ACT Study Plan

Your score on the ACT has the potential to help you get into great colleges and universities, earn thousands of dollars and scholarships, and receive life changing opportunities and accolades. However, earning a great score is a lot easier said than done. With 215 challenging questions to answer in just under 3 hours, this test proves difficult for even the strongest of students, and anyone who wants to achieve a noteworthy score needs to be willing to dedicate countless hours to ACT preparation.

Preparing for the ACT is one of the single most important jobs you need to complete during high school. If you put in the work and earn a great ACT score, it can set you up for a successful future where you attend your dream school without breaking the bank or needing to take out student loans.

If you’re a student who wants to earn an impressive ACT score that will help you stand out to college admissions officers and scholarship boards, you’ll need to start preparing for the ACT as soon as possible. Getting ready for this standardized test involves a lot more than taking a practice test or two or cracking open an ACT prep book. It requires hours of focused study and review.

This is why I recommend creating an ACT study plan. An ACT study plan will help you figure out the most effective and efficient ways to study for the ACT so that you are not too overwhelmed with studying to actually learn new material, but you are also able to cover all the material that will be on the test. Creating a schedule will also help you maximize your time so that you can take advantage of every single week you have between when you start studying and test day.

If the idea of preparing for the ACT or crafting an ACT study plan seems daunting, there is no need to worry. To help you get started with your ACT prep, I’ve compiled three ACT study plans that you can use based on your specific needs.

First steps

Before you can determine which of the three study plans will be best for you, there are a few steps that you need to take first:

1. Determine your target ACT score

Without a goal, it will be difficult for you to know how you need to improve and whether or not you are making progress. Before you pick up a practice test or pick out a study plan, you should come up with a target score to aim for as you study.

Your goal shouldn’t be arbitrary. When you are choosing your target score, you should consider the colleges on your list and any scholarships you would like to apply for in the future.

Some scholarships, including many automatic scholarships provided by colleges and universities, have minimum ACT score requirements. You will want to look up these scholarship requirements and use this information to see the ACT score you will need to reach.

You will also want to consider college admittance when determining your target ACT score. You will want to aim for a score that is within 75th percentile of ACT scores for all of the schools on your list. This means that if you reach this score, you will have scored higher than ¾ of all of the admitted applicants at all of the colleges you’re interested in attending, significantly boosting your chances of admission.

The best way to see this percentile is to search colleges on  the College Board website or to visit the prospective applicant page on each school’s website.

2. Determine your baseline score

Now that you have a score in mind that you want to reach, it is time for you to see how far away you are from earning your target score.

Take an Official ACT Practice Test under the same conditions that you will experience when you take the actual test and calculate your composite score (add up your score for each of the four sections and divide this number by four).

This will allow you to see where you need to improve and how long you will need to prepare for the test.

If you only need to improve by one or two points, my one-month study plan might be best for you. If you need to increase your score by three to six points, you might want to consider the three-month study plan. If you are more than six points away from your target score, my six-month study plan will likely be your best option for reaching your goal.

3. Determine the optimal test date

In addition to weighing the amount of points you need in order to reach your target score when choosing your study plan, you will also need to factor in the amount of time you’ll have to study.

While a six-month study plan might be ideal for earning a high score, it won’t help if you only have  one month before your test date.

This is why you have to choose your test date carefully. You want to choose a date that is far enough away for you to have adequate time to prepare, but you also want to make sure that you have enough time to retake the test if you don’t earn your target score the first time around. 

It’s also important for you to choose a date that fits within your schedule. If football practice takes up all of your time in the fall, you may not have enough extra time to devote to studying for a fall ACT administration.

Once you have a target score in mind, you have calculated your baseline score, and you have scheduled your test for the perfect date, you will be ready to try out one of these three ACT study plans:

One-month ACT study plan

It is still possible for you to earn a great score on the ACT if  you only have one month to study, but doing so will require a lot of hard work and focus. Unlike the other plans I’ve shared here, this plan will require you to spend about 10 hours each week preparing for the ACT, so you will want to make sure that you start this plan during a time when you do not have too many other commitments or distractions that will take up your time.

