How to Build the Perfect ACT Study Plan

Smiling student wearing a green shirt and glasses building an ACT study plan on laptop
April 10, 2024
8 min read


Reviewed by:

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 1/29/24

Where the SAT takes a closer look at literature, grammar, and vocabulary, the ACT focuses more on science and math. This guide will give you the ins and outs of building a comprehensive ACT study plan to set you up for success!

If you're leaning towards the ACT, chances are you've got a knack for numbers. This test mainly assesses the skills needed for colleges that specialize in math, science, and STEM fields.

But don't be fooled by your math prowess; you still need a solid study plan to ace the ACT. This guide is your roadmap to creating an effective study plan that takes the guesswork out of where to start and what resources to use. 

Whether you've got one month or six months until test day, this article will help you build and stick to a winning ACT study routine. So, let's roll up our sleeves and get you on the path to ACT success!

Building Your ACT Study Plan: Steps to Take

Before jumping into the list, be aware that many colleges do not require standardized tests like they used to. However, having a great ACT score can help you stand out. 

Step One: Determining Your Goals

Before you put together your ACT study plan, you should start by figuring out what scores you need and what you can earn. Take a practice prep test to determine what areas of the ACT you must study the most.

If your performance isn’t great during practice, don't worry! Knowing your strengths and weaknesses is essential to help you focus your studying and improve along the way! You should have some direction to study based on what topics you struggled with. 

Set your ACT score goal based on your college averages from this starting point. Remember to aim above the average requirement for colleges you’ll be applying to, as this will give you a better chance of admission. Knowing what score you need will give you a clearer trajectory for your ACT study plan and allow you to measure progress. 

Step Two: Set Your Schedule and Prioritize

The next step is to map out your ACT study schedule. Think about how much time you need to study based on the goals you’ve set for yourself. Even though the ACT is just a couple of hours, it takes time to adequately prepare. 

You should be able to adjust your ACT study plan as needed. If you’ve noticed that you need to relearn some content for the ACT, make sure you place content learning earlier on in your schedule. This method will allow you to focus on learning earlier and leave enough time for review and practice tests closer to your test date.

Second, consider your schedule. Think of everything you have to do before the exam. Give yourself plenty of room between major school tests and the ACT, and plan around your chosen date. You will likely have more time to study during a school break than during the school year, so give yourself time to recover between exams.

When setting your schedule, ensure that you set time aside from your regular coursework to maintain your high school GPA, as this will also be detrimental to your success as you apply for college.

monthly calendar

Step Three: Pick a Test Date and Location

Now that you’ve assessed how much time you need to study, it’s time to pick a test date and location! Make sure you feel confident you'll have enough time to meet your goals and do well on your test date. 

When you pick your date, you will also have to choose a location to take the exam. Usually, this will be a nearby high school, college campus, or registered testing center. 

Alternatively, if you're taking the test intending to take it again to do better, ensure you have enough time to retake it and receive your score before applying for college during your senior year.

Step Four: Gather Your Study Material and Understand How You Study

Your ACT study plan should work with whatever method helps you learn best! Ensure you don't keep studying the same material either; change it up when you can by incorporating learning new content, reviewing, and untimed and timed practice. You need to apply and reinforce what you learn every step of the way! 

To study most efficiently, ensure that you get organized by gathering and designating the appropriate test materials throughout your study. Below, we’ve listed some resources to get you started: 

  • Find your study material. There are numerous online study guides or physical prep books you can access. Take the time to follow them. ACT, Inc. provides some helpful test prep
  • Make sure your study material is appropriate. The older the ACT prep you’re using, the less likely it will be up to date. The ACT is updated every year, so you don’t want to waste your time studying question topics that are not on the exam.
  • Use successful study methods. If you’re having trouble learning, try writing out the questions on flash cards or finding a learning environment free of distractions. What works for your learning success matters most. 
  • Find yourself a personal tutor. Having a tutor will keep you organized and accountable throughout the study process. A tutor will help you improve your score if you need to take the test again. 

