SAT / ACT Prep Online Guides and Tips

How to Build an ACT Study Plan: 4 Sample Schedules

Posted by Hannah Muniz | Sep 22, 2017 12:00:00 PM

ACT General Info

 

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The best way to attack the ACT is to use an ACT study plan. With a study plan, you can manage your prep time more easily, figure out your weaknesses, and hone the skills you need to get the score you want on test day.

We give you four top-notch ACT plans to choose from, based on your ACT score goals. Before we take a look at those, though, let’s go over the benefits of having an ACT schedule and the steps needed to find the right ACT study plan for you.

 

What Are the Benefits of a Study Plan for ACT Prep?

Everyone studying for the ACT should start with a thorough study plan. But what are the benefits of having one?

For one, having an ACT study plan allows you to balance your prep time so that you’re spending enough time on the topics you need to study—but aren’t overworking yourself. For example, if I had four months to prep for the ACT, my plan would tell me how many hours to study per week as well as how I could arrange these hours to fit my schedule.

ACT plans are also highly adaptable. This means you can change your ACT schedule to better suit your study needs and work around any obligations you have. So if you’re struggling with math but have already completed your "ACT Math Review" day, you could spend some of your “ACT Reading Review” day reviewing more math concepts you need to know.

Finally, an ACT prep schedule can tell you whether you’re en route to hitting your goal score. A good study plan will tell you when to take ACT practice tests (starting with official ones) so that you can gauge your overall progress and pinpoint your weaknesses.

Clearly, there are many benefits of having an ACT study plan. But how can you find the right schedule for you?

 

Choosing a Study Plan for ACT Prep: 5 Preliminary Steps

Before you decide on an ACT schedule, you need to figure out where you’re currently scoring, what your goal score is, and how much prep time you’ll need. Below, we cover the five preliminary steps you must take to find the best ACT study plan for you.

 

Step 1: Set a Goal Score

The first step is to set an ACT goal score. This is the score most likely to get you admitted to all of the schools you’re applying to. You'll want to aim for this score on test day, but to do this you must prep accordingly (which we help you do in our study plans below!).

To set a goal score, look for the 25th and 75th percentile ACT scores for each of your schools. These scores represent the middle 50 percent, or average range, of scores of admitted applicants. Ideally, you’ll get an ACT score in at least the 75th percentile for your schools. This will mean you've scored higher than 75 percent of admitted applicants!

The easiest way to keep track of ACT score info for your schools is to make a chart (you can also download our pre-made chart). To find your schools’ ACT score info, go online and search for “[School Name] PrepScholar.” This will bring up links to our database. Click on the “Admission Requirements” page for your school.

On this page, scroll down to find your school’s ACT score info. You'll see a big banner containing your school's average ACT score. Beneath that are your school's 25th and 75th percentile ACT scores. Here’s an example of how this looks on Notre Dame's PrepScholar page:

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Once you’ve gathered the 75th percentile scores for all of your schools and recorded them in your chart, look for the highest score. This will be your goal score, as it’s the one most likely to get you accepted to all of the schools you're applying to.

Let's say I applied to Notre Dame, the University of Michigan, Indiana University Bloomington, and Indiana State. In this case, my ACT goal score would be 34 (the highest 75th percentile score, for Notre Dame).

 

Step 2: Find Your Baseline Score

Next, it's time to get your baseline score. A baseline score is essentially your starting point in ACT prep—it’s the score you’d get right now on the ACT, without any prep.

To find your baseline, take an official ACT practice test. Official tests are the best resources to use for getting your baseline score since they’re by far the most realistic tests out there.

As you take your practice test, make sure to simulate real testing conditions as closely as possible: take the test in a quiet room, use an ACT-approved calculator, and abide by the official time limits on all sections.

When finished, use your test’s scoring guide to calculate your scaled scores. Your composite score (that is, the average of your four section scores) will be your baseline score. For example, if I got 32 on English, 25 on Math, 28 on Reading, and 30 on Science, my final ACT score would be 29 (since 28.75 rounds up!).

 

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Step 3: Calculate How Many Hours You’ll Need to Study

Now, it's time to use your baseline and goal scores to figure out roughly how many hours you’ll need to prep for the ACT.

