How to get motivated to study for ACT

When I was in high school, there was this underlying belief that you couldn’t really study for the SAT or ACT.  There was an attitude of, “You either know it, or you don’t,” which I now believe is completely false.  Not only is it very possible to study for these tests, but they are actually easy to completely master in a relatively short amount of time.

So you have decided to take on work with a great private tutor, or are following some specific program to structure your studying…but you lack the motivation…what can you do?

To succeed at the ACT or SAT, you have to want it.  Forcing yourself to study will ear off quickly as the days go by and you have other, more appealing, options at hand.  In order to get yourself to want it, my recommendation is that you have to see a deep intrinsic benefit to scoring higher.

Of course higher scores mean more scholarship money, which if  your family is strapped for cash might be a huge motivation for you.

Higher scores also mean a greater likelihood of admission into various colleges and universities!  But Yale or Harvard are only motivators if you actually WANT to go to Yale or Harvard.

So here is my suggestion to you, and it is a bit radical, but trust me, it works!

1. Figure out what your greatest passions are today

2. Find specific colleges that tailor to those passions in the academic setting

3. Find colleges that have the social life you desire

4. Find colleges that have the extra-curricular opportunities you desire

5. Set these schools as your dream schools

The number one issue with motivation is if you are studying to get into the wrong school for you!  Most students are pushed or coerced by parents to go to specific colleges but I find that it is utterly impossible to have a student self-motivated if the colleges to which he/she is applying does not make his/her heart sing out with joy.

Do yourself a favor and make this big decision for yourself without high regard to the prestige or amount of money you can make by picking certain colleges and majors.  In the long-run your life will be on it’s true track toward what makes you happy and fulfilled as an adult.

Take the choice of which college to attend into your own hands and you will find huge motivation to study for the ACT/SAT because it is something that you truly desire within your heart.


How to study for the ACT

There comes a point where you begin to feel like you don’t know what to do to study for the ACT.  Where do you start?!

Let’s talk about math here and you can also apply this information for studying for the other parts of the test…

So first the types of math tested on the ACT….

1. Pre-Algebra/Elementary Algebra
Pre-Algebra (20-25%)
  • Basic operations using whole numbers, decimals, fractions, and integers

  • Place value

  • Square roots and approximations

  • The concept of exponents

  • Scientific notation

  • Factors

  • Ratio, proportion, and percent

  • Linear equations in one variable

  • Absolute value and ordering numbers by value

  • Elementary counting techniques and simple probability

  • Data collection, representation, and interpretation

  • Understanding simple descriptive statistics

Elementary Algebra (15-20%)
  • Properties of exponents and square roots

  • Evaluation of algebraic expressions through substitution

  • Using variables to express functional relationships

  • Understanding algebraic operations

  • The solution of quadratic equations by factoring

2. Intermediate Algebra/Coordinate Geometry
Intermediate Algebra (15-20%)
  • The quadratic formula

  • Rational and radical expressions

  • Absolute value equations and inequalities

  • Sequences and patterns

  • Systems of equations

  • Quadratic inequalities

  • Functions and modeling

  • Matrices

  • Roots of polynomials

  • Complex numbers

Coordinate Geometry (15-20%)
  • Graphing and the relations between equations and graphs, including points, lines, polynomials, circles, and other curves

  • Graphing inequalities

  • Slope

  • Parallel and perpendicular lines

  • Distance

  • Midpoints

  • Conics

3. Plane Geometry/Trigonometry
Plane Geometry (20-25%)
  • Properties and relations of plane figures, including angles and relations among perpendicular and parallel lines

  • Properties of circles, triangles, rectangles, parallelograms, and trapezoids

  • Transformations

  • The concept of proof and proof techniques

  • Volume

  • Applications of geometry to three dimensions

Trigonometry (5-10%)
  • Trigonometric relations in right triangles

  • Values and properties of trigonometric functions

  • Graphing trigonometric functions

  • Modeling using trigonometric functions

  • Use of trigonometric identities

  • Solving trigonometric equations


You can see there is a lot of information here, but what do you actually study?  Do you need to study an entire course in trigonometry in order to get a high score on the ACT?!?!?!  What about reviewing all 16 chapters of the Geometry course you took freshman year?!

The answer to these questions is NOOOOO!!!

In all honesty, you only need to study the pieces that will be on a test, and the things you don’t already know.

I know that seems logical, but for some reason I see a lot of students wasting time reviewing things they already know because it gives them this false sense of confidence.  What you really need to zero-in-on are the things you don’t know and use those to eliminate weaknesses.

So make flashcards of all questions you get wrong when you take a practice test and study those questions as often as possible.  There are only so many types of questions on both the ACT and SAT.  Once you go through enough sample test questions, you will start to see patterns and repeats of the same things over and over again.  So familiarize yourself with the test and continue to review your past mistakes over and over resolving the flashcards for the correct answer.  Once you know the card inside and out, then you can put it in a separate pile that you go through less often.

If you missed a question once, but learned it again and again, you won’t miss a similar question again when you see it on the ACT.