How To Improve Your ACT Score & Ace the Test

The ACT is indeed one tough nut to crack; fortunately we’ve discovered some simple, easy ways for improving your ACT score.

And if you do well, the rewards can make your dreams come true.  Dreams that include getting accepted at the college of your choice.

Today’s report shares our top 7 tips and strategies for increasing your ACT score.

How To Improve Your ACT Score: 7 Little-known Strategies for Success on the Test

ACT Secret # 1: Grammar 

There are a number of question in the English section that may seem harder because they test little studied technical rules of grammar.  These questions ask you to correct errors that don’t necessarily harm the economy or sense of the sentence.  But don’t worry.  You don’t have to be a grammar whiz to get these questions right.  Luckily, you can often recognize these errors because they “sound funny.”  The overwhelming majority of the time on the ACT, it’s safe to trust your ear.

For example, which of the following “sounds better” and which “sounds off”?

  1. Larry doesn’t know the value of the car he drives.
  2. Larry don’t know the value of the car he drives.

The first one sounds better, right?  And the second sentence sounds off, right?  For many of these types of questions, all you need to do is to “listen” carefully in this way.  So even if you don’t know all the rules for grammar, punctuation, and diction, but you speak clearly in English every single day.  You wouldn’t be able to communicate with others unless you had a pretty good feel for the rules.

ACT Secret # 2:  Translate English Words into Math Expressions 

Many of the math problems on the ACT exam are word problems. Having the ability to translate word problems from English into mathematical expressions or equations will help you to score high on the test.  The following examples translate some commonly used words into their mathematical equivalents:

Math Expression
= (equals)
/100 (percent number over 100)
Which, what
x (or any other variable)
The difference between x and y
x – y
X more than y
x + y
Y years ago
– y
C times as old as Dave
cX (Dave’s age)
The percent of decrease
(amount of increase) X 100
(original amount)

By knowing how these words translate into their mathematical questions, you will find word problems in the math section much easier.

ACT Secret # 3:  Underlining Is Your Friend. 

There are four major abilities that are tested in the Reading Comprehension section of the ACT:

  1. Main Idea. Which can entail selecting the main thought of a passage; ability to judge the general importance of a passage; and the ability to select the best title of a passage.
  2. Detecting Details. Which will test your ability to a get a literal meaning of what is written; or to identify details.
  3. Inferential Reasoning. Ability to weave together the ideas of a passage and to see their relationships; to draw correct inferences.
  4. Tone or Mood. Which will test your ability to identify the dominant tone of mood of a passage – sad, mysterious, humorous, serious, etc.

The key to mastering these four types of questions is to underline each one of these key parts as you read the passage.

Because you are working on a clock, it is critical to work efficiently.  So rather then having to re-read each passage to find the answer.  Your underlining will lead you quickly to the right answer.

So as you read each passage, underline the main idea, specific details, info that is implied, and the tone or mood of the passage.

ACT Secret # 4:  Reading is the Key to the Science Section.

ACT Science requires many of the same skills that ACT Reading does.  The only major difference is that the Science section passages almost all relate to numbers or scientific processes or both.  And the Science passages usually contain graphs and tables rather than paragraphs.

  1. Learn to quickly “read” graphs, research summaries, and tables.
  2. Learn to look for patterns in the numbers that appear.

Do the numbers get bigger or smaller?  What are the highest numbers? Lowest? When and where to the numbers change?

You only have 35 minutest to complete 7 short passages in the Science section.  So each passage should take about 5 minutes.

It will serve you well to read one passage quickly.  Don’t worry so much about the details at this point.  Just read it fast.  Then read the first question.  The key with reading the question is to make sure you know exactly what the question is asking. Once you understand the question, refer to the passage again to identify and clarify the correct answer with what the passage is showing.

If you’re keeping track, what I just described is a 3-step system:

  1. Read the passage quickly.
  2. Read the question and identify exactly what it is asking for.
  3. Refer to the passage again to identify and clarify the correct answer.

ACT Secret # 5:  Known and Learn the Directions ahead of Time.

All ACT tests are standardized.  So you can know the exact directions for each section ahead of time.  By understanding exactly what each section is going to entail you will save yourself from having to read 3-4 lengthy paragraphs of directions in each section.

This will save you a ton of time.  And managing your time well is critical in improving your overall ACT score.

ACT Secret # 6:  Focus on Improving your Weakest Subject Areas.

You will increase your score the most by spending more time studying and practicing questions in your weakest subject area. This will provide you with the most efficient use of your test-prep time.

Remember, we are looking for big jumps in your score. And typically, those jumps are going to happen because you improved on your weaker subjects.  Not by focusing on your strength subjects, which may only see a 1-2 point increase or no increase at all.

ACT Secret # 7:  Beware the “Obvious” Answer

Be careful if an answer comes too easily to you.  Especially if the answer is “A.”  Or if the question is near the end of the section.

The ACT can be a stressful situation that causes you to rush at times. Which is normal.  But what this does sometimes is cause you to rush into getting answers.

If a problem or question looks too easy, it probably is!   Beware.  Make sure you think again about all the possible answers.  Don’t be fooled by the “lure choice,” which is often times Choice A.  But at the same time, you must realize that Choice A can at times be the correct answer.

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Bonus Secret:  Leave nothing blank.

There is no penalty for guessing on the ACT.  So make sure you answer every question even if you end up guessing.  This is different from the SAT where you get penalized for wrong answers and it pays to leave questions blank where you’re guessing blindly.

And lastly, I’ll leave you with the obvious…

Practice, Practice, Practice.

There is simply no substitute for putting in the time on practice.  All the tips revealed in this report will help. But only to a certain degree.  You will see the biggest improvement in scoring by practicing the same type of questions that will be on the actual ACT.


Scott Weingold

Scott Weingold

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Editor's Note: Scott Weingold has been ranked the #1 “College Financial Aid Expert Worth Knowing About” in the entire country by  He has co-authored the book, “The Real Secret To Paying For College. The Insider’s Guide To Sending Your Child To College – Without Spending Your Life’s Savings.” Scott also publishes a popular free online newsletter, “College Funding Made Simple" which reveals insider’s tips, methods, and strategies for beating the high cost of college.

Scott is the co-founder and a principal of the widely renown College Planning Network, LLC – the nation’s largest and most reputable college admissions and financial aid planning firm. CPN is a proud member of the Better Business Bureau, the National Association of College Funding Advisors, the National Association for College Admission Counseling, the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators and the Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education.

Scott, along with his college funding advisory team, helps thousands of families throughout the country with their college planning needs and offers a series of free educational webinars and workshops on “How To Pay For College Without Going Broke In The Process!” He's been featured or mentioned in The Philadelphia Inquirer, Yahoo News,, Voice America with Ron Adams, Crains Cleveland Business, and on Cleveland Connection with James McIntyre.  Scott has published numerous articles and is a professional speaker who has addressed thousands of audiences online and offline throughout the United States.  His actionable insights and candid, open approach have earned him & his team numerous media interviews, citations, and speaking opportunities, and his free online video workshop is one of the Internet’s most widely viewed pieces in the college funding space.