ACT Prep from Start to Finish: Your Ultimate Guide to Online Exam Preparation (+INFOGRAPHIC)

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      The ACT test: General Information

      Defining ACT and understanding its importance: What is ACT?

      ACT stands for American College Testing. It is a standardized test used for college admissions in the United States, administered by the homonymous organization.

      Most colleges and universities base their student admission decisions on the results of tests such as the ACT and the SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test). Certain states specifically require the ACT for college admission, while it is also becoming common for employers to ask to see job candidates’ ACT scores.

      Young man sitting in front of his laptop with a pen in his hand

      This is why more and more individuals are turning to the internet in order to find resources for ACT prep and, indeed, it has been found that ACT online prep can be highly effective in helping learners achieve their exam goals.

      Parts of the ACT

      The ACT contains four mandatory parts (English, Mathematics, Reading, and Science) and an optional fifth part (Writing).

      Questions per ACT section

      There is a total of 215 questions on the ACT, broken down as follows:

      • 75 questions on English
      • 60 questions on Math
      • 40 questions on Reading
      • 40 questions on Science

      The optional Writing part of the ACT consists of one essay.

      Calculating ACT scores

      Each section of the ACT is scored from 1 to 36. The overall score for the exam can be calculated by adding a student’s scores for each individual section, dividing by 4, and rounding to the nearest whole number.

      Explaining the ACT’s Test 5

      In recent years, the ACT has included a fifth section that does not count towards the exam’s overall score. This section, which takes twenty minutes to complete and is referred to as Test 5, is an experimental section that serves the purpose of helping test-makers assess potential new questions in English, Math, Reading, or Science for future exams.

      Understanding ACT scores

      The ACT score range is from 1-36, with 20.8 constituting the U.S. average. While different colleges have different admission criteria, it can be argued that a score of 16 or lower is poor and anything above 30 is exceptional.

      Cost of the ACT

      Taking the ACT exam costs $55 (excluding the optional Writing section) or $70 (including the Writing section).

      ACT preparation online: Study tips

      1. Time Management

      Determining how long to study for the ACT

      While it is recommended to study for at least 10 hours for the ACT, the amount of time one should dedicate to studying depends on a variety of factors, such as their target score, their familiarity with the test material, how fast they learn and whether they are easily distracted while studying.

      Saving time with online ACT prep

      Online exam prep means that students can practice for the ACT from the comfort of their own homes any time they want to. Prepping online eliminates the need for gathering resources and study material and commuting to take physical ACT prep classes. Practicing for the ACT online also means students can focus on their individual needs and weaknesses rather than follow a class’s pace, ultimately saving one a lot of time.

      2. Test Format

      The importance of understanding the ACT test format

      Understanding how a test is structured and laid out is particularly important for quickly and successfully navigating it. Students who prep for the ACT become familiar with the format of the exam and are less likely to waste time trying to work out the wording and requirements of questions during it.

      Analyzing the ACT test format

      The format of the ACT is as follows:

      • English Section: A total of 75 multiple-choice questions structured around five different reading passages (15 questions per passage);
      • Math Section: A total of 60 multiple-choice questions, divided into three categories (Preparing for Higher Math, Integrating Essential Skills and Modeling);
      • Reading Section: A total of 40 multiple-choice questions based on comprehension of either one long passage or two shorter excerpts, divided into three assessment categories (Key Ideas and Details, Craft and Structure and Integration of Knowledge and Ideas);
      • Science Section: A total of 40 multiple-choice questions designed to evaluate skills such as analysis, interpretation, problem-solving and reasoning;
      • Writing Section: One personal viewpoint essay based on a given prompt.
      Test score sheet with answers

      Types of questions in each ACT section

      All questions in the ACT are multiple-choice, except for the optional Writing section which requires students to write an essay. The questions are specifically designed to assess the following skills:

      • English: Grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, strategy, organization, and style;
      • Math: Pre-algebra, elementary algebra, intermediate algebra, coordinate geometry, plane geometry, and trigonometry;
      • Reading: Comprehension of what is stated or implied in a text;
      • Science: Interpretation, analysis, and evaluation of data and graphs, as well as reasoning and problem-solving.

