Common ACT Mistakes

Common ACT Mistakes

Before preparing for ACT, one must be aware of the common mistakes that should be avoided to achieve an excellent composite score. ACT is one of the most prestigious examinations, which is accepted for admissions into all four-year colleges of the United States of America.The ACT measures your school learning by extensively testing you in four key areas: Mathematics, Science, Reading, and English. Furthermore, some of the colleges also demand an additional score of the writing section, which is an optional section in the actual ACT examination. To understand the common mistakes by the majority of the test takers, let’s first explore the general errors and then we will dwell deep into each section.

General Mistakes made by students in ACT exam

1. Not attempting the Writing Section

Due to the optional nature of the writing section in the ACT examination, many students do not appear for this section in their first attempt. And when they do further analysis of the colleges that they want to apply, they then realize that it is an essential section for a particular college in their list. Then, the only option left for them is to reattempt the exam with all other four parts. So, it’s ideal to take the writing section test along with the four other sections during your first attempt.

2. Never taking timed practice tests

The quality of your practice usually determines the caliber of your performance. Taking timed practice tests is an essential step to analyze your preparation level within the time limits of the test segment. This will avoid any shock moment related to the time limits on the actual examination day.

3. Not guessing when in doubt

The best part about ACT examination is that there is no penalty for guessing an answer. So ideally, no single question should be left answered. However, many people ignore this fact either unknowingly or because of examination pressure, and usually end up scoring much less than they would have if they guessed.
4. Not reading a particular question thoroughly
John Ortberg once said; “One of the greatest illusions of our time is that hurrying will buy us more time.” The same is the case with students while attempting a particular question in the ACT examination. In their eagerness to determine the correct answer to every new question encountered, most of them simply skim through the question and end up marking a wrong answer, sometimes in case of an easy question as well. The best way to avoid this mistake is to thoroughly read and re-read a question and then move forward to determine the correct answer, especially in the case of the English section. This may initially appear to be a time extensive approach, but ultimately it can boost your composite score to a great extent.
5. Not understanding the gist of question
While attempting any particular question in such an exam, it is quite necessary to capture the gist of each question. This technique has several advantages, and it allows your mind to approach a problem in a very systematic manner. This technique is especially instrumental in the case of the Mathematics section.

Common mistakes according to each section

The following are the common ACT mistakes students make in each individual section:

a) English Section

  • Avoiding option choices like “No error” and “No change”: There is an apparent misconception in the minds of many test takers that “no error” and “no change” answer choices are too far-fetched to be the correct answer choice for a particular question. But in the case of the ACT examination, many questions have such answer choices as the potential answers. So, it should be carefully noted that these answer choices are just likely to be as correct as any other answer choice.
  • Case of dangling modifiers: The general rule says that a modifier must be next to whatever it modifies. However, this rule is generally ignored by the majority of the test-takers, and therefore they get tricked by such types of questions. Here’s an example; Incorrect: Relieved of your responsibilities at your job, your home should be a place to relax. Correct: Relieved of your responsibilities at your job, you should be able to relax at home.
  • Case of pronoun agreement error: The general rule says that if a noun is singular, the pronoun addressing it should generally be singular. And, if the noun is plural, the pronoun should usually be plural. Here’s an example; Incorrect: If a student wants to be successful and get good grades, they must attend class regularly. Correct: If a student wants to be successful and get good grades, he/she must attend class regularly.
  • Not reading the entire sentence carefully: The most common type of questions asked in the ACT examination contains a small part of a long sentence. Test takers usually ignore a punctuation mark or a redundant part in the answer choice and end up selecting a wrong answer choice. So, sentence fragmentation and redundancy error should be checked every time before choosing the answer choice.

b) Mathematics Section

  • Forgetting important formulas: Just like any other mathematics examination, you need to remember specific formulas. The best way to memorize the formulas is by creating flashcards with short tricks to remember each formula in your own unique style. The next step after creating the flashcards is to extensively practice an ample number of questions corresponding to each formula-flashcard and keep revising them from time to time.
  • Using the calculator incorrectly: While attempting the paper, you should use the calculator carefully. Test takers usually make mistakes while using calculators and end up doing the wrong calculations.
  • Not able to attempt more number of questions: This particular section is a game of speed in the ACT examination, as you have to answer 60 questions in 60 minutes, which is not an easy task. So, proper time management is necessary. The best approach in such a case is to aim for a particular score and then divide your time into two different rounds. Accordingly, you can attempt all the easy questions in the first round and mark the difficult ones, which can be attempted during the second round.
c) Science Section
  • Not using the elimination process: Most of the test takers waste precious amount of their time in solving certain questions in this particular section, which can easily be solved via answer choice elimination technique.
  • Getting stuck on unfamiliar science terms: Sometimes, the passage contains difficult scientific term whose meaning is specified in the passage. So, eventually, the test takers get confused while dwelling deep into each term and trying to recall its meaning which is generally not needed for answering the question and end up either leaving the question or wasting their time
  • Attempting the difficult passage first: It is a widely established notion that the conflicting viewpoint passage is the most challenging passage of this entire section. Still, many students attempt it initially without realizing the fact that it is the most time-consuming passage. So, it should be generally avoided initially, and instead, research summaries or data interpretation passages should be attempted first.
d) Reading section
  • Not taking notes: Taking notes or marking a portion of the text helps you to focus on what you’re reading and also guides you back to the critical parts of the paragraph to answer the questions. This can save an ample amount of time as the possibility of re-reading the text reduces to a great extent.
  • Not using the text to support your answers: The test taker usually makes a mistake by selecting an answer choice based on his or her opinion about that topic, but the actual answer choice is purely based upon the text and is not at all related to the outside knowledge of the test taker.


Everyone gets a little anxious before preparing for an exam like ACT, but that’s absolutely natural! What’s more important is to note down the above mentioned common ACT mistakes made by the majority of the test takers and try to work upon them before attempting this renowned examination.

Here at Miles Smart Tutoring, our average ACT score increase is roughly 5-7 points. Our tutors are highly proficient in examinations such as the ACT and can guide you or your child toward success. Click on this link to find the right tutor: or call (813) 328-3036 for expert help from our team. We look forward to hearing from you!

“So Stay Calm, because it’s your time to prepare and crack the ACT.”

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