10 Fun ACT Prep Ideas to Keep You Focused

ACT prep ideas
April 26, 2024
9 min read
Expert Reviewed


Reviewed by:

Mary Banks

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 4/26/24

There are lots of ways to make studying fun while retaining all the information you’re taking in. Read on for our best – and most fun – ACT prep tips. 

When it comes to ACT prep, it’s really important to stay focused during all your study sessions and retain as much information as possible. ACT scores are an important component of your college application; a good score is likely to enhance it. 

We know studying can be challenging – and frankly, boring. But it doesn’t have to be! Here we’ve included a few fun tips, advice, and even some ACT prep games and applications to share with you. These ideas are all designed to help you improve your test-taking skills, stay focused, and make the most out of your ACT prep.

5 Simple and Fun ACT Prep Ideas to Try

Simple and Fun ACT Prep Ideas

There are lots of ways to prepare for the ACT examination. You have to determine what strategies and prep ideas work best for you. Here are a few ideas that you can use to make studying more fun while retaining important information.

Create a Song or Other Mnemonic Device to Remember the Material

You may have heard of the term mnemonic device in school already. Essentially, it’s a technique that can help you retain and recall knowledge. Consider “the ABCs,” one of the oldest mnemonic devices; it has helped children learn the alphabet for hundreds of years. Other standard mnemonic devices include:

  • Acronyms: ROY G BIV works to help remember the colors of the rainbow.
  • Spelling mnemonics: For instance, “i before e except after c” can help you remember how to spell certain words. 
  • First-letter mnemonics: For example, in biology, to remember the order of taxa [which is Domain, Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species], you make a sentence out of the first letters: “Dear King Philip Came Over For Good Soup”).

These are just a few examples of common mnemonic devices. You may already know others through school or friends, but you can also create your own. Anything that helps you remember what you’re learning is an effective study method. 

Use Bright Colored Flashcards

One way to make studying a bit less formal or tedious is by brightening it up – literally! Try finding bright-colored index cards or post-it notes that you can use for flashcards. It might even help you to color-code by topic or category.

Color-coding your flashcards can help you recall information while you take the ACT; you’ll associate the topic or category with a particular color to help narrow down the possible answers in your head. 

Try the Pomodoro Technique for Time Management

The Pomodoro technique is a time management method popular among students. This method uses a timer to break studying into 25-minute intervals with five to ten-minute breaks between the intervals. Each interval is known as a Pomodoro; you can plan how many Pomodoros you need to do to finish the task at hand. You’re supposed to take a longer 20-30 minute break every fourth Pomodoro. 

This technique aims to avoid study burnout by encouraging students to take frequent breaks. You can even build up to longer Pomodoros, but make sure you continue taking breaks between. You can find a free Pomodoro timer here, where you can even input your specific goals and tasks for each session. 

Switch Up Your Study Session Backdrop

Find a quiet cafe to study in or spend your day studying at the park. Studies have shown that a change in scenery can break up a routine and increase your retention. Plus, routines can be monotonous and eventually get boring – moving your study sessions elsewhere can make things a bit more fun. Just make sure your backdrop isn’t distracting you. Loud, busy spaces aren’t conducive to productive studying. 

Buddy Up

Having a study buddy can help you stay focused and retain information better. Plus, when you study with someone else, it’s an opportunity to learn what they know. They might have new information or insights that you don’t have – or vice versa. This sharing of knowledge can even help your chances of passing the exam. One study found that having a study buddy increased a student’s chances of passing by 23%. 

Buddying up can also help you retain information. Another study found that when students thought they would have to teach the material they were learning to someone else, they were better at not only choosing and organizing the most important information but also remembering it more accurately later on.

5 ACT Prep Games

We’ve covered some fun tips to try, but you can even take it a step further by turning your study sessions into games. We’ve found six of the best apps, card games, verbal games, websites to help you prep for the ACT. 

Flashcard Jeopardy

I’ll take flashcard jeopardy for $200! That’s right; you can use the classic game show as a method for studying. Here’s how:

  1. Find four to six subjects or topics you need more preparation on and use those as your categories. This is a great way to study formulas or definitions. 
  2. Come up with your own questions, or find practice questions on the ACT website and write them down on flashcards. Write the answers on the other side. (Note: writing down the answers to all your questions is part of the studying! It’s meant to help you further retain the information you’re learning.)
  3. Once all your flashcards are finished, you can either be your own host or have a friend or family member read the questions for you. Keep track of the topics or questions you get wrong or still don’t fully understand. Make sure to focus on those more in your studying before taking the exam.

Jeopardy is a great game to play with a study buddy, but you can also use it to study solo. 

The New York Times Student Learning Network

The New York Times has its own learning network for students. Its activities include daily lessons, writing prompts, quizzes & vocabulary, visual learning, and even contests. Here’s how you can use these activities in your ACT prep (aside from the contests, which are just for fun).

Screenshot of the New York Times' "Activities for Students" webpage

Source: New York Times

Daily lessons: There are tons of articles on a number of different topics. Each article includes a lesson overview, what to look for before answering the questions, and then the questions to answer. These lessons are excellent practice for the questions on the ACT, where you have to read a passage and analyze what you’ve read to answer the questions. The English, reading, and science reasoning sections will require you to do this. 