      Duration of the ACT exam and time per question

      The ACT is 2 hours and 55 minutes long, excluding the optional Writing section. The Writing section adds an extra 40 minutes, which, with breaks, brings the total duration of the exam to just over 4 hours. This means students have 36 seconds per question in English, 1 minute per question in Math, 52 seconds per question in Reading, and 52 seconds per question in Science.

      3. Apps & Websites

      The three best ACT prep websites

      Students nowadays have a wide variety of options when it comes to choosing a prep website for the ACT. Some of the best ACT prep online choices are the following:

      • Eurekly: With its innovative Knowledge Exchange program and its top-quality tutors with experience prepping students for important exams, Eurekly is a particularly useful tool for those seeking to take the ACT.
      • Varsity Tutors: Offering free ACT questions that get automatically scored as you answer them, Varsity Tutors is perfect for helping students identify their strengths and weaknesses.
      • PowerScore: A website that lets you download a limited number of free, official ACT practice tests with answer keys, PowerScore helps to simulate the actual test-taking experience.

      The three best ACT prep mobile apps

      There are also plenty of ACT prep options for those who prefer mobile technology. Some of the best apps that you can download to help you study for the ACT are the following:

      • Ready4 ACT: An app offering step-by-step lessons, virtual flashcards, practice tests, and analytics for tracking one’s strengths and weaknesses.
      • ACT Prep: An app designed by the tutoring company Varsity Tutors, which offers a wealth of practice questions and explanations, divided by topic.
      • ACT Prep Coach & Practice Test: An ACT test prep app that lists helpful study tips, articles, and video lessons.

      4. Sample Tests

      The difference between a practice test and ACT online test prep materials

      Both practice tests and prep material have their merits when it comes to ACT prep online and, ultimately, it is up to students to decide what works for them best. A practice test commonly features real questions from previous ACT tests. Test prep materials, on the other hand, are more in-depth resources that provide detailed explanations that allow students to work on the specific areas they need to.

      Where to find sample tests for the ACT

      The following links will guide you to sample tests for the ACT:

      The advantages of practicing with PDF sample tests

      Some ACT sample tests are available online for download in PDF form. Practicing with this type of sample test has the following advantages:

      • Relaxed pace: Tests in PDF form cannot be taken in real-time, which allows students to take them at a relaxed, stress-free pace.
      • Printable: Tests in PDF form can be printed, meaning students can re-read and practice them as many times as necessary.
      • Promoting in-depth comprehension: Tests in PDF form that can be printed and taken repeatedly ensure that students develop in-depth comprehension of the exam’s format and requirements.

      The advantages of practicing with online sample tests

      Other ACT sample tests are only available for taking online in real-time, which has benefits such as the following:

      • Improved performance under time pressure: Online sample tests are time-limited, which teaches students to perform better under pressure.
      • Automated scoring: Online sample tests are normally scored automatically, meaning that students know how they have performed instantly.
      • Real test-taking simulation: Online sample tests closely simulate the real conditions of taking an exam and, as such, are a good predictor of expected performance on the ACT.
      Infographic enlisting the advantages of practicing with PDF and online sample tests

      The necessity of analyzing your wrong answers

      In order to improve on problem areas and, therefore, increase your ACT score, it is essential to analyze your wrong answers. Figure out if there is a pattern to your mistakes (e.g. the format or wording of the questions or a certain category of the test) and shift your study focus and priorities accordingly.

      5. From Self-Paced Prep to Time-Limited Tests

      Self-paced online tests

      Essentially, it can be argued that the difference between PDF sample tests and online tests is that PDF tests are self-paced. They allow students to practice based on their own schedule and to focus their time and attention on problem areas.

      Starting with self-paced online tests

      It is highly recommended that students start their ACT test prep online with self-paced practice tests that allow them to personalize their learning, as well as identify and tackle problem areas before having to deal with the extra pressure of a time limit.

      Moving on to time-limited online tests

      Students should move on to time-limited online tests as soon as they have familiarized themselves with the format of the exam and feel confident that they know how to prioritize test tasks based on their individual strengths and weaknesses.

