Last-Minute ACT Test Strategies

last minute act strategies

Only have a few weeks (or days) before the ACT test? Try implementing these last-minute ACT strategies for each ACT test section during your study time to make the most of the time you have left.

First things first: you want to keep track of the kinds of questions that you struggle with as you prepare for the ACT. Have a sheet for each section of the test where you can write down content, strategies, or pacing for each section. In the final days before the test, these sheets will be your guide to what you need to be sure to review.  

One of our study guides, broken down by ACT section, may be helpful as you create your list of topics to study. You can find our free, downloadable ACT study guides here.

You can also study for the ACT with our self-paced, online course. Learn more and enroll in less than two minutes at www.olive-book.com.

What to Study the Week of the SAT

English Section Strategies

In the English section, you want to focus on finding what you need in the passage to determine the correct answer. Here are five ways to narrow down your search:

First, make sure you read the ENTIRE sentence.  

Second, try crossing out prepositional phrases so you can better find subjects and verbs. 

Third, when asked about any punctuation, look for other commas or for a semicolon – you want to determine if you have 2 independent clauses, one independent and one dependent, or maybe just two verbs and one subject. Identifying what is in the correct part of the sentence – or the part not underlined – will help you cross out answers that have errors. 

Fourth, take the time to re-read above and read past the question when asked about transitions or content.  

And fifth, remember the shortest answer is best unless another answer is better because it either offers more necessary information or better addresses the error in the sentence.    

Here’s the last-minute strategy: the English section is all about finding what you need in the passage and eliminating answers.

The Grammar Guide
How to Use Commas and Semicolons
How to Get a 36 on the English Section

Math Section Strategies

In the Math section, your goal is to get through the entire test, setting each question at least once, and skipping any question in which you do not know the first step.  

If you have time at the end, then you can revisit these questions and try plugging in a number, plugging in the answer choices, drawing a graph or making a table, or seeing if maybe another question on the test has jogged your memory – this definitely can happen!  

ACT Math Formulas to Know

Also, remember the ACT does not give you any formulas, so it is best to review the area, surface area, and volume formulas – especially surface area of a cylinder which is commonly found on the test. You can find these formulas in our ACT Math Formulas study guide here.

And here’s the last-minute strategy: the Math section is about getting through the entire test and skipping any question in which you do not know the first step.

ACT Math Strategies

Reading Section Strategies

In the Reading section, your most important job is to rephrase the passage, the questions, and answers in your own words as simply as possible.  

Try talking like a caveman when you read. It sounds crazy, but imagine reading a question that asks you to infer something about the author, but the wording is complex. So you think about the most basic information in the question then say in your mind, “why he not go?” Then you refer to the passage and think, “he no like the crowd and not worth trip.” 

How to Ace the ACT Reading Section

This sounds silly but imagine how many answers you could cross out knowing that you are looking for a negative answer, an answer that says the trip was troublesome, and an answer that says the trip was not necessarily valuable! Even just one wrong word or phrase is enough to eliminate that answer, and remember to actually cross out eliminated answers.  

As you go back to the passage, be cautious of “deja vu language” in questions and answers. These are words or phrases that are directly from the passage. It is good to notice this and usually helps you to know where in the passage to go, but you need to be sure to read above and below such deja vu language to be sure you are correctly interpreting meaning or actually answering what the question is asking. 

How to Stay Focused on the Reading Section

You want to spend about 8 ½ min per passage. But if this timing is tight, then consider changing the order of the passages. The passages always appear in the same order, so try doing the passage that you struggle with the most as your last passage. This way you can spend as much time as you have left on it.  

ACT Reading Strategies

Science Section Strategies

In the Science section, focus on the fact that the answers are somewhere in the passage or tables, graphs, & figures

How to Increase Your ACT Science Speed

So take some time to draw on the graphs and mark things in the table. Also, remember that caveman talk? Since you need to be clear about the variables, procedures, and trends, use the caveman voice to generalize the basics of the experiments and to rephrase the questions in your own words.  

For example, “passage about how much dissolves, graph and table show how much dissolve, experiment done 2 times with different amounts of water.” Think of how the questions will now be far more straightforward after ensuring you have a general or basic understanding. And again, remember that just one wrong word or phrase is enough to eliminate that answer, and remember to actually cross out eliminated answers.   

Science Literacy Study Guide

Here is the last-minute strategy: The Reading and Science sections require moving at a pretty quick pace, so you need to rephrase the passage, the questions, and answers in your own words as simply as possible, using that caveman voice.  

Science Section Strategies

If you want to earn that goal ACT score, then you know what you know what you need to do: Focused practice. Keep track of the kinds of questions that you struggle with as you work. Then review your personal list and last minute ACT strategies. You got this!

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