Writing prompts: This one speaks for itself, but if you’re choosing to take the optional writing test on the ACT, you can use this activity for practice. 

Quizzes & vocabulary: This activity offers a lot of information on vocabulary and language in various contexts. One recent example: a lesson titled “Vocabulary in Context: Halftime Show.” Use these to sharpen your knowledge of English. You can even take quizzes to gauge your areas of strength and weakness. 

Visual learning: This includes photos, graphs, and videos. The graph activities are great practice for the ACT Math Test, which requires you to analyze graphs or other visuals.

The sheer variety of activities available makes it an interesting way to prepare for the ACT. You’ll not only sharpen your skills, but you’ll also be learning about current events, economics, and any topic you can think of.


Quizlet is a website that makes studying for the ACT easier and more interactive. When you visit the website, you can click on “Subjects” to start learning about a specific topic. You’ll find different categories within each subject with sets of flashcards that you can click on to learn more. Under the English subject, for instance, there are categories for Literature and Vocabulary, each with hundreds of thousands of sets of flashcards. 

You can also click the “Explanation” tab to find explanations for hard questions or challenging topics. All the content is user-generated, so you’re able to connect with other people who are studying the ACT to share knowledge or ask questions. 

To get more specific ACT prep help, you can use the search bar to search “ACT” or “ACT prep.” Each of these terms produces hundreds of sets of flashcards, images, and diagrams you can use to study all the subjects on the test.  


This game is more effective if you play with other people. Even just one other person is sufficient. The goal of this game is to assess your knowledge of ACT topics. The best thing about this game is that it’s easy to tailor it to your own needs: you can use this game to study terminology, concepts, formulas, and more. 

Here’s how to play when you’re playing with others:

  1. Make or print a blank BINGO board (you can find them online)
  2. Fill in each box with a term, formula, concept, or whatever you’re studying. Have the host make flashcards or notes with the coordinating definitions.
  3. The host reads the definitions out loud. Each player puts a chip over the term, formula, or concept they think matches the definition. 
  4. When a player has five across, they yell BINGO. 
  5. The host checks to see if the player got the definitions correctly.
  6. Switch cards with other players and play again!

This is a great way to gauge where your strengths and weaknesses are. You can also play by yourself, but you’ll have to write the definitions, pull them, and check at the end to see if you were right. It can still be effective! 


Habitica is a great way to gamify your studying. The application's primary purpose is to gamify to-do lists and mundane tasks – we’d say that studying qualifies for the latter! 

With Habitica, you can:

  • Manage your to-do lists
  • Track daily and weekly tasks
  • Track habits you want to develop or eliminate

Here are the best ways to use the app:

You can create a to-do list with your overall studying goals and check them off as you achieve them. And you can also create to-do lists for small, daily studying tasks like going over certain subjects, concepts, or vocabulary. 

Plus, you can input habits you want to create or eliminate. For example, if you want to start studying for two hours every day, you can track your time on the app and see how well you’re doing towards meeting that goal.


We hope these tips help you while you study for the ACT and make it a bit more fun. We’ve also provided a list of additional commonly asked questions about ACT prep and the ACT in general. 

1. Should I Take the ACT or the SAT?

Ultimately whether you take the SAT or the ACT is up to you and depends on your goals. However, it’s important to note that each college has its own list of requirements that you’ll have to adhere to.  

It’s also important to note that since 2020 when the COVID pandemic began, many colleges have been implementing optional test submissions. 

2. When Should I Take the ACT?

Most students take the ACT in the spring of their junior year or fall of their senior year. You have to decide which is best for you. If you anticipate wanting to retake the ACT to boost your score, it’s best to take it in your junior year first so that you have enough time to study and prep for the retake.

3. When Should I Start Preparing for the ACT?

It’s never too early to start ACT prep, but the beginning of your junior year is a good time to start gauging your strengths and weaknesses for each ACT subject. As you take courses in the subjects that are covered on the ACT, keep your notes and study the important and overarching themes, concepts, and terminology. 

You should also consider prepping earlier for the subjects you feel less confident about – add those to the beginning of your study plan and aim to strengthen your confidence in them by your test date.

4. What Are the Subjects on The ACT?

There are five required subjects on the ACT; four required and one optional. The four required are English, science reasoning, math, and reading. Writing is an optional subject. 

5. What Is a “Good” ACT Score?

A “good” ACT score is relatively subjective. For example, the average ACT score of all test-takers in the last few years is around 20. But the average ACT score of students in the Ivy Leagues is closer to 34. So it’s dependent on the schools where you want to apply and how competitive they are. Research your choice schools and find their average ACT scores and create a target score or score range for yourself.

For example, to be a competitive applicant at UChicago your ACT score should ideally be above 1560.

6. How Do I Register for the ACT?

You sign up for the test using the MyACT portal to choose your testing date and location. To register, you’ll need 30 minutes, access to a computer with working internet, a credit card or other payment method, high school course details, and a recent headshot

Final Thoughts

Now you’re equipped with a list of fun tips, games, and activities to try as you study for the ACT. Remember, the methods that work best for someone else may not work best for you. Try different study strategies and methods to figure out what helps you retain and recall information most effectively. Good luck with your study plan! 

Access 5 free ACT practice questions here

Access 5 free ACT practice questions here

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