalize test takers for guessing. If you don’t know the answer to a question, guess! Similarly, if you’re running out of time, fill in the remaining questions with the same letter.
Take the Test Again Later
It’s possible that even by following these tips, you will still not be as prepared as you could be. The ACT is a complex test that requires you to be familiar with the material and the exam format. It typically takes months of preparation to achieve the best results, and you may have better luck retaking the test later–and following a stricter study program.
While it’s essential to give yourself enough time to prepare, the above strategies will help you make the most of limited study time. We hope you found them helpful. Feel free to leave a comment below with any ACT-related study questions.