Taking the ACT is undoubtedly one of the most dreaded parts of the college application process. And this year, with all of the added stress, anxiety, and financial complications caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the ACT is likely the last thing you want to be thinking about right now.
Well, let us ease your mind for a moment.
The ACT doesn’t matter to college admissions officers as much as you may think. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, many colleges and universities phased out requiring applicants to submit test scores.
And amid the COVID-19 pandemic, that number has rapidly increased. There are currently more than 1,000 colleges and universities, including the University of California system, with test-optional policies. And seemingly every day, a new institution steps forward to announce that applicants will no longer need to submit an ACT or SAT score if they aren’t able to or don’t want to.
So, you don’t need to stress. But, it would still benefit you to take the ACT and dedicate as much time as you can towards preparing for the test.
“I’m advising (my students) to try to take it one or two times before applications are due,” said Joe Korfmacher, a college counselor at Collegewise. Largely, Korfmacher says he gives that advice to his students so that they can keep their options open.
And although it can be a drag, preparing for the ACT is a must. You can’t expect to score well without any practice or at least some knowledge of how the test is formatted.
But, we get it. Right now, money is tight. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly half of households have lost employment income. And the last thing families want to spend money on right now is an expensive ACT tutor or prep course.
So, we at The University Network (TUN) have put together a list of free online resources and explained how you can use them to effectively prepare for the ACT without spending a dime.
Here are our choices of the best free online ACT prep resources & tips on how to use them:
Not every test-prep resource offered by the makers of the ACT is free. But, the company does provide some great opportunities for you to prepare for the test without spending any money at all.
Namely, ACT offers free access to ACT Academy, which provides test-takers with quizzes, two full-length practice tests, educational games, video lessons, important reminders, and more. And since the practice questions are created by the makers of the test, you can feel confident knowing you’ll see similar questions when you sit down to take the real test.
What’s particularly exciting about ACT Academy is that it can create a personalized study plan based on your previous scores earned on the ACT, PreACT, and practice tests. That way, you can focus on improving in areas where you need the most work and not waste time going over what you already know.
- Tips on how to effectively use ACT Academy to prepare for the ACT
ACT Academy is easy to navigate. To create a free account, all you need is a username and password. Teachers and parents can also create an account for their students.
When you log in, you’ll immediately be sent to your “Dashboard.” But before you get started there, switch over to the “Tips & Strategies” page, where you’ll be able to take a quick assessment that can identify your learning style and find the best ways for you to get ready for test day. Also on this page, you’ll find a long list of tips for taking each section of the test.
Once you’ve completed the assessment and checked out some of ACT Academy’s tips, switch back to your “Dashboard” and “explore” the subject you’re interested in practicing. You’ll see a pop-up, which gives you the option to either dive straight into a quiz or access some study resources, including videos and interactive games.
The benefit of taking quizzes off-the-bat, though, is that ACT Academy can evaluate your scores to identify the areas you need the most help in. That way, ACT Academy can suggest instructional videos and other resources that are tailored to your needs. Of course, if you’ve already taken the ACT or preACT, you can also personalize your lesson plan by entering your results on your “Dashboard.”
If you scroll down on your “Dashboard,” you’ll find your 17-day lesson plan, equipped with daily video resources and an assessment. You may be pleased to find that the amount of daily work is far from overwhelming.
ACT Academy also offers a “Resources” tab, which gives you access to all types of helpful videos that cover the staple concepts you will be tested on when you sit down to take the ACT. You also have the option to take a full-length practice ACT test, which will give you a taste of the real test and identify areas that you need to work on.
Finally, ACT Academy has a “Progress” page where you can find an extensive list of quizzes that cover nearly every ACT topic you could imagine. You can also view the date you last took each quiz, the score you earned, and your “mastery level,” which is evaluated on a three-star scale. You also have the option to review your answers, which you can use as a learning tool because each wrong answer comes with an attached video that explains how to answer it correctly.
- Additional free resources on ACT.org
In addition to ACT Academy, the makers of the test also provide other free resources, including a free study guide, through which you can access a pdf of a full ACT test with practice questions and answers. That way, you can print out the test and get used to filling out your answers on paper with a pencil, as you typically would when taking the real test.
