By John Stillman ‘19

It’s that time of the year again! The time for stressing out over the amount of school work and the upcoming ACT exam. But worry not,juniors; this article is here to help! This article is the key for a 36 (hopefully).

I myself ended up with a 29 on this exam, a respectable score that got me into most colleges. From the first time I took the exam, I was able to raise my score four points thanks to the my hard work and great advice from my teachers.

Prep and Before the Exam

The ACT is like any activity: you will not reach your full potential without practice. Doing practice ACT exams or doing a prep course will aid you in the quest for a 36.

The ACT is also a test you can take multiple times and you will improve the more times you take it. Senior Dan Spellman said, “I improved dramatically  by taking the exam multiple times. Each time I was less nervous and became more familiar with the exam.”

The night and morning before are extremely important, as you should adequately rest your mind before the exam. Getting at least eight hours of sleep along with a brain-fueled breakfast goes a long way to be as prepared for the exam as possible. The exam is stressful and tiring, and good sleep and breakfast will give you more energy as you drive deeper into the exam.

Section 1: English

Time: 45 min    Questions: 75

English may have the most questions of any ACT section, but the English section is typically the section students finish most comfortably on time. An important strategy is to always cross out prepositional phrases, as it makes selecting the correct word much easier. After crossing out prepositional phrases, try substituting the other word choices to see which word works best. As hard as it may be to believe, simple logic can go a long way.

Section 2: Math

Time: 60 min     Questions: 60

Math is often a hit or miss section for many students. One of the best math strategies I have learned is although on average you get a minute per question, you want to be done with the first 40 questions in 30 minutes, so you can leave yourself 30 min for the final, tougher questions.

Senior Jimmy Calcagno, who scored a 35, said, “Always skip around during the math section, get the problems you know done and skip over the tough ones.” Skipping around and managing your time can get you the extra points you need.

Section 3: Reading

Time: 35 Min    Questions: 40

Everyone may have a different strategy for the reading section. Some may read the passage and answer the questions and some may just read the first and last sentence for the main idea. Despite both of these being great strategies, the most successful strategy I heard was from Mr. Bergstedt the day before my highest ACT score.

I was originally told to skim the passage, but reading the questions before resonated best with me. I ended up raising my score on the reading section from a 23 to a 29 by using this strategy. Although this strategy worked for me, Ms. Pacetti believes it is best to read the whole passage, then answer the questions, as you waste more time going back and forth between the passage and the questions searching for the right answer.

Everyone has different strategies for the reading section, so it is best to use trial and error with the different methods to find which one works best.


Section 4: Science

Time: 35 Min    Questions: 40

Science can either be the final leg to a perfect score or the Achilles heel. Science is very similar to reading, as you should read the questions before looking at the data or passage. Don’t be afraid to skip around passages in science, as often the easiest passage may be at the very end.

Senior Liam Coughlin, who happened to score a 36, said, “Never focus too in-depth on a passage. Just get the vague knowledge and it will serve you well while answering the questions.”

Using these simple techniques can very well help you raise your score on the ACT.  Make sure to study, as this test can very well change your life. But most of all, be confident! Knowing you can conquer this test is half the battle, and practice creates confidence!  Best of luck to all taking the ACT!