First, subtract your baseline score from your goal score. Then, match the difference to a point range below to see how many total hours you’ll need to study:

  • 0-1 point improvement: 10 hours
  • 1-2 point improvement: 20 hours
  • 2-4 point improvement: 40 hours
  • 4-6 point improvement: 80 hours
  • 6-9 point improvement: 150 hours+

The more points you need to improve by, the more hours you’ll need to study. In my examples above, my goal score was 34 and my baseline score was 29. This comes out to a 5-point improvement, equaling about 80 total hours of prep.

 

Step 4: Pick a Test Date

When picking an ACT test date, you'll need to consider the following three factors:
  • How much time you want to prepare for the ACT
  • How busy your schedule is around a test date
  • Your college application deadlines

The most important point to remember is this: the more hours you need to study, the more time you should give yourself before test day. If you're planning to make large gains of 4 or more points, choose a test date that’s further out so that you have ample time to prep for the exam (and relax as needed!). I suggest prepping for three to six months, though you might need more or less time depending on how big of a point improvement you want to make.

Additionally, choose a test date that works well with your schedule. If you have tons of activities or commitments with little to no time to study, go with a test date at a different, more relaxed time to make your schedule less stressful for you.

Finally, if you’re a senior, make sure to take the ACT well before your college application deadlines. If your scores arrive after deadlines, your application could get disqualified, so always choose an early test date. Generally, seniors should be able to do the September and October test dates and possibly the December test date—but not anything later!

 

Step 5: Gather ACT Study Materials

Before you begin your ACT prep schedule, spend time gathering high-quality study materials. Far and away, the best resources you can use are official ones (i.e., anything created by ACT, Inc.).

Here are some of the top official ACT resources:

  • Official ACT practice tests: These free, full-length practice tests are the best out there and offer highly realistic ACT test-taking practice. Use these to check your progress and monitor your score improvement.
  • Official sample test questions: ACT, Inc., offers online batches of sample questions for each ACT section. This free resource comes with detailed answer explanations and is ideal for both general practice and drilling weaknesses.
  • The Official ACT Prep Guide: At about $25, this official ACT prep book offers three full-length practice tests, 400 practice questions, and test-day guidance. Just be aware that if you already have the 2016-17 version, the 2018 one is essentially the same. Additionally, all three practice tests share significant overlap with the free tests above, so you might want to get the third edition of the book instead (which comes with five unique tests).

You can also use high-quality, unofficial ACT resources to supplement your prep. Our guide to the best ACT prep books gives you our top recommendations for official and unofficial ACT prep books. Pro tip: always be pickier when buying unofficial ACT resources since many are low quality and don’t contain realistic practice questions.

 

body_popcorn-2.jpgGet your popcorn ready as we preview four Oscar-worthy ACT study plans!

 

4 ACT Study Plans for You to Choose From

You are now ready to pick an study plan for ACT prep! Below, we offer four study plans to choose from. Each one differs in intensity (how many hours you need to study per week) and length (how many months the program is). 

Each plan also comes with suggested time frames to help you balance your prep. That said, you are free to tweak our plans so that you’re spending more or less time on certain topics and skills.

Remember, a good ACT study plan can adapt to fit your needs. If you’re struggling with Math and Science, for example, but are strong at Reading and English, you could (and should) focus more on honing your Math and Science skills. Just be sure you’re generally following your ACT schedule so that you’re not missing any critical practice, review, or progress checks.

The four ACT study plans we offer are as follows:

  • A three-month, medium-intensive plan
  • A three-month, low-intensive plan
  • A six-month, medium-intensive plan
  • A one-month, high-intensive plan

 

ACT Study Plan #1: 3-Month Program, Medium Intensity

This moderate study plan lasts three months and requires a total of 80 study hours, or about six and a half hours a week. With this plan, you’ll be able to raise your total ACT score by up to 6 points.

This is a great plan to use any time of the year but works best if you’re studying over the summer (to take the September or October ACT) and have more free time to dedicate to ACT prep.

 

body_book_pages_glasses.jpgFirst tip for your ACT Reading studies: don't remove your glasses!

 

Month 1: English & Reading Basics

For the first month, you’ll get to know the ACT, specifically the English and Reading sections.

 

Week 1: Learn the ACT Format

1. Take an official practice test. To get your baseline score, take a full-length ACT test. Be sure to recreate real testing conditions as closely as possible—this means taking the test in a quiet room without interruptions.