Note: If you can, take as many full practice tests as you can, so you can work on your timing as well. You can get four more full practice tests through McGraw Hill below.
The test-prep company Magoosh offers a free-to-access YouTube channel, equipped with more than 100 videos to help you excel on the ACT. Its videos, which are typically no more than 10 minutes long, provide all types of tips, strategies, and last-minute advice that you can use to prepare and get a great score.
- Tips on how to effectively use Magoosh’s YouTube Channel to prepare for the ACT
The best way to start is by taking a minute to scroll through Magoosh’s YouTube channel and look at all of the videos accessible to you. You’ll quickly notice that there are all types of videos, covering everything from “5 Tips To Crush the ACT Math Section” to “What is a Good Score On The ACT?”
In preparation for this year’s ACT, Magoosh has recently been posting a lot of videos surrounding how the test will be impacted by COVID-19. These videos are typically much longer than the videos that they usually post. Within the past month, Magoosh posted an hour-long Q&A session addressing many of students’ biggest concerns surrounding the upcoming ACTs and the college admissions process in general. In a separate video, you can hear directly from a college admissions expert. Naturally, these videos can be very helpful in calming your nerves if you have any worries about your upcoming test and, thus, serve as a great starting point.
Some of Magoosh’s videos address fundamental questions attached to the ACT, including “Should I Take the ACT writing Section?” and “When Should You Take The ACT?” Of course, these questions are applicable no matter which stage of the ACT-prep process you are in.
But, a great number of Magoosh’s videos offer answers regarding how to solve specific ACT questions. So, Magoosh’s YouTube channel is only a good place to start your ACT prep if you already understand your strengths and weaknesses.
You may also notice that many of Magoosh’s videos were posted years ago. But, don’t worry, as the questions included in the ACT haven’t changed all that much. The vast majority of Magoosh’s videos, even if they were posted four years ago, still apply to today’s ACT test.
If you find Magoosh’s videos helpful, it may also benefit you to subscribe to its YouTube channel. That way, you will get notifications every time a new video comes out.
McGraw Hill, the textbook company, also provides free resources to help you prepare for the ACT, including video lessons, mini quizzes, and full-length practice tests with explanations for every question. Although the questions don’t come directly from past ACTs, they are pretty similar to what you may see on the real test.
Though, as you may expect from a textbook company, McGraw Hill’s website is not all that inviting or colorful. There aren’t any fun games or playful exercises. But that can be good for those who just want access to straightforward, easy-to-navigate ACT questions and answers.
- Tips on how to effectively use McGraw Hill Education Practice Plus to prepare for the ACT
All of McGraw Hill’s ACT prep resources are listed on one page, making navigation easy. The best place to start is with practice questions. The “Begin Practice Tests” link will bring you to a separate page through which you can access four full practice tests and eight mini quizzes.
If you’re just starting off, it may be best to ease yourself into the ACT prep process by starting with a short quiz rather than embarking on completing a full test. McGraw Hill offers two quizzes per subject.
Once you’ve developed an understanding of your strengths and weaknesses, check out some of McGraw Hill’s “problem-solving videos.” The videos cover many of the key concepts you can expect to be tested on, including “English: Grammar and Usage,” “Math: Function Problems,” and many more.
The videos, too, are a bit dry, so they may not be the best for those of you who enjoy brightening up the test-taking process with games and gimmicks. On the other hand, the videos are very informative and get directly to the point, which can be perfect for those who don’t put up with the nonsense.
Preparing for and taking the ACT can undoubtedly be a stressful process. By providing you with access to these free resources, we hope to take some of that stress away. Those of you who have any questions regarding the logistics of the test, such as how it is scored or how many times you should take it, can read our article “Everything You Need To Know About ACT Scores.” And if you have a few bucks to spare and would like to seek further instruction, check out our article “The Best ACT Prep Courses In 2020.”
News & Content Manager
Jackson Schroeder is a graduate of Ohio University with a B.A. in Journalism from the E.W. Scripps School. He is originally from Savannah, Georgia. Jackson has covered a wide range of topics, including sustainability, technology, sports, culture, travel, and music. He plays bass and guitar, and enjoys playing and listening to live music in his free time.