How to Create an ACT Prep Plan

As you’re beginning to think about the ACT, you may feel a bit overwhelmed. There’s certainly a lot to think about — when to take the test, what areas need the most work, and how exactly you’re going to get to where you need to be. The good news is, by thinking about your ACT prep plan now, you’re already setting yourself up for success!

As you begin, you’ll need to take an honest look at your strengths and weaknesses, your schedule, and the score you wish to receive. Be truthful as you complete this self-reflection to create an ACT prep plan that will work for you.

Set your schedule

As you begin establishing your schedule, it can be helpful to work backwards. When would you like to take the ACT? When do your prospective schools require that you submit your score? Registering for a test date is a great way to know how long you’ve got to study, which will help dictate your study plan. Once you’re registered, you can begin planning based on how long you’ve got to perfect your score.

Once you know how much time you’ve got, you’ll need to decide when to focus your energy. Later, you can decide exactly how much time goes toward what subject, but for now, simply decide how long each day or week you can dedicate to studying. Make a tentative schedule, even if it is relatively vague to start.

Familiarize yourself with the test

Before you get into subject-specific study, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the overall structure of the exam. Look at subject breakdowns, timing, and additional requirements. Look at score requirements for different schools and think about different timelines that might work for you. Get familiar with the universal aspects of the ACT so you feel more comfortable with the process as you approach the more serious business of studying.

[RELATED: What is an Average ACT Score?]

Find out what areas need your time

If you’re a math whiz, you may need to spend less time preparing for this area. Similarly, prospective English majors may not need to boast extremely high scores in science.  Figure out what areas your schools require you to excel in (or what areas you hope to score highly in), as these may become your top areas of focus.

You’ll also want to find out where you need extra help. To do this, think about your strong subjects in school and those you may have a more difficult time with. This should give you a pretty good idea of areas to focus on. You may also consider taking some ACT practice tests, which will provide insight into which areas you perform best or poorly on. Doing this a couple of times should be able to help you identify what areas require the most time.

Form a study plan by subject

Now that you know what you’re going to study, you’ll want to establish a study plan that will help you meet your test prep goals. The most effective way to do this is to form study plans based upon the various subjects you’ll need to review. You may also want to divide each subject into more specific categories, allowing you to really focus your attention where it’s necessary — for instance, if science is one of your weaker subjects, which specific scientific concepts give you the most trouble?

Once you’ve got the list of your subjects, decide how much time you can allot toward their study.

Find your learning style

Because we all learn in different ways, it is important that you know what will empower you to succeed. By identifying what methods have best helped you study in the past, you can make an ACT prep plan that will be most effective for you.

Once you’re familiar with the way you learn best, you can take next steps — record lectures, seek out podcasts, make visual maps, form study groups, download a prep book, etc.

Remember that you can make almost any amount of study time work for you as you develop your ACT prep plan. Sure, a student with a year to study might have a plan that operates a little differently than a student with three months, but both can be mastered with the right approaches. By thinking about how you’ll prepare for the ACT ahead of time, your studying will undoubtedly be more productive.

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