Sylvan Learning’s Ultimate ACT Practice & Test Prep Guide

How to Study and Practice for the ACT Test


By taking the ACT test, your potential colleges/universities will gain insight into your progress in English, math, reading and science. The test will help identify how you can prepare to succeed in college/university or a career.

Your test results will include a report on your career interest inventory with recommendations that fit your interests. And, your ACT score will also be used by scholarship and recognition programs to locate students like you for awards!

To help you better prepare for the ACT, let’s take a look as to what the test entails. The ACT will test you on:

  • English Usage and Mechanics
  • Rhetorical Skills
  • Algebra, Geometry and Trigonometry
  • Reading Comprehension
  • Referring and Reasoning Skills
  • Data Representation
  • Research Summaries
  • Analyzing Conflicting Viewpoints

The ACT’s focus is on evaluation and analysis of text, as well as problem solving and data analysis. There is no penalty for guessing.

How is the ACT Structured?


The ACT is a 3-hour, multiple-choice test designed to measure academic achievement in 4 major curriculum areas: English, Mathematics, Reading and Science. An optional 40-minute Writing Test is designed to measure composition skills.

Practice Tips for the ACT English Section

The English test is 45 minutes and contains 75 passage-based, multiple-choice questions.

Learn more about the ACT English Section, how to practice for it and get tips for how to answer problems!

Practice Tips for the ACT Math Section

The Mathematics test is 60 minutes and contains 60 multiple-choice questions.

Learn more about the ACT Math Section, how to practice for it and get sample problems!

Practice Tips for the ACT Reading Section

The Reading test is 35 minutes and contains 40 passage-based, multiple-choice questions.

Learn more about the ACT Reading Test, how to practice for it and get sample problems!

Practice Tips for the ACT Science Section


The Science test is 35 minutes and contains 40 multiple-choice questions.

Learn more about the ACT Science Test, how to practice for it and get sample problems!

Practice Tips for the ACT Writing Section (optional)


The optional Writing test is 40 minutes and asks you to complete 1 essay prompt.

Learn more about the ACT Writing Test and how to practice for it!

How is the ACT Scored?


The ACT will provide the following scores to you and the colleges/universities that you apply to:

- State and national percentile scores

- Progress toward national benchmarks

- Individual English, Math, Reading and Science Scores on a scale from 1–36

- Composite Score on scale of 1–36 (average of multiple-choice test scores)

- English Language Arts Score on 1-36 scale that averages English, Reading and Writing Scores

- STEM Score on 1-36 scale that averages Math and Science Scores

- Progress toward Career Readiness Rating on 1-36 scale

  1. Bronze
  2. Silver
  3. Gold

- 5 scores for the optional Writing Test:

- One combined average Writing Score on 2-12 scale

- Four Scores on 2-12 scale for each domain of writing competency:

  1. Ideas and Analysis
  2. Development and Support
  3. Organization
  4. Language Use and Conventions

What is the Best Way to Prepare for the ACT?

Before the test ...


1. Start studying early: Set up a study schedule months in advance to allow leisurely preparation and eliminate the need for cramming.

2. Effort counts: College/university entrance exams can have a big influence on your admissions. This is an important test and should be taken seriously. Remember to try your best, relax and remain calm.

3. Take practice tests: Taking multiple practice tests will make you feel more comfortable with the testing experience and remove much of the mystery involved with college/university entrance exams.

4. Sleep and eat: Studies have found that stress is elevated by fatigue. Be sure that you have plenty of uninterrupted sleep a few days prior to the test day. And, since the SAT is generally offered in the morning, remember to eat a good, healthy breakfast before the test. This will keep you energized for a long day, and allow you to stay focused and alert.

5. Come early and prepared: Make sure you are at the test site early, and have all of your testing supplies. Go to the bathroom before the test starts, but also plan a bathroom in the middle. Being late or missing materials will cause stress you do NOT need.

During the test ...


6. Use Process of Elimination. If you are having some difficulty with a question, get rid of any answer choices that you feel cannot possibly be correct and make a guess from the remaining answers.

7. Never leave an answer blank. If you cannot eliminate any of the answer choices, or if you feel it would take too long to answer the question, make a random guess—it cannot hurt!

8. Keep going. The items on the test include a range of difficulty and they appear in a mixed order. If you find one type of question challenging, mark it and come back.

9. Watch out for the dreaded "I’m one off" syndrome. Periodically check your answer sheet to make sure you have not misplaced an answer.

10. Mark it up. Mark up questions to help you focus on key parts of the questions or eliminate answer choices as you work. Marking up the booklet will not only improve your understanding of an item and your concentration on the day of your test, it will also help you manage your time efficiently.

Does Sylvan Offer ACT Prep Classes?

Sylvan’s ACT Prep courses are a great place to start if you’re planning to take the ACT!

Students start with a Sylvan Prep practice test, which generates a score report that will help us identify areas for improvement. Sylvan Prep’s Score reports will provide the following information, which help us personalize your prep experience to hone in your focus!

Sylvan ACT Report Example


Sylvan ACT Report Pic Example
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