The 2023 Study Guide for ACT Prep | Learn How to Study for the ACT

Matt Larriva
Jul 17, 2023
Home » The 2023 Study Guide for ACT Prep | Learn How to Study for the ACT

A Google search reveals a variety of ACT prep strategies, each one offering the solution on how to study for the ACT. But, with so many options, how are you supposed to know which one will help you in the best way possible?

Don’t worry, we’ve got your back.

Below, you’ll find our step-by-step study guide for ACT prep. And best of all, it is already proven to get students the best score possible. 

Are You Sure You Need To Take the ACT?

During the past couple of years, schools have shifted their testing policies. Although many universities decided to make the ACT and SATs optional, rather than mandatory, selective programs are returning to test-required. 

For one, you could earn scholarships.

The National Merit Scholarship Program and other local or state programs and organizations do consider exam scores. Your scores could also give you an edge over someone else in gaining acceptance to an exceptionally competitive school such as an Ivy League

Second, some schools still require the ACT and SAT. 

Even if your dream school doesn’t require the exams, you might change your mind about where to apply and still need the exam scores. 

If you wait too long to take the exams, you may not get the chance to take them or improve your scores if they are not what you want them to be. 

Reach your target ACT score.

You know what score you need to apply to your dream school. Achievable is the only ACT prep course that uses memory science-enhanced practice to ensure you reach your goal.

Should You Take the ACT or the SAT?

Well, simply put, it depends, but probably yes. You and your goals determine which test you need to take.  All schools accept both tests and generally have no preference for either one.

You can even take the test more than once to achieve your best score, or even a superscore.

In essence, there are three basic situations in which you should take the ACT:

  1. If you feel that your college application needs a more competitive edge 
  2. If you can score competitively for your target school
  3. If the school you’re applying to requires the ACT (a few but growing number do, now that the pandemic has enabled testing again)

Focusing on both the ACT and SAT exams could divide your attention.

This could lead to lower scores on each test, and unnecessary stress of preparing for two long, and mentally challenging exams. So, choosing which test best fits your goals can raise your score on one test rather than dividing prep time, attention, and results. 

In addition, neither test is objectively any easier than the other.

Both are curved against the rest of the population, and then it depends on your preference. One test might fit your strengths and knowledge better than the other.

In deciding which test to take, it all comes down to numbers and the skills you have.

The SAT is more heavily weighted toward math than the ACT. Meanwhile, the ACT is more heavily weighted toward text-heavy passages in both the Reading and the Science sections.

The SAT also gives you five more minutes and has 61 fewer questions to answer. 

Are You Sure You Want to Take on an ACT Study Plan Alone?

It is absolutely possible to raise your ACT score on your own, but there are possibly more efficient ways.

Using professional assistance is one, especially when you’ve reached a plateau, or are having trouble managing your study time. Of course, tutoring is one of the fastest options to increase your score, but there are tons of other ways to go about it as well. 

ACT prep books and study guides can help immensely, particularly if you can’t afford tutoring or don’t have time to go to another class. 

The truth is, there is no universally right way to study for the ACT.

There are several options you can use, such as:

  • self-study
  • a tutor who specializes in ACT prep (Powerful Prep tutors are graduates of either an Ivy League or other elite university and have firsthand experience achieving test scores required to get into these schools)
  • a prep class
  • an online program like Achievable ACT
  • or any combination of these!

The option you should choose ultimately depends on your resources and what you need.

students enacting study guide for ACT Prep

Studying for the ACT on your own can work for some. 

However, it does take a lot of discipline. You need to stick to a schedule and analyze your weaknesses to continue to improve.

It isn’t enough to put in study time, you also have to make the best use of that time by understanding what you might be doing wrong if you are missing questions.

If you are doing well with the content, but you are having difficulty finishing on time, you may need to work on time management. You could even work on test-taking strategies, like looking for the best answer in multiple-choice options or reading the passages effectively.  

Remember, effective self-study for the ACT requires you to be extremely disciplined, organized, and motivated.  

What is the best way to study for the ACT?

Remember, a “good” ACT score is relative. However, to determine the score that you could earn, the ACT is scored by grading each of the four sections on a scale of 1-36.

Your raw score is the number of questions you answered correctly in a given section. The raw scores will be converted into scaled scores between 1-36, and then the four numbers will be averaged into one score. 

To get the best possible ACT score, you need a good game plan.

First, you don’t want to over-study. You do need to give your brain a break occasionally, so balance is key here.