      6. Video Lessons

      Where to find online video lessons explaining concepts from all the core subjects

      If you are looking for online video lessons that cover all sections of the ACT, have a look at the following websites:

      The advantages and disadvantages of taking video lessons during one’s ACT prep

      Taking video lessons as preparation for the ACT has both advantages and disadvantages.

      • Video learning eliminates the need for commuting and is available to everyone, democratizing education.
      • Visual content has been found to enhance learning.
      • Video learning maximizes flexibility, allowing one to pause, stop, and rewind as required.
      • Students may not pay attention to video content that is not engaging and stimulating.
      • Video lessons do not allow for group learning, which has been found to facilitate problem-solving capacity.
      • Video learning is not personalized and, therefore, does not necessarily tackle an individual student’s problem areas.

      7. Online Courses

      Where to find ACT prep online courses

      If you are looking for online ACT prep courses, have a look at the following websites:

      The advantages and disadvantages of taking ACT prep online courses

      Taking ACT prep courses online has plenty of benefits, which stem from the fact that they help students familiarize themselves with the exam. It is argued that taking prep courses can reduce anxiety about the exam, introduce students to efficient test-taking strategies, and, if lead by an online ACT tutor, allow for personalized instruction.

      On the other hand, some potential drawbacks of taking ACT prep courses online are the facts that e-learning is largely self-guided and some students simply do not have the self-discipline to study on their own, as well as the fact that online learning can sometimes feel impersonal and be costly if a student does not find the right resources.

      A girl doing a test in class

      8. Eurekly’s Knowledge Exchange Project

      Introducing Eureklys Knowledge Exchange project

      Eurekly’s Knowledge Exchange project is an innovative initiative that allows learners to schedule online sessions with others, during which they can trade expert knowledge in one subject in return for another.

      How to prepare for the ACT using Eureklys Knowledge Exchange

      Knowledge Exchange can be supremely useful for ACT prep since it can connect learners with individuals who are experts in the contents and format of the ACT. Learners can offer to teach their own skills in return, which can range from math and science to non-ACT subjects and anything in between.

      9. Eurekly’s Language Exchange Project

      Introducing Eureklys Language Exchange project

      Similarly to Eurekly’s Knowledge Exchange project, Language Exchange sessions on Eurekly allow learners to easily trade language knowledge.

      How Eureklys Language Exchange project can help you prepare for the ACT

      Eurekly’s Language Exchange project can be particularly useful for learners who wish to improve their English score on the ACT. Students can offer to help English experts by assisting them with a language they know well in exchange for tips on parts of the ACT English section that they find tricky.

      10. Online Tutor

      Wondering what is the best way to prepare for the ACT? Why, learning with an online tutor of course!

      There are many reasons why learning with a private online tutor is the best way of preparing for the ACT. These include:

      • Personalized attention: A private online tutor can tailor lessons to a student’s specific needs and deliver them at an appropriate pace.
      • Perfecting test-taking strategies: A private tutor can teach students the most efficient test-taking strategies.
      • Cost-effectiveness: Private online tutors typically offer sessions at competitive prices, providing materials students need for their ACT prep.
      • Improvement in confidence: It has been found that learning with a tutor can help improve a student’s confidence when it comes to learning.
      • Investment in the future: Learning with a private tutor is often the key to success when it comes to college admissions.

      Finding the best ACT tutors

      To find the most qualified online tutors to help you with ACT prep, look no further than Eurekly. Eurekly offers great value sessions with experts that specialize in all of the core subjects of the ACT. Tutors on Eurekly can help students familiarize themselves with the format of the exam and successfully engage them in the learning process in order to achieve their desired results.

      Infographic enlisting Eurekly learning projects

      Good Luck!

      To summarize, the ACT is an important exam, success in which guarantees admission to a student’s college of choice. Luckily for learners, today there are many online resources for ACT test preparation that they can use to master the exam. Whether a student chooses ACT prep classes online, video lessons, online private ACT tutoring or to take multiple sample tests online, it is undeniable that practice makes perfect.

      Eurekly is one of the best choices for finding help to get you through the ACT, as it offers innovative knowledge exchange programs and highly skilled tutors… so why not give it a try?

      Best of luck with your exam!


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