Suggested Time: 3.5 hrs

2. Score your practice test and analyze your results. Your composite score will be your baseline score (the score you start with before beginning any test prep). You should also take some time to go over your results and see what questions you got right and wrong.

Suggested Time: 1.5 hrs

3. Learn the overall format of the ACT. Familiarize yourself with the basics of the ACT: what kind of content it tests, what kinds of questions it has, and how much time you’ll have on each section.

Suggested Time: 1.5 hrs

 

Week 2: Focus on English

1. Learn the English test format. Understand what it tests and what types of passages you’ll need to edit.

Suggested Time: 2 hrs

2. Study all ACT grammar topics and punctuation rules. You’ll need to know all of the major English rules that can appear on the ACT, from pronouns to apostrophes. 

Suggested Time: 2.5 hrs

3. Learn and practice the graf-by-graf reading strategy. This passage-reading strategy is by far the best one for ACT English. With this strategy, you'll read a passage one paragraph at a time and answer questions for each paragraph. Once you understand how this strategy works, practice it using realistic ACT English passages.

Suggested Time: 2 hrs

 

Week 3: Turn to Reading

1. Learn the Reading test format. Understand how this section differs from the English section, what kinds of passages there are, and what sorts of questions you'll be answering.

Suggested Time: 2.5 hrs

2. Find the passage-reading strategy that works best for you. You’ll want to use a strategy that’s both quick and effective. To figure out which one you like most, test out a few different strategies using Reading practice tests. The strategy that gives you the highest score is the one you'll use in your prep and on test day.

Suggested Time: 2.5 hrs

3. Practice your chosen passage-reading strategy. Once you've decided on a strategy, continue practicing it using quality Reading practice tests.

Suggested Time: 1.5 hrs

 

Week 4: Learn Reading & English Strategies

1. Memorize common ACT vocabulary words. Our ACT vocabulary list contains 150 common words you should know for the exam.

Suggested Time: 2 hrs

2. Learn English and Reading strategies. Most importantly, practice the #1 critical rule for Reading so that you can know how to eliminate incorrect answer choices.

Suggested Time: 2.5 hrs

3. Practice strategies. Use official practice questions or high-quality, unofficial questions to test out the various English and Reading strategies you’ve learned.

Suggested Time: 2 hrs

 

body_science_experiment.jpgOn the ACT, you get to play the part of a scientist—but, sadly, do not get to work with red goo.

 

Month 2: Math & Science Basics

Now, you’ll move on to math and science topics. This month teaches you the format of the Math and Science sections and how to strategize for them.

 

Week 5: Move Toward Math

1. Learn the Math test format. Get to know the basic structure of the section and what kinds of topics it tests.

Suggested Time: 2 hrs

2. Go over basic math concepts. Read our basic guide to integers followed by our advanced guide to integers. Then, learn about fractions and proportions.

Suggested Time: 2 hrs

3. Review algebra. Key topics include the following:

Suggested Time: 2.5 hrs

 

Week 6: Learn More Math

1. Study key geometry concepts. These include the following:

Suggested Time: 3 hrs

2. Go over all other math topics—in particular, trigonometry.

Suggested Time: 2 hrs

3. Memorize all critical formulas. You won’t get any on test day, so definitely get these down pat!

Suggested Time: 1.5 hrs

 

Week 7: Switch to Science

1. Learn the Science test format. Understand what kinds of passages you’ll have and what the questions will look like.

Suggested Time: 2 hrs

2. Find the passage-reading strategy that works best for you. This strategy might be different from the ones you use for Reading and English. To find the right one for you, test out a few different strategies using Science practice tests. Whichever gives you the highest score is the one you'll use in your prep.

Suggested Time: 2.5 hrs

3. Practice your chosen reading strategy. Use high-quality Science practice tests to help you get used to reading scientific passages and answering questions.

Suggested Time: 2 hrs

 

Week 8: Learn Math & Science Strategies

1. Learn Math and Science strategies. For Math, the most important ones include plugging in numbers and plugging in answers. In addition, make sure you know what kind of science is on the ACT and how to read tables and graphs.

Suggested Time: 2.5 hrs

2. Practice strategies. Use high-quality practice questions to test out the Math and Science strategies you’ve learned.

Suggested Time: 2 hrs

3. Learn the Writing test formatIf you're planning to take the ACT essay, you'll need to know what kind of essay you'll be writing, how much time you'll have for it on test day, and what kinds of prompts there are.

