How to Survive the ACT

Seth Courtad



If it were up to me, the ACT would not matter nearly as much as it does. All that it really does is test how good you are at functioning in a stressful situation for about 4 hours. But, for some reason, colleges really care about your ACT score. So, here are a few tips for surviving and doing well on the ACT in no particular order.


  • Start early.

It’s very easy to push off the ACT to the last possible minute. Nevertheless, I personally would suggest taking the ACT late sophomore year. This will provide you with a good baseline to work off of your junior year, and if you score well —great! You won’t have to worry about it anymore. It’s a win-win.


  • Study how to take the test.

Although it is true that practice tests will help better prepare you, what is arguably more important is simply knowing how to work around the ACT’s structure. For example, the science section contains heaps of scientific jargon that will make your already-tired head want to explode. Regardless of how many practice tests you take, you won’t do your best if you don’t skip the big words and just read the charts. In short, study techniques rather than questions.


  • Sleep, sleep, sleep.  

This one is really a no-brainer. If you can’t carry a solid conversation sleep-deprived, why would you be able to take a four-hour long test in a similar state? The week before you take the ACT make sure your sleep schedule is in a good place. The night of, you should try to go to bed earlier and maybe wake up a bit later. Coffee helps too, but try not to depend on it.


  • Eat a good breakfast.

This is one tip that I did not follow, and that decision cost me much. Getting through the ACT on an empty stomach felt like a herculean task. All I could think of the entire test was how badly I wanted food. Don’t make the gigantic mistake that I did. Eat breakfast and bring snacks just in case.


  • Lastly, don’t worry about it too much.

The ACT is important, but it is by no means the only thing that colleges look at. However, you can take the ACT up to twelve times. So, you have plenty of chances to raise your score if you choose to do so. Just study hard, take good care of yourself, do your best, and you’ll be fine.