Step Five: Start Studying and Work With Your Schedule

To successfully stick to your SAT study schedule, you’ll have to consider your day-to-day obligations and commitments. Mark your work, personal, extracurricular, and academic commitments on a calendar to plan better when to study. You must also take some days off to rest and refocus so you don’t burn out!

Ultimately, knowing your commitments and allowing yourself to rest will help you study more efficiently and stick to your ACT study schedule.

ACT Study Schedules

Now that we've outlined the steps you can take to begin planning your ACT study schedule, here are some examples of how you can set up your study plan depending on your timeline.

The ACT covers four major sections: Math, Science, English, and Writing. Your ACT score comprises the composite of your score in each section. Breaking down each section over your study time will help you plan and study better. Below you’ll find the major topics for each ACT section.

  • The Math section covers the major branches of Math, modeling, and general skills. 
  • The Science portion requires students to interpret, make inferences, and investigate data and problems. 
  • The Reading section tests comprehension and knowledge of reading and writing structure. 
  • The English portion focuses on grammar, writing, and language. 

Knowing what each section comprises will help you better plan your schedule based on how well you do in practice and your known strengths. From here, pick the time frame that fits your needs.

One-Month ACT Study Schedule

Get A Free Version Of Our 1-Month ACT Study Schedule

A one-month ACT study schedule will crunch you the most compared to other schedules. Less will likely make for more time to study. To that end, we recommend you use the one-month ACT study plan for testing dates over the summertime, as you will have the most time available over one month since you won't have schoolwork.

During your One-Month ACT study schedule, break apart the test content along subject lines. Each week should have different goals, as demonstrated by the example schedule below.

Week Activities Approximate Time
One - Start with a practice or prep test. 3-4 hours
- Use the results to plan how much time you should dedicate to each section. Variable
- Spend the rest of that week studying the sections you scored best on. 10-15 hours
- Learn how the test structure flows and apply any test-taking skills and study methods that work for you. Variable
Weeks Two and Three - Dedicate one week to the subjects you scored lowest on the practice exam. 15-20 hours
- Budget your time according to your needs. Variable
- If you’ve planned to work with a tutor, set aside dates to meet with them on the subject(s) you struggle with most. Variable
Four - Focus on reviewing and committing all you can to memory. 15-20 hours
- Meet with your tutor one last time if you can, and come with whatever questions you still struggle with the most. Variable
- You should feel confident to take the exam if you have studied enough. Variable

Three-Month ACT Study Schedule

Get A Free Version Of Our 3-Month ACT Study Schedule

The three-month ACT studying plan works the best out of all of them, as it gives you the most time within a period you will memorize and reinforce what you studied. This plan would also work well over the summer! Make sure to start after all your AP and exams end. You want to avoid studying too hard with other exams looming.

Over those three months, you'll likely want to dedicate specific days to study. Budget your time with a calendar and pick dates when you have extra time free from schoolwork or extracurriculars. Below you’ll find a three-month example study schedule.

Week Activities Approximate Time
One - Learn the ACT’s structure and sectional layout. 2-3 hours
- Take practice exams and test prep to determine how much you’ll need to study. 4-6 hours

- Review the questions you got wrong or struggled with. 3-5 hours
- Break down what you do and don’t know in each section. 2-4 hours
- Meet with a tutor a few times towards the end of the month via your plan. Variable
Two - Schedule your practice times around your life. Take longer practice exams on the weekends and save review time for the week. Variable
- Dedicate practice time and review to the subjects you scored lower on. 4-6 hours per subject
- Simulate timed and untimed tests to understand the testing environment and find your testing pace. 4-6 hours
- If your testing pace needs to be faster, work on test-taking skills. 3-4 hours
- Set a designated day to meet with your tutor every week. Variable
Three - Start reviewing during month three. Variable
- Go back to every major test section and work through the questions again. 6-8 hours per section
- Time all of your practice exams. 3-4 hours
- Avoid study fatigue. Review as you feel able. Variable
- Ask your tutor if they think you’re ready. Variable

Six-Month ACT Study Schedule

Get A Free Version Of Our 6-Month ACT Study Schedule

The six-month ACT study plan gives you enough time to learn and review. A six-month schedule works well during a school semester, but it takes some planning. You'll want to use the extra time to plan around your busier schedule. See the example below for ways to dedicate time.