Suggested Time: 2 hrs

 

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Month 3: Progress Check & Review

Now, it’s time to review everything you’ve learned and check your progress to make sure you’re on track to getting your goal score.

 

Week 9: Check Your Progress

1. Take an official practice test. This will tell you how much your score has improved since your baseline test.

Suggested Time: 3.5 hrs

2. Score your test and determine your weaknesses. Look at the questions you got wrong and try to see whether there are any patterns in your mistakes. These will be the areas you’ll need to drill more in your prep.

Suggested Time: 3 hrs

 

Week 10: Practice Writing & Strengthen Your Weaknesses

1. Practice writing ACT essays using high-quality promptsThis way you'll get used to writing quickly and effectively. I suggest getting someone to score your responses so that you can figure out what skills you need to work on in order to produce more cogent essays.

Suggested Time: 2.5 hrs

2. Use high-quality practice questions to drill general weaknesses. For example, if you’re having problems solving algebra problems, spend more time reviewing algebraic concepts and practicing them as they appear on the ACT.

Suggested Time: 4 hrs

 

Week 11: Check Your Progress (Again)

1. Take your third and final practice test. As always, take it in a quiet place and in one sitting to get an accurate reflection of your scoring ability.

Suggested Time: 3.5 hrs

2. Score your test and closely analyze your results. Are there any question types or topics you’re still getting wrong? What’s eating up your time and taking more energy than it needs to? Get a feel for what’s holding you back and then figure out how to fix your approach.

Suggested Time: 3 hrs

 

Week 12: Review as Needed

1. Continue reviewing concepts and strategies you want to work on. Use high-quality practice questions and resources to help you hone your skills. Just don’t overdo your prep at this point—it's OK to take some time to relax and mentally prepare yourself for the test!

Suggested Time: 6.5 hrs (with 0 hrs on test day and the day before)

 

ACT Study Plan #2: 3-Month Program, Low Intensity

This is another three-month program but of a much lower intensity. With this plan, you’ll study for a total of 40 hours, or just three and a half hours per week. At this rate, you'll gain up to 4 total points on the ACT.

This ACT schedule should work well for those prepping during the school year since it’s lighter and less demanding than the plan above. However, because you're only studying a handful of hours a week, you're limited in the number of points you can gain. Therefore, only choose this plan if you need to make small gains on test day.

 

body_grammar_dictionary.jpgGrammar is a key part of ACT English. And, uh, graminivorous is not.

 

Month 1: English & Reading Basics

During this first month, you’ll familiarize yourself with the ACT format and learn the basics of the English and Reading sections.

 

Week 1: Find Your Baseline Score

1. Take an official ACT practice test and score it. This week will slightly exceed your weekly time limit. You’ll spend about 3.5 hours on the test and a half hour scoring it. Remember to recreate real testing conditions to give yourself a more accurate indicator of where you’re currently scoring.

Suggested Time: 4 hrs

 

Week 2: Learn the ACT Format

1. Analyze your results from your baseline test. A score doesn’t tell you everything you need to know about your ACT abilities, so take some time to analyze your practice test's results and see where your strengths and weaknesses lie.

Suggested time: 2 hrs

2. Learn the format of the ACT. You must understand how the ACT tests concepts and sets up questions in order to do well on it. Specifically, you should know what's on the ACT, what its time limits are, and how it's scored.

Suggested Time: 1.5 hrs

 

Week 3: Focus on English

1. Learn the English test format. Understand what kinds of passages you’ll see, how grammar questions are presented, and how many questions there are in total.

Suggested Time: 1 hr

2. Study all ACT grammar topics and punctuation rules. Get down the most important grammar and rhetorical topics likely to appear on the ACT.

Suggested Time: 1.5 hrs

3. Learn and practice the graf-by-graf reading strategy. This strategy is the best one out there for the English section. You’ll read passages in paragraphs and answer questions for each paragraph.

Suggested Time: 1 hr

 

Week 4: Turn to Reading

1. Learn the Reading test formatGet to know the types of passages you'll read, what Reading questions look like, and how much time you'll have.

Suggested Time: 1 hr

2. Practice the best passage-reading strategy for Reading: read the questions first and then skim the passage. This strategy is ideal for the ACT, as it teaches you to identify correct information fast. Always practice with high-quality Reading practice questions.

