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Avoid These Common ACT Mistakes

The ACT is rigorously timed and tries to trick you often. As a result, it’s easy to make a bunch of simple, common mistakes that don’t seem like much but will screw your final scores up.

Avoid these easy-to-make but costly ACT mistakes when tackling the test for real.

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act mistakes

Rushing Through The Test

Worrying about time too much will screw up your answers.

The ACT is rigorously timed and many students think they must rush through every section to answer them. The problem is your likelihood to make errors increases dramatically.

You might finish early but your score will suffer. A few ways to improve your timing and answer accuracy:

  • Take plenty of practice tests – you’ll get a feel for timing and question format
  • Answer easier questions first – if you’re worried about a specific section, knock out the easiest questions you can handle and go back for the tough ones

Skipping Answer Bubbles

Don’t accidentally skip answering questions.

There is no guessing penalty on the ACT, so answer everything, even if it’s a guess. If you do need to skip a question to come back to later:

  • Make a note in your test booklet to return
  • Skip the corresponding answer sheet row

Be careful with your time management, so that you can go back to those harder questions and at least guess.

Avoiding “No Change” Answer Choice

On the ACT English section, be mindful of “No change” and/or “No error” answer choices.

Plenty of students think that these choices are always tricks. While not every question will be “No change”, some of these honestly will be, so always dismissing them out of hand is wrong. Carefully but quickly assess each provided choice, because at least one or two questions will be “No change”.


Not Reading The Full Sentence

Read the entire provided sentence before plugging in answer choices.

A common ACT trick is questioning you about a small section of a very long, structurally complex sentence. When evaluating answer choices:

  • Insert them into the sentence and read it through entirely
  • Don’t read just the section where it’s inserted alone

The reason being that the sentence remainder could trip up your answer choice by creating a sentence fragment or redundancy.

Answering Passage Questions Too Soon

Sometimes you’ll be asked questions without reading the entire passage first.

If you’re asked about information that you haven’t read about yet, simply skip those questions and come back later. Don’t guess because you think you must answer in order.

The test is tricking you by asking about the content you have yet to read in the provided passage. Read the entire passage and go back to those earlier questions. You’ll have the answers you need.

Not Utilizing Your Calculator

You’re allowed to use a calculator on the ACT, so take full advantage of it.

Again, the ACT is rigorously timed but it allows for calculator usage. Be prepared to use it a lot to help save time and get accurate answers quickly. Take these tips to heart:

  • Use a calculator for everything but the most basic calculations
  • Practice with your calculator ahead of time to avoid fumbling with function keys

If you have to write out too many steps to solve a calculation by hand, then punch it into your calculator and save time.


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Dr. Shaan Patel MD MBA

Written by Dr. Shaan Patel MD MBA

Prep Expert Founder & CEO

Shark Tank Winner, Perfect SAT Scorer, Dermatologist, & #1 Bestselling Author
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