6 Ways to Raise Your ACT Score

You already know that high test scores are a great way to set your college application apart from those of the other students completing for your spot at your dream school. But how do you go about quickly raising your score? If you plan to take the ACT, here are 6 of the best ways to get that score up.

(Not sure whether you need to take the ACT or SAT? Click here for information about Pacific Learning Academy’s SAT/ACT Combination Diagnostic Test, or read more about the differences between the tests.)

1. Answer Every Question

Unlike the SAT, the ACT has no wrong answer penalty, so it is in your best interest to answer every question. The ACT can be pretty intense with its pacing (4 reading passages and 40 questions, all in 35 minutes, for example), so it’s not unusual for students to run out of time. Pick a letter of the day and bubble it in! If you guess on 4 questions, statistics say you should get at least one right. It doesn’t sound like much, but even one additional point leapfrogs you over thousands of students!

2. Be Concise on the English Test

Your first section will be a multiple choice English test, quizzing your knowledge of grammar, style, and organization. It’s easy to overthink the style questions, but don’t be fooled! The ACT values concise writing, so avoid unnecessarily long answers. If you’re given three really long answers and one short answer, chances are the short one will score you the point, so long as it doesn’t break any writing conventions.

3. Learn Your Math Formulas

Do you have trouble keeping your πr² separate from your 2πr? Or do you draw a blank when asked to recite the distance formula? Unlike the SAT, the ACT does NOT provide formulas at the beginning of the math section. Take time to memorize these formulas:

  • areas and perimeters of triangles and quadrilaterals
  • Pythagorean Theorem
  • 45-45-90 and 30-60-90 side ratios for triangles
  • area and circumference of circles
  • coordinate geometry formulas: distance, y=mx+b, slope, midpoint
  • volume and surface area of boxes and cylinders

4. Practice Skimming

The Reading Test is a race. 4 passages and 40 questions in 35 minutes does not provide much of a cushion. If you devote a whopping 30 seconds to each question, that leaves 15 minutes for the actual reading–less than 4 minutes per passage. If you are able to shave some time off each passage by getting better at skimming, that will bank you some precious extra time for the questions. And the questions, after all, are where you get the points.


Not sure what thermal conductivity is? It might not matter, as long as you can read the graph to find out whether basalt or shale has the right thermal conductivity for the temperature you’re looking for.

5. Get Comfortable Reading Science Graphs and Charts


The ACT Science section doesn’t really test science knowledge. At most, 2 questions out of the 40 will require outside knowledge. The rest test your ability to answer questions based on science passages and figures. Some of the figures get pretty complex, so practice deciphering what the figures represent and where to find relevant information on them. Pay attention to labels, and focus on only the parts you need.

 6. Read Sample Essays

On the ACT, the Writing Test (that is, the essay) is technically optional, but most colleges require it. Before taking it, you’ll want to know exactly what the graders expect. Read over some sample essays to get a sense of what to do and what not to do.

These 6 tips will help you score higher on the ACT. But if you want more help getting ready for the test, Pacific Learning Academy is here to help!

Pacific Learning Academy is a one-on-one high school offering single courses and dual enrollment, as well as full-time high school. We also offer tutoring in all subjects from 6th to 12th grade, including SAT/ACT diagnostic testing and prep, either in homes or local libraries across the Eastside (Issaquah, Sammamish, etc…). See more at www.PacificLearningAcademy.com.

September 25, 2014

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