Suggested Time: 1.5 hrs

3. Memorize common ACT vocabulary words. Our list contains 150 ACT vocabulary words and their meanings for you to study.

Suggested Time: 1 hr

 

body_math_addition.jpgThe ACT assumes you know the basics of math and don't need to count on your fingers for everything.

 

Month 2: Math & Science Basics

This month focuses primarily on the fundamentals of the Math and Science sections.

 

Week 5: Move Toward Math

1. Learn the Math test format. You should know what kind of math you’ll face on the ACT, how questions are worded, and approximately how much time you’ll have per question.

Suggested Time: 1.5 hrs

2. Go over basic math concepts. Read our basic guide to integers and our advanced guide. After, get started on reviewing the basics of fractions and proportions.

Suggested Time: 1 hr

3. Memorize all critical ACT Math formulas. Oftentimes, an ACT Math problem can only be solved with a formula, so getting these down will help you get a great Math score.

Suggested Time: 1 hr

 

Week 6: Learn More Math

1. Review algebra. Algebra plays a key part on ACT Math, so make sure you understand the following concepts:

Suggested Time: 1.5 hrs

2. Study key geometry concepts. Like algebra, geometry plays a big role on the ACT. The most important topics you should know include the following:

Suggested Time: 1.5 hrs

3. Go over all other math topics. Trigonometry, for example, is a less commonly tested but still important topic you'll need to know for the ACT.

Suggested Time: 30 mins

 

Week 7: Switch to Science

1. Learn the Science test format. Know what kinds of passages and questions you'll encounter on test day.

Suggested Time: 1 hr

2. Practice the best passage-reading strategy for Science: read the questions first and then skim the passage. This is similar to the approach you’ll use for the Reading section. Be sure to use high-quality Science practice tests when practicing this method.

Suggested Time: 1.5 hrs

3. Review the science topics you’ll need to know for the ACT. Generally, you won't need any specialized knowledge to do well on ACT Science, but you should still be familiar with certain biology, chemistry, physics, and math concepts.

Suggested Time: 1 hr

 

Week 8: Check Your Progress

1. Take an official practice test and score it. As always, find a quiet place to take the test and take it all in one sitting. This will let you see how much you’ve improved since your baseline test.

Suggested Time: 4 hrs

 

body_chess_strategy.jpgAcing the ACT is all about strategizing.

 

Month 3: Strategies & Review

To wrap up this ACT study plan, you’ll spend your last month learning key test-taking strategies, checking your progress, and reviewing topics you’re still struggling with.

 

Week 9: Learn Strategies for Each Section

1. Practice English and Reading strategies. Above all, be sure to practice the #1 critical rule for Reading, which teaches you how to eliminate incorrect answer choices.

Suggested Time: 1.5 hrs

2. Practice key Math and Science strategies, such as plugging in numbers and plugging in answers. For Science, practice reading tables and graphs.

Suggested Time: 2 hrs

 

Week 10: Check Your Progress (Again)

1. Take your third and final practice test and score it. This will give you a last look at what kinds of weaknesses you still have and what topics or skills you should review more before test day.

Suggested Time: 4 hrs

 

Week 11: Strengthen Your Weaknesses

1. Drill any weak spots you have. Use your third practice test's results to get a clearer picture of what areas you're still having trouble with. Then, practice these mistakes and test out strategies to help you overcome them.

Suggested Time: 3.5 hrs

 

Week 12: Review as Needed

1. Continue drilling any difficult concepts, skills, or strategies. Just be careful not to overdo it. This week isn't only for practicing but also for calming your nerves. So don’t study the day before the test or on test day—your brain will appreciate the break!

Suggested Time: 3.5 hrs (with 0 hrs on test day and the day before)

 

body_season_autumn.jpgBy the time you finish this next plan, it'll be spring!

 

ACT Study Plan #3: 6-Month Program, Medium Intensity

Need more study time? This six-month ACT schedule offers you a more relaxed and balanced approach to test prep. With this plan, you’ll study a total of 150 hours, or six to six and a half hours a week, to improve your composite score by up to 9 points!

This plan is ideal for high-achieving sophomores wanting a head start on ACT prep. Ideally, you’ll take your first ACT in the fall of your junior year (in September or October), meaning you'd likely study the end of your sophomore year and over the summer.