Here is the breakdown of this study plan:

  • Week 1: Devote 10-12 hours to learning the format of the ACT and taking an official ACT practice test to determine your baseline score. Make sure you review your mistakes so that you know what to focus on over the next three weeks. At the end of this week, you should know the format of the ACT as a whole as well as the format of the English, Reading, Science, and Math sections.
  • Week 2: Devote 10-12 hours to learning the content that will be covered on the test. Review all of the grammar and punctuation rules you’ll need to know for the English section. Memorize key formulas for the ACT Math section and brush up on your algebra skills. Study the types of questions that will appear on the ACT Reading section and practice reading graphs, tables, and charts to prepare for the ACT Science section.
  • Week 3: Devote 10-12 hours to learning strategies for each section of the test. See how you can avoid over relying on your calculator or how you can answer ACT Reading questions without reading the entire passage. At the end of this week, take and score another practice test and review the format of the ACT Essay.
  • Week 4: Devote 10-12 hours to reviewing every question and concept you missed on the practice test last week and practice for the Essay using practice ACT writing prompts.

While one month doesn’t allow you much time to prepare for the ACT, following this plan can help you increase your ACT score and make sure you’re ready for test day.

Three-month ACT study plan

If you have a bit more time to study and you need to increase your score by more than just a couple points, this three-month ACT study plan can help. With this plan, you can expect to study between 6-7 hours a week.

Here is a rundown of this study plan.

Month 1

This is the best time to familiarize yourself with the test and start learning helpful test strategies

  • Week 1: Devote six to seven hours to taking an Official ACT Practice Test to determine your baseline score. Be sure to review your mistakes and make note of your strengths and weaknesses.
  • Week 2: Devote six to seven hours to learning the format of the ACT as a whole and to learning the format of one of the sections of the test (Reading, Math, English, or Science). Learn the content that will be covered within this section and strategies you can use to answer the questions efficiently and effectively. If you focus on English, brush up on grammar rules. If you start with Reading, learn which passage reading strategy is most effective for you. If you focus on Math, start learning key formulas. If you begin with Science, practice reading charts, graphs, and tables.
  • Week 3: Devote six to seven hours to learning the format of another section of the test (Reading, Math, English, or Science). 
  • Week 4: Devote six to seven hours to reviewing what you’ve learned over the past two weeks. Use practice questions to test out your strategies and pinpoint weak areas.

Month 2

This is the time for you to prepare for the other two sections of the ACT.

  • Week 1: Spend six to seven hours focusing on strategies as well as the material that will be covered on one of the two remaining sections of the test.
  • Week 2: Spend six to seven hours focused on learning the material and strategies necessary for mastering the final remaining section of the test.
  • Week 3: Spend six to seven reviewing the material you covered over the past two weeks.
  • Week 4: Spend seven to eight hours taking another Official ACT Practice Test and review all of your mistakes.

Month 3

This month is when you should review all of the concepts you have learned so that you are ready for test day.

  • Week 1: Dedicate five to six hours toward reviewing the English and Reading sections of the ACT.
  • Week 2: Dedicate five to six hours toward reviewing the Math and Science sections of the ACT.
  • Week 3: Dedicate six to seven hours to taking one last Official ACT Practice Test and scoring your answers. You should also use this week to become familiar with the ACT Essay format if you are taking the writing section of the test. Use essay prompts to practice writing strategies.
  • Week 4: Dedicate five to six hours to reviewing your last practice test and making sure you understand how to address any and all mistakes you may have made on this practice test.

This plan is great for making the most of a summer break or a light semester, and it can help you increase your ACT score by more than a couple of points.

Six-month ACT study plan

This plan is ideal if you have a lot of time to prepare for the test and you don’t want to overwhelm yourself while studying. The six-month ACT study plan is also great if you are trying to increase your score by six or more points.

Month 1

This is the best time to ease your way into studying by becoming familiar with the format of the ACT and learning a few key strategies that you can use on test day.

  • Week 1: Devote at least six hours to taking an Official ACT Practice Test to determine your baseline score. Make sure you review all of your mistakes so that you know which areas you need to focus on over the next couple of months. 
  • Week 2: Devote four to six hours to learning the format of the ACT as a whole and to learning the format of one of the sections of the test (Reading, Math, English, or Science). Don’t forget to spend some time on vocabulary.
  • Week 3: Devote four to six hours to learning the format of two other sections of the test (Reading, Math, English, or Science).
  • Week 4: Devote four to six hours to learning the format of the final remaining section of the test (Reading, Math, English, or Science).

