Survival Guide to ACT


Photo by Chloe Bauer

Scantron in progress

Broken pencils, dying calculators, eraser shavings. There seems to be no hope in sight when it comes to junior year, the year of the ACT. But fear not, this article will help you through the ups and downs of the ACT and tell you what to prepare for.

The ACT has been known to cause major anxiety and stress. Even those who don’t experience major anxiety find the pressure and stress overwhelming. Hopefully this article helps you relax and understand what’s coming and how to prepare better for the test.

Many teachers recommend taking the ACT about three times, this way you have plenty of opportunities to raise your score. However, the ACT can cost up to $85, depending on if you take the writing section, each time you take it after the pre-paid test from the state. For those who can’t afford to take the test multiple times, you can look into a fee waiver here. The testing date specific to Bingham is March 8 at 7:30 a.m. If you would like to retake the test or take it earlier, it is offered on Feb. 12, April 2, June 11, and July 16. The testing centers are all over Utah. Visit to learn more about locations and how to register and pay for the tests.

Each section of the ACT tests different skills you learn in your core classes at school. They include English, math, reading, and science. The test takes a little over three hours to complete. 

The English section consists of 75 questions to be completed in 45 minutes. Braxton Thornley, an English teacher at Bingham, says that students should focus on “just studying basic grammar and punctuation, primarily commas. Commas are what kill a lot of people.” He also advised students to check their answers every few questions, but to keep a quick pace. Susan McCandless, another English teacher at Bingham, said, “Pacing is most important.”

The math section consists of 60 questions to be completed in 60 minutes. It is the longest section of the ACT. Kelsey Maxfield, a math teacher who leads the ACT prep for math at Bingham, says, “The national average is only 55%. You don’t have to get a perfect score.” She recommends studying math you learned in seventh grade through tenth grade and said that algebra plays a big part on the test. “There’s not many math problems from Secondary Math 3,” Maxfield said.

The reading section consists of 40 questions to be completed in 35 minutes. It is the section least likely to be completed. According to Thornley, “I recommend reading something before you take the test, you not only wake yourself up, but engage your brain.” This can help you prepare for the comprehension part of the reading section.

The science section consists of 40 questions to be completed in 35 minutes. All the answers to the science section are right in front of you, so there aren’t any questions where you would use prior knowledge. Lisa Kammeyer, a Bingham science teacher in charge of ACT prep, says, “Don’t read the passages unless you have to. Read the questions first. If it relates to the graph, just use the graph.”

According to London Hyde, a Bingham High School senior, “I wish I had known that the score I got translated into scholarship money. I would have tried harder.” Doing well on the ACT can help students receive scholarships from specific colleges and make their student debt significantly less. When Hyde was asked what tips she would like to pass onto the juniors, she said, “I would tell them to study for the math and science sections especially. They’re the hardest for most people.”

When taking the ACT, remember, it’s just a test. You can take it again and do better. Thornley said, “It’s not an IQ test.” A good, reliable website to help you raise your score or just to study is To find out the “magic word” to use Shmoop for free this year, talk to your counselor.