Last Updated On: January 19th, 2016

Three weeks? Three months? A year? What amount of time is long enough to study for the ACT? Like most questions dealing with the ACT, the answers vary according to your situation.

Different students need different plans based on their skill levels, educational goals, and time available. Here are four steps you can take to figure out how much preparation you need before you sit for the ACT.

1. Determine how much time you have before the ACT.

When are you scheduled to take the ACT? Do you have options? How many dates are available before your college application deadlines? Knowing the potential length of study time will give you a better idea of what you are working with. Plan to take the ACT more than once if you can. This will relieve some of the pressure surrounding the exam if you know you can take it again. Also, your score will likely go up the second time you take the test since you’ll be more familiar with the format and the material covered.

2. Take a practice ACT.

You need to know your starting point. If you’ve already taken the ACT recently, great! You can move on to the next step. For those of you who have not taken the ACT before, or if you sat for the test more than a month or two ago, schedule a block of time to take a full-length practice ACT. Simulate the testing experience as best as possible, in a quiet area with the allotted breaks, and see how you do. If possible, take an official practice exam in a setting similar to the real test day. For more information on free proctored tests, click here or call 866.60.TUTOR today.

3. Assess your strengths and weaknesses.

Look at your practice exam results or your previous ACT score report. Are you better at English than you are at Science? Did you breeze through the Mathematics section with time to spare but get stuck on the Reading section? Did the Science questions trip you up, while the Essay was a welcome respite? Figure out what types of questions you need to work on before your exam date and which areas you can count on like a security blanket to boost your confidence. Creating a plan with a tutor can help you study strategically and make the best use of your time. Click here or call 866.60.TUTOR to find a tutor who can assist with your needs.

4. Make a plan.

Now that you’ve assessed your abilities, how long will it take for you to get a good score? That depends on where you’re starting and where you want to go. For instance, if you start with a composite score of 25, but you want a composite score of 34, that’s going to be a tough road. Making that leap, even with a year of study time, would be hard to accomplish. However, if you want to move from a 25 to a 27, then you have a more achievable goal. Targeting areas for improvement and putting in committed study time over two or three months can help you do better on the exam.

Whatever progress you want to make, don’t simply review everything on the ACT for months at a time. Figure out what you personally need to know and how you need to perform to work towards your ideal score. Set a recurring time to study, include periods for taking full practice exams, and use The Real ACT Prep Guide as the base of your preparation.

In general, time is only one issue to consider when studying for the ACT. What you are studying, along with how and why you are studying it, is of prime importance. A student who has taken the exam before should not necessarily prepare in the same way as someone who has no experience with the ACT, regardless of how long you have before the exam. Once you establish what you need to work on to improve your performance and maximize your score, focus on consistency up until the exam date. Whether you intend to prepare for a week, a month, or a year, keep a regular schedule and make a commitment to performing your best on the ACT.

Mahlena-Rae Johnson

Author Mahlena-Rae Johnson

Mahlena graduated from Loyola Marymount and received her MBA from USC with a focus on Marketing, Entertainment, and Entrepreneurship. Her specialty lies in graduate level test prep and is also a regular contributor to the LA Tutors blog.

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