  • Give yourself time to study
  • do your regular schoolwork
  • and do your everyday fun activities

This will help keep your motivation high. 

Step 1: Take a practice ACT test

First, you’ll want to take a diagnostic test. This will help you learn where you are and determine your baseline score (and to see how much or how long it might take to improve).

Be sure to take the test in conditions as close to the actual conditions on test day to mimic how you would actually do on the exam day, such as at 8:00 am in a library, all in one sitting with appropriate breaks. 

Step 2: Determine your target ACT score

This will help motivate you as you study and determine how to study for the exam.

Once you determine your target score, you should look up the percentiles of ACT scores. Pay special attention to the 75th percentile ACT scores of the schools you are applying to.

Having a score equal to or higher than the 75th percentile of others applying to the same schools will give you a good chance of being accepted into your choice of colleges. Placing within the 25th to 75th percentile is a must for including your score in any application.

Step 3: Determine how long you will need to prep for the ACT

After you determine your target score and know exactly what you need to get into your choice colleges, you need to know how long you’ll need to prep for the ACT.

There’s no perfect amount of hours to study in order to earn a higher score improvement – it differs for each person, and the plateau you’ve reached.

differs for each person, and the plateau you’ve reached.

However, it usually takes about 10-20 hours of study for increasing your first points. For earning 9 or more points, you may find that you’ll need to put in at least 150 or more hours. Consistency is what counts!

Step 4. Make a study schedule.

Having a set schedule and knowing the number of days/ weeks/ months you have to improve will help you make significant progress as you study.

Also, feeding your brain information at the same time every day helps establish familiarity with the material and the expectation to learn. 

As you are studying, don’t forget to give yourself breaks.

You don’t want to burn yourself out. Taking breaks allows your brain time to absorb and process the information it has learned. Also, studying a little every day yields better point gains sporadic studying, even if your studying is long  than consistency is key

Step 5. Use an ACT study guide.

Using an ACT study guide will help give you an overview of the test and the different topics you will need to study. You won’t need to study all the subjects you learned in high school, so a study guide will tell you where to start studying.

We’ll share our favorite ACT study guides and materials below ↓

Use these books as your ACT Study Guides

Official ACT Prep Guide 2022-2023

The Official ACT Prep Guide 2022-2023 includes an online course and six practice tests.

It also included the optional writing test to help you study for the exam, plus a full-length online version of the exam with the pin code that comes with the guide.

This study guide for the ACT comes straight from the makers of the ACT, so its explanations come directly from the test itself.

This guide also comes with a host of other features: 

  • 6 full-length practice tests
  • tips on how to improve your scores in each section
  • over 400 flashcards
  • a study planner
  • test-taking strategies to help you achieve the best possible scores

Again, this is official ACT material. You can’t go wrong with adding this guide to your ACT prep book library. This book should serve as the foundation for your ACT test preparation

Princeton ACT Premium

The Princeton ACT Premium study guide offers 8 full-length practice ACT tests. Four are in the book and four available online.

You’ll also find:

  • a review for each section of the exams
  • tips for scoring success (such as avoiding ACT traps and pacing yourself)
  • information on ACT Online Testing option and superscores
  • and immediate score reports for the online tests

Another helpful feature is the essay checklists to help you grade the writing tests. Online content includes video tutorials, weekly study plans, access to college and university rankings.

Additionally, this ACT prep book contains college admissions and financial aid tips, and information on how to arrange visits to colleges, choose your perfect school, and write amazing college entrance essays. 

McGraw Hill Top 50 Skills for ACT Math Study Guide

You’ll also find: The McGraw Hill Top 50 Skills for ACT Math is essential for math preparation.

The guide promises to help you master specific skills and increase your ACT math score.

It does this by presenting the “heart of each of the 50 most important ACT concepts” and exercises that show how these concepts are presented on the ACT test.

The ACT prep book, The McGraw Hill Top 50 Skills for ACT Math, is designed specifically for visual learners, with step-by-step instruction on how to use each concept. There is a pre-test to determine where you are beginning, two online tests, and a post-test to track your progress. 

English and Reading Workout for the ACT 4th Edition

This study guide is designed for students looking for extra help with the ACT verbal sections.

The Princeton Review provides a four-step approach to mastering the complex sentence structure and punctuation questions on the English passages.

English and Reading Workout for the ACT 4th Edition also helps students prep for the ACT by using pacing strategies as well as techniques for acing the tricky questions by using process of elimination.