Use the Six months schedule to find whatever you need to learn. Schedule your review times around your needs. You'll know if you're making progress if the subject becomes easier. Save the review towards the end.

Week Activities Approximate Time
One - Mark out a day a week for practice exams and test prep. 2-4 hours per session
- Plan your study goals and what you want to know by when. Variable
- Consider signing up for an ACT prep class, forming a study group, or meeting with your tutor monthly to set study goals. Variable
Two - Increase your study schedule to twice a week or more, as needed. 4-6 hours per session
- Focus on the exam sections you find more difficult. Variable
- Begin timing any practice exam you take. Variable
- Meet with a tutor or study group twice a month or more. Variable
Three - Review ACT sections you haven't focused on as much. 4-6 hours per section
- Study every day you can, up to the last few days before the exam. Variable
- Let your learning process and relax before the exam date. Variable
- Meet with your study group or tutor one last time for review. Variable

FAQs: ACT Study Plan

Below, you will find some more specific questions from students about ACT study plans.

1. How Many Hours Should You Study for the ACT?

While how many hours you study for the ACT can depend on factors like your schedule, baseline knowledge, and how much time you have to study for the test. Try to meet the recommended 8-10 hours a week for ACT study.

2. Are Two Months Enough to Study for the ACT?

Two months is enough time to study for the ACT. However, depending on your starting point and goal, you might need more to do well. A two-month study schedule may give you enough time to study but could conflict with a busy schedule. 

3. Are Two Weeks Enough to Study for the ACT?

Two weeks is not enough time to study for the ACT for most students. It’s always beneficial to take the material slower to give yourself enough time to process the test material. Aiming for one month of ACT prep is ideal if you're in a time crunch.

4. Is One Month Enough Time to Study for the ACT?

Like a two-month study schedule, one month will work best if you’re studying full-time for the exam. Depending on your goals, it can be beneficial to slow down the pace and take more time to review and apply what you’re studying. Consider a one-month ACT study schedule as the absolute minimum study time.  

5. When Should I Take the ACT?

There is no best time to take the ACT. Consider your goals and baseline score before you schedule your test to ensure you have enough time to prepare. You should also consider the timeline and application deadlines for the colleges you intend on applying to as your deadline to take the test.

Ultimately, picking an ACT date should come down to your needs and how much time you need to prepare. A great way to pick test dates is to map out your college application timeline before you begin the application process. 

6. How Soon Should You Start Studying for the ACT?

You can start studying for the ACT as soon as you know you'll have to take it. Most students take the ACT during their junior year. Starting your study schedule early could give you enough time to take the test without worrying about becoming too busy with school. You’ll need to take the test before applying to college your senior year.

Get Ready for The ACT With Quad

Don't feel afraid to ask for help regarding your ACT prep! Quad education has you covered with experienced ACT tutors

Depending on your needs, Quad will pair you with tutors specializing in an individual section, considering most students have strengths and weaknesses. Each tutor will work with you through our standardized process.

Our tutors can help you build a specialized plan for your ACT prep--from assessment to implementing your study schedule. Quads tutors and consultants will help you see tangible progress as you reach your goal score. Get started today by taking our quick quiz on your ACT readiness

Final Thoughts

The ACT and other standardized tests like the SAT are milestone exams students take to begin their journey into the college application process. It is essential to study adequately if you hope to accomplish what is required to get into your dream college. Following a strong ACT study plan will ensure your success. 

While you can accomplish ACT study on your own, consider the worth of a coach or a tutor. They will personally make sure you know the material well enough to succeed. Remember, you should work with the dates calendar to be advantageous to your needs and study time. Start preparing early if you can!

Good luck! 

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