Mastering the ACT

Alyvia Pierson, Staff Writer/Editor

Attention Juniors! The annual ACT is rapidly approaching! With senior year six months away and various colleges to apply to, your ACT score is crucial to your academic success. Are you ready to master the ACT on March 7? 

Many high school students across the nation dread taking the ACT. It’s understandable; who wants to take a three-hour test with an absurd time limit? Though, the ACT holds value and good reason with its purpose. Rather than being tested on your knowledge, the ACT tests your ability to take an exam in a concentrated period. Additionally, it examines one’s college readiness.   

The exam consists of four mandatory sections and one optional section: English, Math, Reading, Science, and Writing (optional). The exam lasts 2 and 55 minutes (3 and 35 minutes if you elect to take the optional Writing section). There are 215 questions on the ACT, with all the questions having multiple-choice answer options.   

What am I being tested on in each section?  


There are 75 questions in the English section of the ACT exam, with 45 minutes to complete this section. The English section asks questions on sentence structure, knowledge of the language, and writing production. Typically, the English questions are grouped by passages, with four passages in total.   


The test’s Math section has fewer questions than the English section and allows for more time. There are 60 questions in the Math section, and you are given 60 minutes to complete the section. Calculators are permitted, however; a formula sheet isn’t provided. Questions range from elementary to intermediate math to algebra and trigonometry.   


This section consists of four passages. Three passages have one long content passage, and one gives you two shorter passages. In these passages, reading comprehension is tested. The Reading section has 40 questions, with 35 minutes to complete this section. In each passage, questions ask about craft and structure, the author’s choice, and key ideas and details.  


This final section of the ACT and often the most missed. The Science section of the ACT exam is made up of seven passages. It requires you to interpret charts, tables, figures, and graphs. Like the Reading section, this section has 40 questions with 35 minutes to finish. Questions require one to understand the following: scientific investigations, interpret data, and draw scientific conclusions.   

What are some helpful test strategies? 

     1. Work questions out of order. 

Spending too much time on the most complex problems means you may need more time to rush through the easiest. Instead of working on questions in order, ask yourself whether a question is worth doing now or later. Spending time on questions you know rather than don’t know is best. 

    2.Choose a “Letter of the Day.” 

Just because you don’t work on a question doesn’t mean you don’t answer it. There is no penalty for wrong answers on the ACT, so you should never leave blanks on your answer sheet. When you don’t know the answer, pick your favorite two-letter combo of solutions and stick with it. For example, always choose A/F or C/H. If you’re consistent, you’re more likely to pick up points. 

   3.Forget the correct answer—find the wrong ones. 

Multiple-choice tests offer one great advantage: They provide the correct answer on the page. ACT hides the correct answer behind the wrong ones, but the right solution can become more apparent when you cross off just one or two incorrect answers.  

How Do I Improve my ACT Score?  

Boot camps and practice tests are the best way to improve your ACT score. You should practice the two sections where you’re weakest to increase of chances of getting a higher score. Additionally, it’s recommended that you practice the questions within a time limit. ACT boot camps are offered year around during multiple times during the school year. The most important way to improve your score is to take it numerous times. The more you’re used to the rigor of the ACT, the more likely you are to perform well.  So, are you ready to master the ACT? 


“12 Tips to Taking the ACT Test – College Planning – Students and Parents | the ACT.” ACT,

“What Is on the ACT® Exam?” UWorld College Prep, Accessed 2 Mar. 2023.