Test Prep

5 Tips for ACT Spare Time 

It certainly varies for each individual, but here are five tips on what to do with any time left over after the ACT. 

By: Cortlin Chavis

First of all, congratulations! If you have finished a section of the ACT with time to spare, consider it an accomplishment – unless, of course, it’s because you guessed on every question, in which case we’ll have to work to do. 

But following your completion, what should you do? Double-check your answers like a persevering student? Put your pencil down and give your brain a rest, knowing your first instinct is usually right? It certainly varies for each individual, but here are my five tips on what to do with any time left over. 

1) If you starred any questions you didn’t know, go back and answer them first. Guessing can prevent spending too much time on one question and allows you to move on to ones you know well. As soon as you’ve got spare time, it’s important to go back and work these out to get all potential points. However, the ones you had an idea on may be better left alone. You remember more than you think you do, so only change your answer if you’re 100% sure. 

2) Look at the first couple questions you answered in that section. This is especially true for the first section: English. It’s 8 am, you’ve just woken up (unless you’re an overachiever or someone who likes to be on time or whatever) and your breakfast (which you better have eaten) is still digesting. Your brain is working to jump into a test and analyze whatever’s going on – it may take a couple minutes to get a groove going. When you’re starting the ACT, you’re just getting into it. Maybe the first couple questions deserve a little attention at the end – if you have any to give – because you may have put a wrong answer down while you were still figuring out what your brain should be focusing on. 

3) Chill. And by chill, I mean think. Take a minute to breathe and not allow yourself to frantically flip through the booklet doing nothing. Just sit and think things over, albeit quickly. If you’ve just finished the reading section, do you understand the passages now? If you can clearly think of passage that your brain suddenly decides to comprehend, go for it. The last time I took the ACT, I thought I had finished answering all the reading questions I would ever know when, sitting there, chilling, I realized an answer I had made my best guess on. All it took was for me to back away from the page for a second. It was obvious. For this reason, I wouldn’t call sitting there a break necessarily, but perhaps a way to step back and see a bigger picture. 

4) You should not have enough time for a step four. At all. Ever. Probably. If you do, you’re most likely rushing through it too fast and missing questions you could’ve gotten right. Around five minutes is the most time you should have left over on any section. Therefore, no step four for you. 

5) Please, please, please, do not, under any circumstances, go to a previous section that time was already called on, or jump forward to one that hadn’t been started. I promise, any score on the ACT isn’t worth getting caught cheating and all the repercussions you’ll face. So just pass on the whole academic dishonesty thing and feel proud of yourself for the work you put in the right way. 

And good luck! 

Cortlin is a senior in Auburn, Alabama. She is currently learning about the next steps in her education: taking exams, getting a summer job, preparing for college, selecting a major, and so on. She hopes any knowledge she gains in these areas can be transferred into advice for readers, and hopes her perspective can offer a little insight!

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