How to Improve Your ACT Score with 6 Essential Strategies

If you are reading this post, then you’ve taken the ACT before and are looking for foolproof strategies to improve your score quickly! You can implement several strategies to improve your ACT score this next time. We’ll go over six you can use to prepare for your retake so you can become an ACT master.

The great news is that since you’ve taken the test once, you have some experience with the content already. The format or pacing will be more or less the same, and you can approach the test with clearer expectations. This will also play a big role in curbing your stress and anxiety, helping you improve your ACT score.

Why should you retake the ACT?

First of all, it is widely observed that most learners who retake a standardized exam like the ACT see a score bump. Also, the average improvement between test results is usually more significant when the original score is on the lower end. Plus, with a higher ACT score, you could qualify for more ACT scholarship opportunities.

All this indicates that a lower score in your first attempt to crack the ACT is not a reason to stop working towards your goal. Improving your ACT score to get into the best colleges is achievable. However, you will have to review and put in the effort.

Now, the pertinent question you might be asking is, “How exactly can I improve my ACT score?” We’ve rounded up some of the best strategies you can use to tackle the exam and improve your ACT score.

6 strategies to improve your ACT score

1. Review the ACT format and structure

Many students believe that if they set a goal, the rest will easily work out for them. While setting a goal in the first place is an important foundation for success, there is another important aspect that should never be neglected – understanding the skills you need to reach it.

The ACT is a standardized exam that, though subject-specific, is also skill-based. Students retaking the exam will already have a general idea about the exam structure and format, and this experience will lead to a significant improvement in their ACT scores.

Undoubtedly, taking practice ACT tests aids in developing familiarity. However, remember to review the structure and format of the exam before you begin the practice test. This will also help you take the sample test more efficiently and get better feedback from it.

Outline of the ACT structure

The ACT consists of five sections: English, Math, Reading, Science, and Writing (optional).

The time per section and the number of questions in each are summarized in the table below:

It's important to know how the breakdown of the ACT sections is.

The ACT does not take points away for wrong responses. Therefore, it is best to respond to every question. Understand how much time to devote to each question. This will help you to allocate your time effectively.

You should also be familiar with the instructions or guidelines of each section of the test since they are the same every time. This will reduce the effort and time needed to read these guidelines when taking the test. Being familiar with the instructions will also help in reducing your anxiety, and you will be better equipped to raise your ACT score.

2. Analyze your performance from the first test

Since you have attempted the test once and have your score, the next step is to analyze your performance to understand different aspects like:

  • Your strengths and weaknesses
  • Where you can improve (whole sections, specific types of math problems, etc.)
  • How many points do you want to improve by?

Take a look at the baseline scores you received in the previous test. If they are low, you can raise them considerably by brushing up on the fundamentals and acquiring a better sense of how to take the test. If your scores were already average or higher, you undoubtedly already know the fundamentals and should concentrate on practicing more challenging questions.

Is there one section you can focus on to improve your ACT score overall?

While preparing for the ACT, it is important to concentrate on areas where you are weak since your composite score will play a major role in college admissions. The composite scores will showcase your overall strengths and give you a good boost when looking to get into competitive programs. So, your priority should be to improve your overall score.

A good math score is also beneficial when you want to join math-oriented programs like engineering. Learn new vocabulary that can help in improving your reading and writing score. Focus more on sections you find difficult to understand the concepts better.

3. Create a study plan and stick to it

One of the most important issues you may face while studying to improve your ACT score is creating the perfect study plan and sticking to it. The success mantra of acing any difficult test is practicing well and regularly. Look into your weak points and allocate time to your study plan accordingly.

Identify the weak and strong areas when you analyze your previous performance. Imagine that your Science and Math scores were the lowest while your Reading and English scores were the highest. Even though you should review all the sections, make sure to concentrate your efforts on your areas of weakness. In this case, Science and Math. As the test day gets closer, make sure to divide your time among the sections evenly.

4. Utilize practice tests to improve your ACT score

You can improve your ACT score by focusing on your skills and strengthening your weaknesses.

Practicing is the most important part of preparing for your ACT exam. The ACT makes its tests purposefully challenging to identify the best minds. You can best prepare by taking a full test several times to know exactly what you’ll be asked during the exam and how the questions are structured. This is where attempting lots of practice tests and using study guides becomes important.

Initially, practice without any time restrictions so that you become familiar with the topics, concepts, and instructions. Gradually, as your skill set improves, complete the sections and entire test within the time limit of the actual exam. Finally, practice a couple of full-length exams under testing-like circumstances. This will prepare you well to handle both the questions and the stress you will face during the test.

5. Assess how you are managing time

The quick timing on the ACT is a challenge.

ACT is an exam where your time management skills greatly influence your success. If you spend too much time on one question, you may not be able to complete the test, and your score will be affected. When you are doing practice tests, consider how you will pace yourself throughout the exam.

