What’s the best-paying job you can have as a high school student? Spending quality time improving your ACT score is a trigger for big scholarships that can make college affordable. Apply these steps, and watch your ACT score increase.

1. Prepare early and effectively

After signing up for the ACT at act.org, find engaging, efficient, and effective test prep. Not all test prep is created equal. Read reviews, and look past flashy guarantees. Try our OnToCollege Free ACT Prep Trial.

2. Practice often

Consistent test-taking practice has shown to be one of the best ways to increase your ACT scores. Make sure to use actual ACT practice tests to understand the test format and learn to manage time and energy.

  • Often your school counselor or local library will have copies to share, or you can purchase the Official ACT Prep Guide for about $40.
  • Join our free OnToCollege Live! Online Help sessions from 7:30-8:30 PM CT on Friday before every national Saturday ACT date.
  • But don’t wait to prep the night before! The full OnToCollege online course is available on your schedule for a full year or as a Boot Camp 4-6 weeks before the test. We also offer streamed, interactive Live! Online classes before each national test date.

3. Use the ACT practice tests

The ACT’s four sections containing 215 questions last 2 hours and 55 minutes.  

How long is each section of the ACT

Carving out three hours at one time for practice may be challenging. Instead, with a practice test in hand, do one passage at a time for the prescribed time (English 9 min, Reading 8:45 min, Science 5:50 min, Math 1 min per question). Then immediately correct your answers for that one passage. Seek to understand all of your guesses and mistakes. Learn from your mistakes before attacking the next passage—and then the next.

4. Take the ACT three to four times

Select the test dates that work best with your family, school, and extracurricular commitments. (2023 ACT Test Dates). Some states require all their public high school juniors to take the ACT. Few students get their best score the first (or even second) time. So, take the test twice during your junior year and twice in the fall of your senior year. Get your best score, and increase your chances of scholarships and financial aid. The best-paying job a high school student can have is increasing that score.

Colleges don’t care how many times you take the test. However, December of your senior year is usually the last test date colleges accept for scholarship consideration. Check with your preferred colleges.

Ambitious students may want to prepare for and take the June or July ACT after sophomore year. That early score can identify weak areas where you need to spend more study time. (If you score a 27 or higher on the test the summer before your junior year, tell your school counselor that you want to take the October Junior Year PSAT, which can earn you National Merit Scholarships. Register for the PSAT with your high school counselor.) 

ACT provides an automatic Superscore for those who take the ACT more than once, another reason to take the ACT three or four times. Not all colleges accept superscores so you’ll need to check their websites.

5. Reduce your test anxiety

  • Practice, practice, practice so you are prepared and confident when test day arrives. Treat each of your practice sessions as a real test day. Remove all distractions. Use a reliable timer. Stay focused. No food, no breaks, no phone.
  • Learn which relaxation techniques–such as deep breathing–work for you.
  • Finally, treat your ACT Test Prep as you would a part-time job. Put the time and energy into improving your ACT Test Score—the best-paying job you’ll ever have!

OnToCollege’s online ACT Prep course is fun, engaging, and effective, providing all the strategies, practice tests, and solution videos you need to MAX your score. Hey—it can pay well to have fun! We look forward to helping you increase your score and scholarships.

Have more questions about the ACT? Check out The Ultimate Guide to ACT Prep in 2024