Veronica Wickline 5 min read 11th Grade, 12th Grade, ACT Info and Tips

Links to all the Official ACT Practice Tests + Other Resources

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Whether you’re deciding between the SAT and ACT or you’re ready to start preparing, the most important first step is to take a full-length diagnostic exam. You won’t know which exam plays to your strengths until you sit for both. Taking full-length practice tests is also important for building stamina that will help you avoid silly mistakes on the day of your exam.

 

You can find more preparatory material in The CollegeVine Guides to the ACT. For now though, we’ll dive right into the free exams that the ACT has published so far.

 

Official ACT Practice Tests (Full-Length and Free!)

 

Every year, the ACT publishes a free, full-length practice test designed to help students prepare for test day. Here are the five unique official practice tests currently in circulation.

 

 

 

 

In Fall 2015, the Writing prompt style changed significantly, so students should only practice on writing prompts published after late 2015. However, the English, Math, Science, and Reading sections have remained more or less the same since the earliest of these exams was published.

 

Not ready for a full-length exam just yet? Here are some official practice problems written by the ACT:

 

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Other Free ACT Resources

 

Additionally, the following free resources are available to help you prep for the ACT:

 

Princeton Review in-person test sittings: Between phones and computers, it can be hard to focus on exam prep in the home. By attending one of Princeton Review’s local test sittings, you’ll be able to practice for the ACT in an environment free from distractions. These free, pencil-and-paper tests mirror the timing and conditions of the real exam. After completing the test, you’ll receive a score report with specific info on your strengths and weak spots.

 

Varsity Tutors diagnostic tests: There are a number of free ACT tests available online, but not all of these resources provide students with automatic scoring the way Varsity Tutors does. While the site doesn’t offer actual ACT practice test questions, the exams are helpful for reviewing key concepts and diagnosing problem areas. 

 

Khan Academy’s SAT test prep: Although Khan Academy provides free SAT rather than ACT practice tests, students planning to take the latter exam can still benefit from this site. In particular, the math review lessons can help students brush up on content that will also be featured on the ACT.

 

Union Test free practice exams: Union Test provides free practice ACT tests to help students boost their scores and identify problem areas so they can beef up their skills.

 

4Tests free practice exams: Another site providing free ACT practice, 4Tests offers practice exams. As a bonus, students don’t have to register or provide any personal information to access the tests.

 

How to Make the Most of Your ACT Practice Tests 

How you take your ACT practice tests can impact how effective they are to your overall preparation. Keep reading for some of our top tips on making the most of your ACT practice:

 

1. Get Familiar With the Timing

 

You might be asking yourself, “How long does the ACT take, anyway?” Below is a table showing the format and timing for the exam sections, including breaks. Note that the different sections of the test always appear in this order:

 

Subject Number of Questions Time Allotted
English 75 45 minutes
Math 60 60 minutes
Break No. 1 N/A 10 minutes
Reading  40 35 minutes
Science 40 35 minutes
Break No. 2 N/A 5 minutes
Optional Essay 1 40 minutes
TOTAL 3 hours 50 minutes

 

The mandatory sections are scored on a 36-point scale, and the rounded average of your four scores for Math, Reading, Science, and the Essay gives you an ACT cumulative score. Familiarizing yourself with this schedule means less surprises when you take the test for real. Actually following official test timing, without taking extra breaks, will also help you simulate real test-day conditions and the fatigue you might experience.

 

2. Schedule Time without Distractions

 

It’s hard to focus on a practice exam if there are too many distractions. For best results, choose a time when you can expect to be undisturbed for several hours, such as when your siblings are at after-school activities. Additionally, you should shut off your phone or at least put it on silent for the length of the test.

 

3. Complete the Essay

 

You might be tempted to skip the Essay part of the test during your practice sessions. Unfortunately, this will leave you unprepared on the big day, if you’re planning to take the ACT with Writing. Practice writing the Essay in order to get faster at expressing your ideas, and to simulate how tired you’ll be at the end of the other sections. 

 

How to Improve Your ACT Score

 

Here are some tips we like to share whenever students have a major standardized exam to take.

 

Take frequent full-length sections or, if possible, exams.

 

A lot of students think that once they get a certain question right in practice, it means they will mark something similar correct on test day. However, we all lose focus and get tired after hours of strenuous activity. It is not enough simply to take practice problems. Make sure your study plan involves long stretches of test-taking to build your stamina.

 

Review your mistakes.

 

You want to spot trends in your mistakes. That will help you identify your weaknesses so you can target them. Study the underlying concepts for the questions you get wrong. For example, if most of your incorrect math problems involve two-variable equations, practice solving two-variable equations.

 

When in doubt, delay your exam.

 

We see a lot of students go to sit for a test that they have already paid for, even when they know they really need a few more weeks or months studying. Our advice is to delay that test date, even if you have already paid. If you study before your next exam and perform well, you will make up that $200 fee quickly in financial aid. But a bad score will materially decrease your admissions chances, even if you score better in the future.

 

Prepare between test dates.

 

Perhaps you have already taken the ACT once but did not quite score as you would have liked. Don’t worry–you can always take it again! However, if you are going to sit again for the exam, be sure to prepare up front by studying and taking frequent ACT practice tests. It is not worth the money to sit again without doing more prep work, since your score will likely stay the same and may even go down.

 

Test as an upperclassman, ideally fall of your junior year.

 

The concepts on the ACT are serious stuff, so don’t be surprised if it takes a few years to learn the material. Juniors and Seniors are at an advantage when it comes to taking the ACT, since they have already covered these concepts in school. The trick is to take the ACT late enough that you have covered all concepts but early enough that you have time to re-test in the event that you receive an undesirable score. 

 

We recommend testing for the first time in fall of your junior year, so that you have ample time to study and retake the test in the spring, if needed. This will help you avoid having to test your senior year, when there are other college applications tasks on your mind.

 

Standardized test scores are just one factor impacting college admissions, albeit an important one. If you’re wondering how your scores impact your chance of acceptance to your dream school, our chancing engine can help you figure that out. To gain access to our chancing engine, create your free CollegeVine account today.

 

If you’re looking for more on the ACT, check out these related CollegeVine posts!

 

Which Colleges Superscore the ACT?

Should You Take Both the SAT and ACT?

2020 ACT Test Dates and Deadlines

Which Colleges Require All ACT Scores?

What’s the Highest ACT Score Possible?

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Veronica Wickline
Blogger at CollegeVine
Short bio
Veronica is an alumna of Harvard College, where she earned her A.B. in History and Classics. After graduating, she joined CollegeVine serving as the Curriculum Development Manager. She currently lives in Cambridge, MA and is writing her debut novel.