How to Study for the ACT: 8 Popular Study Habits to Avoid

In order to help you prepare for the American College Testing (ACT) exam, here is some guidance on how NOT to study for the ACT, including how not to approach ACT sample questions and ACT sample tests. Read on to discover some tips on how to avoid common study habit errors, and what you can do instead, to maximize your study time to boost your ACT scores.

Study Habits to Avoid #1: Pulling an All-nighter/Cramming

Let’s start with the obvious. Sleep deprivation, no matter your age or circumstance, is never a good thing. Staying up late or all night, to study for an exam is pretty much the worst idea ever.  Instead, take some time to review your notes, and then put them aside well before you go to bed. Relax and get a good night’s sleep.

Study Habits to Avoid #2: Studying with friends.

Unless you’re in a completely structured and disciplined peer group that is working together toward a common goal, like the completion of a project, studying for exams with friends isn’t a good idea. Distractions will happen, and you’ll lose time and productivity.

Study Habits to Avoid #3: Listening to music*

study habits_loud musicListening to your playlists or other favorite music, especially loudly, is counter-productive.  Because you end up listening to the music more than you end up absorbing the information that you’re studying.  In order to maximize your efficiency, study in a quiet environment.

*Having music on low in the background as ambient noise, especially if it covers other distracting noises, is an exception to this tip.

Study Habits to Avoid #4: Looking at the answers to the sample questions first

Reading the answers before you attempt the question does you no favors. Instead, read the question first and attempt to answer it, THEN read the answer.  You’ll be able to recall the answer much better the next time you go through the practice questions.

Study Habits to Avoid #5: Over-caffeinating prior to the exam

study habits_over caffeinatedIf you’ve made the mistake of cramming the night before, or couldn’t sleep because of nerves, a low to moderate amount of caffeine may help.  However, ingesting too much caffeine can make you jittery, unfocused, and can lead to a major crash in your energy well before you’re finished with the exam.

Study Habits to Avoid #6: Re-writing all of your notes

Some people believe that typing or writing out all of their study notes will help their recall. Not true. Once you’ve been through the practice exams, make index card notes on any questions that you really get stuck on, with the questions on one side, and the answers on the other.

Study Habits to Avoid #7: Multi-tasking

study habits_multitask

It’s not just listening to music that can distract from your studying. Unless you are one of a very small percentage of the world’s population (i.e., 2%), you are not a good multi-tasker. So put down the phone, shut down your browser and turn off the TV.

Study Habits to Avoid #8: Studying for long periods of time

Studying for the ACT takes up a lot of energy, so trying to study for long blocks with no breaks can actually be detrimental.  Focused studying for shorter periods of time, and taking periodic breaks to focus on something else, can help you maintain a consistent level of focus and energy. Make sure you’re drinking water, eating, and taking occasional breaks just to stand up, stretch and move. At least one 10-15 minute break for every hour of study will help keep your focus on test prep.

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