How to Ace ACT Exam Blog Post

How to Ace Your ACT Exam: Everything You Need to Know to Prepare

If you dream of getting into your favorite university in the United States, there’s a crucial stepping stone you can’t afford to ignore — the ACT exam. This standardized test is a critical measure of your readiness for college, and all four-year colleges and universities across the nation universally accept it. 

However, to secure that coveted acceptance letter, you need a competitive ACT exam score that showcases your academic prowess. But here’s the catch: a competitive score doesn’t just happen. It’s the result of strategic, focused preparation.

Knowing how to prepare for your ACT exam is the bridge between where you are now and the college experience you’ve been dreaming of. Read on as we walk you through everything you need to know about preparing for this exam.

What is covered in the ACT exam?

Tutor Ocean - ACT Exam Score Rubric

The ACT exam is a comprehensive assessment designed to gauge your readiness for college’s academic challenges. It’s structured into four core sections: english, math, reading, and science, with an optional writing section.

Except for the Mathematics section, which presents questions with five answer choices, the other sections of the ACT feature a four-choice multiple-choice format. However, the writing section is distinct as it involves an essay prompt and does not follow a multiple-choice format.

Here’s a closer look at what each section of the ACT exam entails:

English (45 minutes, 75 questions): This section tests your grasp of standard English conventions. It includes questions on grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, and rhetorical skills.

Math (60 minutes, 60 questions): The Math section assesses your numerical fluency and problem-solving skills. It covers areas like algebra, geometry, and trigonometry. 

Reading (35 minutes, 40 questions): The section consists of passages across various genres, testing your ability to read critically and deduce information.

Science (35 minutes, 40 questions): Contrary to popular belief, this isn’t a test of your scientific knowledge. Instead, it evaluates your skills in interpreting, analyzing, and reasoning based on scientific data and research summaries.

Writing (optional, 40 minutes, 1 essay): You’ll be given a prompt based on broad social issues and asked to write an essay that presents and supports your perspective.

Each section is scored on a scale of 1-36, with the composite ACT score being the average of the four core sections. The optional writing section is scored separately, which colleges may consider when reviewing your application.

How should I prepare for the ACT exam?

The cornerstone of effective preparation for your ACT exam is a well-structured study plan uniquely tailored to your individual needs and timelines. Central to this planning is the importance of setting realistic goals and timelines. Setting overly ambitious goals can lead to frustration, while underestimating the challenge may leave you unprepared.

Align your study plan with the available time and the score you aim to achieve. This realistic planning helps maintain motivation and reduces the risk of burnout.

Assessing your strengths and weaknesses is pivotal in developing a targeted study plan. Start by reflecting on your performance in school subjects that align with the ACT sections.

Are you more comfortable with the humanities, or do numbers speak to you? This self-assessment will guide you to allocate more time to areas needing improvement while maintaining your strengths.

How can I effectively study for the ACT exam?

Studying for the ACT requires a strategic approach to ensure comprehensive preparation. Here are four key points to consider when developing an effective study plan:

1. Time Management and Balanced Study

Allocate dedicated study times in your daily routine, ensuring consistency and minimizing distractions. Divide your study time among the different exam sections, focusing more on areas where you need improvement while maintaining your strengths.

2. Regular Practice and Review

Incorporate practice questions and simulated exams into your study routine. These familiarize you with the exam format and help identify areas needing improvement. Reviewing the wrong answers provides insight into your weaknesses and helps you understand concepts better.

3. Maintaining Focus and Motivation

Staying focused and motivated throughout your ACT preparation can be challenging. One tip for overcoming this challenge is to set small, achievable goals to keep yourself motivated.

Break down your study plan into manageable tasks and celebrate small victories. Also, remember to take regular breaks to avoid burnout. Varying your study methods by mixing reading with practice tests, group studies, or online resources can also help you stay engaged.

4. Creating an Effective Study Schedule

To create a working schedule, start by assessing the time you have until the exam and setting realistic goals for each study session. Ensure your schedule includes time for each section of the ACT, with additional time allotted to areas where you need more practice. As the test date approaches, focus more on refining your knowledge and less on learning new content.

What ACT test score do I need to get into top colleges?

No matter what school you are applying for, it is important to understand what a good composite ACT test score is. Your composite test score is an average of the four scores you receive in each section, and these are the averages among other test-takers, according to ACT itself:

  • Below Average Score Range: 1-16
  • Average Score Range: 17-24
  • Above Average Score Range: 25-36

If you are aiming to apply for a top college, check out our list below of the average ACT scores for students accepted to these schools. 

