The Most Effective Way to Study for the ACT Test: A High School Student’s Guide

Why is Studying for the ACT so Dreaded?

The thought of studying for the ACT test evokes feelings of dread in the hearts of many high school students, and even contributes to Test Anxiety and poor test performance. They equate studying for this important test with hours and hours of boring, tedious study hunched over their books and wishing they were doing anything else. However, this picture of what is supposedly effective studying is as unwise as it is dreadful.

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Just Don’t Do It: Say No to Marathon Study Sessions!

Studies have shown that the most effective way to study is in short chunks of time over a longer period of time – the opposite of weekend cram sessions that have become so popular (and hated) with students. Having a stack of 3 x 5 cards that you review in 5 minute sessions a few times during the day is much more effective than doing it all in one sitting.

Each study session has a point of diminishing returns depending upon the amount of time spent and the person doing the studying. Usually the peak studying is over by the time 20 minutes has elapsed. So the person who continues to sit there and study for longer and longer is not getting the most ‘bang for their buck.’ The most effective way to study is by utilizing the time spent studying during the peak retention time – in the period under the usual 20 minute window of time.

Abraham Lincoln said that if he had 12 hours to cut down a tree, he would spend 6 of those hours sharpening his axe. If you have 3 hours to study, the most effective way would be to spend it in nine 20 minute chunks of time.

Are There Exceptions to This Method of Studying?

Is this a hard and fast rule for everyone? Of course not: there are no hard and fast rules that fit everyone. Some students may need longer study periods, as it may take them 10 minutes to get ‘warmed up.’ However, the principle remains – do your studying while you are most effective and cut it off when you feel yourself start to bang your head against the wall.

The key to this is to begin studying for the ACT, or any other major test, well in advance of when you think you need to. You must leave an ample number of study days to be able to pull this off. There are only so many “20 minute chunks of time” that you will be able to fit in during any given day, so begin with a few extra days leeway.

The key is to maximize your study time, while building your confidence and helping to defeat Test Anxiety. Don’t make studying for the ACT test a dreaded task and don’t waste one minute of your time studying ineffectively.

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