There are seven full-length ACT practice ACT sections (3 for English, 4 for Reading), as well as end of chapter drills, and step-by-step walk throughs of practice problems. 

Advanced Prep: ACT English: Very Challenging Problems for Those Targeting Perfect Scores

Every page and exercise of this ACT study guide has been carefully designed with one goal:

Moving students from earning near-perfect scores to earning a perfect ACT score.

If you’re looking to boost your score and test your intellect though very challenging problems, then this ACT prep guide is for you.

Working through this challenging ACT prep book will make you a grammar genius and vault you to the top of your class with flawless writing.

Keep in mind though that this book is intentionally difficult, so it may not be the best starting point for students who are still studying the fundamentals of grammar.

The problems in Advanced Prep: ACT English are very hard and the answer explanations are thorough. Plus, the chapters cover all skills necessary to move you to perfection.

ACT Elite 36

This study guide is designed for those who have mastered the basics of the ACT. If you have reached a plateau in your scores, this guide will provide more in-depth study with exclusive tips and strategies for tackling the hardest questions on the ACT exam.

As one of the best ACT prep books, the ACT Elite 36 guide also provides drills and tests with over 400 intensive practice problems, both in the book and online. That includes detailed answers and explanations to help you gain more confidence and mastery of the subjects and in-depth review of each ACT section:

  • English
  • Math
  • Reading
  • and Science
  • including instruction for the revised and optional Writing section

Sample 3 Month ACT Study Plan

Using what you’ve learned above, you can customize this ACT study plan to fit your goals.

Month 1: This is the best time to familiarize yourself with the exam and start learning test taking strategies. 

Week 1: Dedicate six to seven hours to taking an Official ACT Practice Test to determine your baseline score.

◾ Make sure to review your mistakes and note your strengths and weaknesses in each section. 

Week 2: Give yourself six to seven hours to learn the format of the ACT.

◾ Learn the format of one of the sections of the test (Reading, Math, English, or Science) at a time.
◾ Learn the content that will be covered within this section and several different strategies you can use to answer the questions efficiently and effectively.
If you focus on English, refresh your memory of grammar rules.
If you start with the Reading section, learn which passage reading strategy is most effective for you.
If you focus on Math, begin learning key formulas.
If you begin with Science, practice reading charts, graphs, and tables.

Week 3: Dedicate six to seven hours to learning the format of another section of the test. 

◾ Example: Reading, Math, English, or Science

Week 4: Dedicate 6-7 hours to reviewing what you’ve learned over the past two weeks.

◾ Use practice questions to test out your strategies and identify any weak areas.

Month 2: Use this time to prepare for the next two sections of the ACT.

Week 5: Spend six to seven hours focusing on strategies as well as the material that will be covered on one of the two remaining sections of the test.

Week 6: Spend six to seven hours focused on learning the material and strategies necessary for mastering the final remaining section of the test.

Week 7: Spend six to seven hours reviewing the material you covered over the past two weeks.

Month 3: Review all the concepts you have learned so that you are ready for test day.

Week 11: Take one last Official ACT Practice Test and score your answers.

◾ Also use this week to become familiar with the ACT Essay format if you plan on taking the writing section of the test.
◾ Use essay prompts to practice writing strategies.

Week 12: Dedicate five to six hours to reviewing your last practice test.

◾ Make sure you understand how to address any and all mistakes you may have made in each section.

Stick to your ACT study plan and ace the exam

Remember, you know yourself best and can completely customize your study plan. If you spend three straight weeks working on Math when you find it extremely difficult, you will likely find yourself getting burned out more quickly. 

Alternating between Math and something you find slightly easier, such as reading or Grammar, can let you “rest” while continuing to practice. 

Finally, don’t forget to take each practice test under conditions similar to those on test day to fully prepare.

If you feel like as though you’d like some additional help prepping for the ACT, the team at Powerful Prep is here to help. Schedule a consultation below to get started.

Schedule a FREE Consultation

Marc Grey, Powerful Prep

Marc Gray, Client Success Manager

Free 20 Minute Consultation

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Learn how our expertise can help your student get into their dream school using a customized test prep program.

Schedule a consultation using the calendar to the right.

Need answers now? Call us at 805-876-4687 now to discuss.

Schedule a FREE Consultation

Learn how our expertise can help your student get into their dream school using a customized test prep program.

Schedule a consultation using the calendar below. Need answers now? Call us at 805-876-4687 now to discuss.