Juniors, too, can use this plan for a spring or summer ACT. Since this schedule lets you spread out your prep across several months, you'll feel less overwhelmed by homework and ACT prep.

 

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4

Month 1

Find Your Baseline Score


Take an official practice test (3.5 hrs)


Score your test to see your weaknesses (1.5 hrs)


Learn the ACT format (1.5 hrs)

Understand Structure


Learn the English test format (3 hrs)


Learn the Reading test format (3 hrs)

Understand Structure


Learn the Math test format (3 hrs)


Learn the Science test format (3 hrs)

Choose a Passage-Reading Strategy


Practice the graf-by-graf strategy for English (1.5 hrs)


Choose and practice a passage-reading strategy for Reading (2.5 hrs)


Choose and practice a passage-reading strategy for Science (2.5 hrs)

Month 2

Learn Math Content


Review basic math concepts and formulas (3 hrs)


Build algebra foundation (3 hrs)

Learn English & Reading Content


Go over major English grammar and punctuation topics (2 hrs)


Study vocabulary (2 hrs)


Practice reading comprehension (2 hrs)

Learn More Math & Some Science


Build geometry foundation (3 hrs)


Learn additional math topics such as trig (2 hrs)


Learn basic science topics (1.5 hrs)

Check Your Progress


Take a practice test (3.5 hrs)


Score it, analyze your answers, and re-solve missed questions (3 hrs)

Month 3

Learn English & Reading Strategies


Practice eliminating wrong answer choices (3 hrs)


Practice other English and Reading strategies (3 hrs)

Learn Math & Science Strategies


Practice plugging in answers and numbers for Math (2 hrs)

Practice reading graphs and tables for Science (2 hrs)


Practice other Math and Science strategies (2 hrs)

Review & Practice


Practice questions for each section, reviewing concepts as needed (6.5 hrs)

Check Your Progress


Take a practice test (3.5 hrs)


Score it and analyze your answers (3 hrs)

Month 4

Study the Essay Format


Learn the Writing section (essay) format (2 hrs)


Practice writing timed essays (4 hrs)

Review & Practice


Practice questions for each section, reviewing concepts as needed (6.5 hrs)

Review & Practice


Practice questions for each section, reviewing concepts as needed (6 hrs)

Check Your Progress


Take a practice test (3.5 hrs)


Score it and analyze your answers (3 hrs)

Month 5

Review Needed Math Topics


Practice any Math topics or strategies you’re still struggling with (6.5 hrs)

Review Needed English Topics


Practice any English topics or strategies you’re still struggling with (6 hrs)

Review Needed Science Topics


Practice any Science topics or strategies you’re still struggling with (6 hrs)

Review Needed Reading Topics


Practice any Reading topics or strategies you’re still struggling with (6.5 hrs)

Month 6

Check Your Progress


Take a practice test (3.5 hrs)


Score it and analyze your answers (3 hrs)

Review Needed Concepts


Practice any English, Math, Reading, or Science topics you’re still struggling with (6 hrs)

Review Needed Concepts


Practice any English, Math, Reading, or Science topics you’re still struggling with (6.5 hrs)

Prep Lightly & Review


Zero in on any final topics you want to practice, and rest up before test day (6 hrs)


 

ACT Study Plan #4: 1-Month Program, High Intensity

This high-intensity plan requires a lot of commitment to make it work. For this brief one-month program, you’ll study a total of 40 hours, or 10 hours a week, to get a maximum 4-point increase on the ACT. In truth, one month isn’t a particularly long time to prep for the ACT, but you can be successful if you're willing to put in the effort and stick to a regular schedule.

This ACT study plan works best if you don’t have a lot of activities or commitments going on and can therefore focus primarily on test prep. If you’re using this plan while in school, you’ll need to carve out study time during the week, as prepping for 10 hours every weekend is fairly difficult.

For more advice on how to study for the ACT in a month, check out our step-by-step guide.

 

Week 1: Study Structure

1. Take an official practice test to get your baseline score. Find a quiet room with no distractions and time yourself using official time limits.

Suggested Time: 3.5 hrs

2. Score your test and analyze your results. Use your baseline test results to determine your weaknesses and look for any patterns in your mistakes.

