Increase Your ACT Score: An Expert's Guide

Finding ways to increase an ACT score is not impossible. But unlike the ACT, there are less strategies to learn because the ACT test, as a whole, is less "tricky" than the SAT test. I  actually prefer tutoring the ACT test, especially for students with solid GPAs who may not see their knowledge reflected in the SAT test scores. Once you have decided that you want to prepare for the test, then the next step is to create a test prep plan. Here are some steps to help you with creating that plan.

Step #1: Analyze ACT Score from Practice Test

If you have read the several articles on my website, you know I am very big on taking an ACT practice test to get accurate diagnostic ACT score. Why? Because if you do not have an accurate diagnostic score, how will you know how best to prepare for the exam? It is not enough to just take the exam, however. If a student would like to raise the ACT score, the student must also analyze the results of the diagnostic test.

Assuming that you have an accurate diagnostic score, now analyze the test using the following questions:

  • Which section(s) did I score the best on?
  • Was one section score very high or very low?
  • Was I accurate but ran out of time at the end?
  • Did I miss Math questions because I forgot my formulas?
  • Did I miss English questions because I need to review grammar?
  • Did the format of the Science section throw me off?

Note: Before you proceed to the next step (if you haven't done so already), you may want to compare your ACT scores to any SAT scores (or PSAT scores). Read my article on how to convert an ACT score to the SAT equivalent.

Step #2: Select Good Study Materials

If you took the time to analyze your ACT score, then you are now ready to create a study plan. Here is some advice:

1. To accurately prepare and track your progress, use "The Real ACT Prep Guide" published by ACT, Inc. Why? Because all of the tests in the book are actual ACT tests given in prior years. Because of copyright laws, this is the ONLY book that has real ACT tests to practice on.

2. You will need to supplement "The Real ACT Prep Guide" with other material. The benefit of the book mentioned above are the practice tests, but the downside is that the book does not really give you much in terms of test strategies. So I recommend supplementing with other materials. Read "Best Test Prep Books for the ACT" to help you decide which books to supplement with the one mentioned above.

3. If you run out of practice tests in "The Real ACT Prep Guide" (the book comes with five tests) then I recommend using "McGraw-Hill's 10 ACT Practice Tests". This book does a good job of simulating the real test and provides lots of extra practice exams.

McGraw-Hill's 10 ACT Practice Tests, Third Edition

Step #3: Take Several TIMED Practice Tests

One of the most difficult aspects of the ACT is the timing of the test. Most students will have trouble finishing at least one of the sections on time. So it is very important that you take several practice tests and TIME yourself. If you give yourself too much time in your practice tests, you will not learn the proper pacing for the exam.

Because the timing on the ACT is so important, I recommend everyone read "Timing Tips for the ACT". In that article, I also explain how to better manage the timing of the test to achieve your highest possible score.

What I wrote above should help you to create a solid study plan for increasing your ACT score. If you would like to read more specific test taking tips for each section of the exam, please click on these links: English, Math, Reading, Science, and Essay.

Did you know that not all colleges require students to submit SAT or ACT scores to be admitted to college? If you are a strong student, with a GPA of 3.0 or higher, you may be surprised to learn that many colleges, and really good colleges, have become "test-optional". Too many parents and students dismiss "test-optional" as a possible route to college admission. But before you do that, find out more about this growing, "student-friendly" trend in college admission.