If you don’t fall within the ranges below, there is good news! M
any higher education institutes have adapted their policies and have made standardized tests an optional part of the application process over the last few admissions cycles. Be sure to research the specific requirements of the schools you plan on applying to. 

College Name

Average ACT Score

Harvard University

34-36 (not required for grad classes after ’25)

Stanford University

33-35 (no longer required)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

35-36 (no writing section needed)

California Institute of Technology (Caltech)

doesn’t consider standardized testing

Princeton University

32-34 (optional for admissions in ’23, ’24, and ’25)

Yale University


Columbia University

33-35 (does not require writing section)

University of Chicago


University of Pennsylvania

34 (optional)

Duke University


Northwestern University

33-35 (optional)

Dartmouth College


Brown University

33-35 (optional)

Cornell University


Vanderbilt University

34-35 (optional)

How can I best prepare approach each subject in the ACT?

Because each section of the ACT is graded differently, you should approach each section with a different strategy to make the most use of your time during the exam. Here’s how to tackle each section of the ACT exam effectively:


With 45 minutes to answer 75 questions, time is of the essence. Start by quickly reading through each passage to grasp the main idea, then tackle the questions.

Focus on clear, concise answers, and don’t overthink. Grammar and punctuation questions often have the most straightforward answers, so tackle them first.


The math section gives you 60 minutes for 60 questions, meaning about a minute per question. Start with the easier problems to secure quick points, then move to the harder ones. Don’t spend too long on any single problem; if you’re stuck, move on and return later if time allows.


You have 35 minutes to complete 40 questions in the reading section. Skimming the passages to get a general idea and then focusing on the questions can be effective. Time management is crucial here; try not to spend more than 8-9 minutes on each passage.


In the Science section, you have 35 minutes for 40 questions. Focus on quickly interpreting graphs, tables, and experiment summaries. Tackle the easier questions first, and don’t get bogged down by complex terminology.

Writing (Optional)

Out of the 40 minutes assigned for this section, spend a few minutes writing a brief outline to organize your thoughts. Make your argument clear and support it with specific examples. Manage your time to allow for at least a few minutes of review and editing at the end.

What can I do to ensure I'm successful at getting a good ACT score?

Preparing for the ACT requires a holistic approach that encompasses not only academic readiness but also mental and physical well-being. Here are three essential points to consider when aiming for success in the ACT:

1. Seek Support From Online Tutors and Study Groups

Working with an ACT tutor or joining a study group can provide tailored guidance and answer specific queries. Platforms like TutorOcean offer a vast network of private online tutors from top universities. These tutors provide one-on-one learning experiences, helping you build confidence, conquer all of the subjects, and refine your test-taking strategies.

Use TutorOcean to find a tutor for any subject and academic level
Use TutorOcean to find the ACT tutor that is right for you.

2. Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle While Preparing for Your Exam

Your physical and mental health are vital during this intense preparation period. Focus on a balanced diet, regular exercise, and sufficient sleep. Employ stress-reduction techniques like meditation, yoga, or breathing exercises to keep your mind clear and focused.

3. Stay Informed of ACT News

It is essential to stay updated with the latest ACT-related news, changes in format, or test dates. Regularly visit the official ACT website and engage with online educational communities for tips and insights. Utilize available materials like practice tests and study guides to stay well-prepared.

4. Use AI Tutor to prepare for your ACT Exam

AI Tutor offers a customized chat-bot for ACT Test Prep that can provide 24/7 study support while you are studying for your ACT exam. Whether you need insights on what to expect on the ACT exam, test-taking strategies or want access to unlimited practice questions, AI Tutor will help you prepare!

Ace Your ACT the First Time

The ACT exam is a gateway to numerous opportunities in higher education. Preparing for the exam thoroughly is imperative if you’re aspiring to attend one of the best colleges in the United States. The effort and time you invest in understanding the exam format, practicing consistently, and honing your test-taking skills will pay dividends when you receive your scores.

Each section of the ACT demands a unique approach, and mastering these approaches is key to achieving a competitive edge. So approach your ACT preparation with confidence and determination.

Believe in your ability to learn, improve, and succeed. With the right mindset, strategies, and resources, you can tackle this challenge and emerge victorious.

Use TutorOcean to find a tutor for any subject and academic level
Use TutorOcean to find the ACT tutor that is right for you.