My #1 Tip for Studying for the ACT

Any big standardized test is pretty terrifying. But when you put together the combination of a mandatory test and the ability to get into certain colleges it raises the stakes a bit. I know with my original dream school as Northwestern I couldn’t stop worrying about them. If you have your sights high or even if you just don’t want to mess it up on the first try, it’s important to study for your ACTs.

My high school had a specific day where everyone would sit in the gym, in metal chairs with tiny desks to write on arranged in neat rows, and take each long section of the ACT. The silence of the gym and the pressure of all the other students also taking the test a few feet away haunted me.

I wanted to be focused.

I wanted to not let anything get to me.

I didn’t want to choke.

I didn’t want to let my family down.

I definitely didn’t want to take the test again.

These are feelings I think most high school students have while taking the ACT. So what did I do to get over that paralyzing fear and the constant worries?

I studied with friends. Not only did I study with friends in general, but we did so multiple times and before the week of the test. We each had the test prep handbooks, pencils, and in the middle of my kitchen table we placed a timer. It was like taking the test, but in a much more comfortable environment. I didn’t try to make it a party or an event. I focused on two friends who were also worried about the test and that I knew would work with me rather than blowing it off or making me feel dumb. We started together, put our pencils down together, graded our tests, and compared results.

The selection of the study group is a very important part to this process. The three things to think about when deciding who to invite to your study group are:

  • 1) Work ethic – Which of your friends are willing to work hard? If they don’t really care about grades, homework, tests or anything that takes a bit of effort it’s less likely that they’ll be focused and helpful in an ACT study session. You want people who are willing to put in a little time and elbow grease to work with you and study.
  • 2) Aspirations – Who do you know that needs a higher ACT score to go to a certain school? Which of your friends have talked about their dream school? Even if their dream school doesn’t require a 30 on the test, they may not want to risk not getting in. These hopes and goals will inspire them to work harder and give them more focus while working and testing.
  • 3) Strengths – Some people are math geniuses while others can write or paint. There are different sections on the test and you may have some weaknesses that you’ll have to make up for. By finding people with different strengths than you, you can gain insight from your friends. The parts that you trip up on, they can explain. After checking answers you can compare and discuss why each answer is the correct one.

It’s always great to have a support system and the ACT is no exception. Find a group of people willing to work, with different strengths, and who isn’t going to be a know-it-all and make things more difficult. Studying for a test can be difficult, but with others explaining ideas you don’t understand, laughing with you, and stressing out with you it is a hurdle you can soar over.

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Mollie Diedrich

Mollie Diedrich

Mollie Diedrich is a senior creative writing major at DePaul University. She is minoring in journalism and aspires to be the next big food writer. Her love of writing propels all she does from her food blog to online magazine articles. When she isn’t writing, she’s probably baking. She has a ferocious sweet tooth and adores cupcakes of all shapes and sizes.