How to Study for the ACT in 3 Months
Three months is a solid amount of time to prep for the ACT. With 3 months, you will be able to spread out your studying and have ample time to work to master concepts tested on the ACT that may be unfamiliar at the start.
Studying for the ACT can be a daunting task. The key is finding the right resources, getting organized, and sticking to your plan. Keep reading for an ACT 3 Month Study Plan.
[ RELATED: ACT 1-Month Study Plan ]
ACT Study Resources
Before you get started studying, you’ll want to make sure that you equip yourself with the resources you need. As you consider your choices, assess your learning style—will you be able to stay on track independently or do you prefer to be motivated by an expert teacher or tutor?
Top picks for ACT prep
ACT Study Calendar
Before you dive in and actually start your ACT prep, you’ll want to sit down and sketch out a study calendar. Taking the time to do this at the beginning will ensure that you cover all of the material in time for your ACT test date.
At a minimum, plan to spend about one hour a week on ACT prep, though it’s recommended that you carve out 2-3 hours per week. In the weeks that you take an ACT practice test (there are 4 total in this 3 Month Study Plan), plan to spend at least 6 hours on ACT prep. Err on the side of caution in the early stages—block out extra time for your prep. If you find that you are progressing towards your score goal sooner than anticipated, you can decrease the amount of studying you have planned later on in your calendar.
When crafting your study calendar, be sure to take into account all of your commitments, including classes, homework, extracurricular activities, jobs, and any trips or family vacations you may have planned. Plan to prep at least once a week for the entirety of the three months, or 2-3 times a week if you want to spread out the work.
ACT 3 Month Study Plan: Week One
Week 1 is all about assessing your baseline score to get a sense of where you stand and how far you need to go to reach your score goal.
Begin by taking a full-length ACT practice test in a single sitting. The ACT runs 2 hours and 55-minutes (plus an additional 40 minutes for the optional Writing section). You’ll want to build your stamina, so resist the temptation to split up your practice tests over more than one session—treat them like the real thing.
After you’ve finished the practice test, score it. Your results from your first practice test will help you plan your studying. If you are further from your score goal than you anticipated, you may want to add some more days of ACT prep to your study calendar.
On a separate day or two this week, set aside about 3 hours total to review your practice test. The ACT is a standardized test, which means it is always the same. The more familiar you get with the types of questions asked, the more prepared you will be on Test Day. Taking the time to thoroughly review your practice tests will help you get familiarized with the different question types—you’re bound to see the same types of questions asked in a slightly different way or with different numbers.
Start with the questions you got wrong, guessed on, or didn’t answer. One by one, review each question by studying the explanation and comparing it to your own work. Where did you go wrong? Did you make a calculation error or is this a concept that you need to flag for in-depth review? Be organized in your review and for each ACT section, take notes on the concepts that you did well on and the question types that you repeatedly got wrong. This will help you assess which areas of the test you need to focus on.
Then, review the questions that you got right. This is the step that most students don’t bother doing, but it is essential if you want to be as efficient as possible on Test Day. For each of these questions, read the explanation and compare it to the steps that you took. Is there a quicker way to get to the right answer? Make notes of any strategies that are recommended so you can begin incorporating them into your prep.
ACT 3 Month Study Plan: Weeks 2-4
Start your prep by studying any foundational concepts that you repeatedly missed on your practice test. For example, if you got most of the Functions questions wrong, it’s a sign that you need to delve deep into learning that content. Prioritize that work early on as it’ll take some time and practice to master.
Mix in a review of topics that you got right at least 50% of the time and be sure to spend some time these weeks learning test-taking strategies and methods for each of the sections.
Top subjects to cover for ACT prep in Weeks 2-4:
- Test-Taking Strategies and Methods for each section of the ACT
- ACT Math: Essential Skills, Functions
- ACT English: Sentence Structure and Formation, Punctuation
- ACT Reading: Global & Inference Questions
- ACT Science: Data Representation
ACT 3 Month Study Plan: Week 5
Take another practice test this week in a single sitting. Then, score your practice test and set aside a day or two to review the test as you did in Week 1.
What changed? Don’t get discouraged if your score didn’t increase. It’s actually not unusual for students to see a dip in their scores. As your brain takes on new information, it can sometimes feel overloaded and will slow down a bit to process what it’s learning.
Take notes of any patterns you are seeing in this practice test, flagging question types or topics for review in the next 3 weeks.
ACT 3 Month Study Plan: Weeks 6-8
Use your results from your last practice test to guide what you study these next three weeks. Be sure to cover all sections of the ACT and to make time in this chunk to study templates for ACT Writing, if you are planning on taking it. If you are still getting questions wrong in the topics you flagged in Week 1, be sure to spend some time reviewing those question types and brushing up on foundational concepts.
Top subjects to cover for ACT prep in Weeks 6-8 weeks:
- ACT Math: Number and Quantity, Algebra
- ACT English: Organization, Unity, and Cohesion & Usage
- ACT Reading: Function and Writer’s View Questions
- ACT Science: Research Summaries
- ACT Writing: Templates and Scoring Guidelines
ACT 3 Month Study Plan: Week 9
Time for another practice test! As you did with the first two, complete this one in a single sitting, mimicking the conditions of the real ACT.
Later this week, spend at least 3 hours reviewing your practice test. Rework problems you got wrong until you really grasp the steps taken to get to the right answer. For questions you got right, make a note of any strategies you can employ for those question types to get to the right answer quicker.
ACT 3 Month Study Plan: Weeks 10-11
These two weeks are your last chance to study foundational concepts. Prioritize that work early on, and then make sure to cover all remaining ACT topics—even those that you get consistently correct.
Top subjects to cover for ACT prep in Weeks 10-11:
- ACT Math: Statistics and Probability & Geometry
- ACT English: Topic Development and Knowledge of Language
- ACT Reading: Detail and Vocab-in-Context Questions & Paired Passages
- ACT Science: Conflicting Viewpoints
- Review any test-taking strategies and methods you learned over the course of your ACT prep
It’s the week of the ACT! With at least one week to Test Day, take one last practice test. Then, spend a day or two reviewing the practice test. You should be a pro at doing this by now. Take notes of any missteps you may have taken and lightly brush up on foundational concepts as needed.
Then, take some time off. Be sure to block off 1-3 days before Test Day. Do not cram. Instead, take some time to yourself to rest and recharge. In the days leading up to the test, do not change up your routine—go to bed when you usually do, eat the same breakfast, etc.
On the day of the ACT, wake up with confidence in your preparation. You’ve worked hard these past three months and you are ready. Walk into that room and crush it!