Month 2

This is the time for you to do a deep dive into the content of each section.

  • Week 1: Spend five to six hours focused on the material that will be covered in the ACT Math section. Start memorizing key math formulas and sharpen your algebra and geometry skills.
  • Week 2: Spend five to six hours focused on English content. You should also be reviewing grammar skills like subject-verb agreement as well as punctuation concepts like comma splices.
  • Week 3: Spend five to six hours focused on further developing your understanding of both the math and the English concepts from weeks 1 and 2.
  • Week 4: Spend five to six hours taking another Official ACT Practice Test. Don’t forget to review your results!

Month 3

This month is a good opportunity for you to learn and test out different strategies for each section so that you can tackle the ACT Math, English, Reading, and Science sections more effectively.

  • Week 1: Dedicate five to six hours toward the ACT Reading section. Figure out the best strategy for reading or skimming passages and eliminating answer options. Try some ACT practice questions to see which strategies work best for you.
  • Week 2: Dedicate six hours toward the ACT Math section. If there are any key formulas you haven’t memorized, now is the time to make flashcards and get them down. See which math strategies will work best for you on the test. Use practice questions so that you can see which questions you will need to use your calculator to answer and which ones you can answer quickly without your calculator.
  • Week 3: Dedicate six hours toward the ACT Science section. You will need to practice analyzing data and other information from graphs, charts, and tables.
  • Week 4: Dedicate six to eight hours taking another Official ACT Practice Test, reviewing your mistakes, and determining whether you want to switch up any of your test strategies.

Month 4

This month should be dedicated to review. If you don’t review your mistakes, you will be doomed to repeat them on test day. This is one of the most important parts of the study process, so make sure you spend extra time on your ACT prep this week.

  • Week 1: Take five to six hours to learn the format for the writing section if you are taking the optional ACT Essay as well as strategies that will help you earn an impressive essay score.
  • Week 2: Take six to seven hours to review the Math and Science sections of the ACT making sure to use the results from your practice test.
  • Week 3: Take six to seven hours to review the English and Reading sections of the ACT making sure to use the results from your practice test.
  • Week 4: Take six to seven hours to review all four sections of the ACT as well as the ACT Essay.

Month 5

During this month, you’ll spend time going over practice questions and reviewing each section of the ACT.

  • Week 1: Spend six to seven hours reviewing one section of the ACT and the strategies you plan to use for that section.
  • Week 2: Spend six to seven hours reviewing a different section of the ACT and the strategies you are going to use on that section.
  • Week 3: Spend six to seven hours reviewing a different section of the ACT and the strategies you will use on that section.
  • Week 4: Spend six to seven hours reviewing the remaining section of the ACT and the strategies you will use on that section.

Month 6

During this final month, spend your last four weeks of studying making sure you have addressed all your weaknesses on the test.

  • Week 1: Devote five to six hours to taking another Official ACT Practice Test. Be sure to review your answers.
  • Week 2: Devote six to seven hours to reviewing two sections of the ACT and practicing answering different essay prompts.
  • Week 3: Devote six to seven hours reviewing the remaining two sections of the ACT and practicing answering different essay prompts. I’d recommend taking another practice test during this week if you have time.
  • Week 4: Devote four to five hours to reviewing every single concept that will be on the ACT, especially those that gave you trouble on your last practice test.

While this six-month plan might seem daunting at first, if you take it one week at a time, you will find that it is a manageable and effective way to study for the ACT.

Whether you have one month or six months to prepare for the ACT, using one of these plans will help you take advantage of your time so that you can approach the test with the confidence that you will increase your ACT score and improve your chances of getting into the college of your dreams.

If you want to further increase the likelihood that you will reach your target score, I recommend working with one of Prep Expert’s private ACT tutors or signing up for one of our ACT prep courses. While these study plans are a great starting point, working with expert instructors will help you address your specific weaknesses and give you access to several strategies that you can use to improve your ACT score.

Learn more about how Prep Expert has helped over 50,000 students improve their standardized test scores and sign up for private ACT tutoring or a ACT prep course today when you visit our website.