Suggested Time: 1 hr

3. Learn the overall ACT test format. Know how long the test is, what’s on it, and how it’s scored.

Suggested Time: 1.5 hrs

4. Learn the English test format. Get to know the kinds of questions and passages you'll encounter on test day.

Suggested Time: 1 hr

5. Learn the Reading test format. Acquaint yourself with the different types of Reading passages and how questions are worded.

Suggested Time: 1 hr

6. Learn the Math test format. Briefly review how the math section is set up, what kind of math you’ll need to know, and how much time you’ll have for this section and per question.

Suggested Time: 1 hr

7. Learn the Science test format. Go over how long the section is, what kind of science it tests, and what role passages and data play.

Suggested Time: 1 hr

 

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Week 2: Get Down Key Content

1. Review the most important English grammar topics and punctuation rules. Knowing which grammar rules are most likely to be tested is key to doing well on English.

Suggested Time: 2 hrs

2. Learn and practice core ACT Math topics. Understand the basics of integers as well as ratios and proportions. Above all, know the ins and outs of algebra and geometry. Specific topics in these fields include the following:

Algebra

Geometry

Suggested Time: 5 hrs

3. Memorize the most important ACT Math formulas. Many questions can only be solved with a formula, so knowing these guarantees you’ll have a better shot at getting a high Math score.

Suggested Time: 1 hr

4. Practice reading graphs and tables for ScienceUnderstand how data is presented in this section and what kinds of questions will be asked about it.

Suggested Time: 2 hrs

 

Week 3: Strategize & Check Your Progress

1. Practice your passage-reading strategies for English, Reading, and Science. The best one to use for English is the graf-by-graf method. For both Reading and Science, I recommend reading the questions first and then skimming the passage.

Suggested Time: 3 hrs

2. Learn and practice key strategies for all sections of the exam. The most important ones include plugging in numbers and plugging in answers for Math and the #1 critical rule for Reading.

Suggested Time: 3 hrs

3. Take and score a practice test to check your progress. Use the test to see how much you’ve improved since your baseline test, and look for any weaknesses you'll need to target in your final week of prep.

Suggested Time: 4 hrs

 

Week 4: Review & Practice

1. Review and practice difficult ACT topics and strategies. This is the time to zero in on your weaknesses so that you’ll feel more confident and make fewer mistakes on test day. Additionally, if you're taking the ACT with Writing, you can use some of this time to go over the format of the essay and practice answering prompts. Just don't study the day before or the day of the test—you need to give your brain a rest!

Suggested Time: 10 hrs (with 0 hrs on test day and the day before)

 

body_four_paths.jpgWhich plan will lead you to victory?

 

Recap: What's the Best ACT Study Plan for You?

A good study plan for the ACT not only helps you reach your goal score but also fits easily into your schedule, changes to fit your study needs, and gives you ample confidence on test day.

Before choosing a plan, make sure to complete these five preliminary steps:

  1. Set a goal score
  2. Find your baseline score
  3. Figure out how many hours you’ll need to study
  4. Choose a test date that works well for you
  5. Gather high-quality ACT study materials

Finally, here are some key points to remember as you consider what type of ACT schedule might work best for you:

Remember your commitments. Don’t choose a study plan or test date that’ll interfere with any major obligations or activities in your life. You should have plenty of time to dedicate to ACT prep, so choose a test date that’s got less going on around it.

Find a routine. You’ll get the most out of your ACT study plan by following a routine. This means you should try to prep on the same days and at the same times each week. In turn, you’ll be less likely to procrastinate and won't forget to study.

Customize your schedule. An ACT study plan should always adapt to fit your needs, so feel free to change up our plans to give yourself more or less time with certain topics. Just avoid completely skipping any major concepts or strategies!

Be confident. Last but not least, stay calm and go into the test optimistically. As long as you’ve followed your ACT study plan and targeted your weaknesses, you’re sure to get a great ACT score!

Good luck with your ACT studies!

 

What’s Next?

Need more help preparing for the ACT? Read our guides to learn how long you should study for the ACT and how many times you should take it.

Aiming for a perfect ACT score? Our expert guide can show you what steps to take and what strategies to use to get that coveted 36 on test day.

Taking the SAT, too? Then get started today with one of our four SAT study plans!

 

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Hannah Muniz
About the Author

Hannah graduated summa cum laude from the University of Southern California with a bachelor’s degree in English and East Asian languages and cultures. After graduation, she taught English in Japan for two years via the JET Program. She is passionate about education, writing, and travel.



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