Guide to Do-It-Yourself ACT Prep

Do-it-yourself guide for online ACT Prep

One of the most important parts of getting into the college of your choice is the ACT score. The American College Testing and its close competition, the SAT Reasoning Test, are standardized tests that can make (or break) your college admission.

Preparing for the ACT is key to achieving the best score possible. No one is born a good ACT-taker. Some students opt for a private tutor or choose to take a course at a learning center, assuming they can afford the cost. However, many students find that do-it-yourself ACT prep is much cheaper and just as effective.

What to expect from the ACT

The ACT is a national college admissions examination that tests your knowledge in four main areas: English, mathematics, reading and science. The test consists of 215 questions in four categories. It takes three hours and 30 minutes to complete, including a short break. If you choose to take the ACT with writing, expect the test to take slightly more than four hours.

The results are accepted by all four-year colleges and universities. The ACT score, your grade point average, letters of recommendation and extracurricular activities are all important factors used to determine whether you gain acceptance to the school of your choice.

How to study for the ACT by yourself

Though it can be tempting to hire a tutor or pay for an expensive course on ACT prep, choosing to study for the ACT by yourself often works well for students who are systematic about it. If you do choose online ACT prep, here are some resources to help:

  1. Practice tests. Few things can better prepare you for the ACT than a practice test. Take as many as you can before the real test day; and try to recreate the conditions you might expect from the ACT testing site using guidelines from You can obtain a complete practice test from the site, as well as tips on how to make the best use of your time.

  2. Free timers. Speaking of time, free timers for the test can help keep you on track. Experts suggest using timers to help you learn to pace yourself before the big day. A simple stopwatch or alarm clock works fine, or you can download free timers to your computer or smart phone.

  3. Math lessons. The ACT will ask questions about several subset of mathematics, including trigonometry, algebra and geometry. Brush up on the key concepts with online math lessons. Sites such as or can help you explore those points on your own.

  4. Flash cards. Creating flash cards means you can take do-it-yourself ACT prep with you. Key concepts in mathematics, important points of science knowledge, and rules of English are great places to start. If you live with smart phone in hand, plenty of applications will allow you to create flash cards.

  5. Old essay topics. If you are concerned about what the essay topics might cover, take a look at past essay topics. Sites like can give you guidelines for the best way to write the ACT essay.

  6. Reading comprehension passages. Studying the major elements of reading comprehension, such as main ideas, sequencing events, and cause-and-effect relationships can help you study for the ACT by yourself. Many online ACT prep programs offer reading passages to test your understanding.

  7. Online study groups. Online forums that cater to students, such as College Confidential, can help you find groups of people in the same boat. Study for the ACT by yourself, then meet up with an online study group for sharing and encouragement.

  8. Open book exams. Run through a practice exam with a stack of textbooks for reference. This can help you figure out which points the ACT will be most likely to address, and can prevent you from getting stuck on the wrong details or concepts.

  9. ACT prep books. If what you find online is not enough, consider picking up an ACT prep book at your local library or bookstore. "The Real ACT Prep Guide" is a good place to start.

  10. Ask for critiques of your writing. If you intend to take the writing portion of the ACT, start by learning how to structure your thoughts and ideas in a quick and precise manner. Take test essays and then ask a trusted teacher to give you a quick critique. Try taking another timed essay, implementing that instructor's feedback.

Still want help with online ACT prep?

If you aren't satisfied with the do-it-yourself ACT prep approach, you can always opt for extra help online. Tutoring services like Sylvan and WizeAnt can provide you with an extra boost of confidence before you take the test.

Though, do-it-yourself ACT prep can be daunting, it can be done! Online ACT prep can also offer real-world tips from those who have taken the test before you. In a nutshell, here's what you'll learn from their experiences:

With good time management, plenty of studying, and by taking practice tests, you can face test day with the confidence you need to ace the ACT exam.

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