Sumedha Kethini, a Lessonpal ACT tutor who got a perfect score on the ACT, recommends micro-timing yourself while you take practice tests. In her interview for our podcast, Sumedha gives tons of advice about how students can master the ACT. You can watch the full episode on our YouTube channel or listen wherever you get your podcasts!


Get your dose of new knowledge with Knowledge Bytes! #podcastclip #educational #knowledgebytes #ACT #learn

♬ original sound – Lessonpal – Lessonpal

After you answer the last question in a section, go back and recheck your answers during this extra time. Finish any questions you skipped, and make sure you answered how you want to. If you are unable to complete the test within the given time, identify the obstacles that you can overcome to save time. Then, practice again!

Try not to spend too much time on one question. If you see a difficult question, mark it, move forward to the next question, and return at the end. Try to find a careful balance in time management during your practice sessions.

6. Take advantage of online resources and tutoring

You can definitely improve your ACT score if you follow these tips.

Using ACT study resources and getting the help of a great tutor is an indispensable part of your test preparation. You should be familiar with all the quirks of the exam to be successful. An experienced and knowledgeable tutor can help you in this aspect. Tutors can help you better understand the concepts and improve your question-answering techniques with personalized tips and strategies. Though prep books can help you a lot, having a tutor will help you achieve the extra mile.

Many students think hiring ACT tutors is costly and available only to the rich. This isn’t true anymore. Online tutoring marketplaces like Lessonpal will help you connect with efficient and qualified tutors at an affordable price who can offer you insights into the different aspects of the ACT exam. You will be able to practice your questions under the tutor’s guidance, and they can easily help you correct your mistakes and improve your weak points.

On the day of the exam

ACT tests can be highly stressful for students since the scores play an important role in their college applications and future. Remember that you have put in your best efforts to prepare for it, so keep a cool head and avoid too much stress. Have a good night’s sleep, eat nutritious food, keep yourself hydrated, and wear comfortable clothes on test day. Finally, check that you have all the necessary materials, like your calculator and pencil.

Answer all the questions

Make sure to answer all the questions on the test. Now, however diligently you prepare for your test, there might be one or two questions that might elude you. In such a case, you can use the technique of elimination to make an educated guess. Since ACT has no negative marking, guessing will not affect your overall score.

Five possible answers are given for every question, indicating a 20% possibility of getting the right answer when you make a guess. Eliminating answers you know are wrong will further improve your chances of getting the guess correct. This should be used only after ensuring you have exhausted all methods of finding the answer.

Frequently asked questions about improving your ACT score

Some frequently asked questions about improving ACT scores include:

How can I improve my ACT score in a short period of time?

When you do not have much time, set a realistic goal for yourself and focus on your weak points to get a better score. You can also set goals for individual sections and prepare accordingly. Fill gaps in your content and take a lot of practice tests. Since the composite score is unaffected by the writing section, you need not spend a lot of time preparing for it when the time is less.

Is it possible for me to improve my ACT score by 5 points in 1-2 months? Can I improve my ACT score by 10 points?

When you have 1-2 months to raise your ACT score, set aside 10 to 15 hours every week to prepare for the test. Take a practice test every week under actual test conditions, and then look over the problems you answered incorrectly. Identify the method to do them correctly and mark them separately in a notebook. Repeat this process every week. Also, make sure to study and practice every day.

Depending on what you scored the first time around, 5 points can be very doable. If you started with a 27 for example, consistent practice and studying can bring you to a 32. Improving your ACT score by 10 will be more difficult, but if you scored very low the first time around, there is more room for improvement.

How can I raise my score from a 29 ACT to a 32?

A 29 ACT is an “above average score” and indicates that you have a good grasp of the fundamentals. To improve your score to a 32, you should practice constantly and identify the problems you might be answering incorrectly repeatedly. Focus on these points and practice them repeatedly. Take tests over and over again until you get a score of 32 continually.

How can I get a better score when I’ve already studied extensively?

The better your composite ACT score is, the harder it may become to raise it, even by a few points. This is where help from experienced tutors, like Lessonpal ACT tutors, who can match your learning style, will help you complete the last mile. You can also focus on your time management and practice the topics you are getting wrong repeatedly.

The big picture

When it comes down to it, taking the time to familiarize yourself with these essential strategies can help you get a better score on the exam when you take it the second time around.

If you’re the parent of a high schooler about to retake the ACT, it is important to be proactive to help your child succeed. Start by encouraging them to set aside dedicated study time (even if it annoys them!) and to practice with quality material. Are they tired of hearing from you? Then, they might benefit from the support of a Lessonpal ACT tutor instead!

Overall, with the right preparation, dedication, and support, you can increase your ACT score and boost your college admissions process. Check out our Knowledge Bytes podcast episode, “How to Master the ACT,” on YouTube or anywhere you get your podcasts to learn more helpful tips!

“How to Master the ACT” podcast

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