Cover: ACT 2022 For Dummies by Lisa Zimmer Hatch, Scott A. Hatch


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ACT® 2022 For Dummies®

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Welcome to ACT 2022 For Dummies. This is a nondiscriminatory, equal-opportunity book. You’re welcome to participate whether you’re a genius or (like us) you need a recipe to make ice. Besides, the book’s title is not a slam at you. You’re not the dummy; the test is (and we’ve heard it called worse, believe us — especially on the Friday night before the exam).

The goal of this book is to show you exactly how to survive the ridiculous situation called the ACT. No matter how excellent your high school teachers are (or were), they’ve prepared you for the real world, a world that, alas, has very little connection to the ACT. High school teachers can give you a good foundation in grammar, reading, science, and math skills (the areas tested on the ACT), but you may want to think of them as the friendly old GPs, the general practitioners whose job it is to keep you well and handle the little day-to-day problems. What do you do when you have a crisis, like the ACT, that’s making you really sick? We like to think of ACT 2022 For Dummies, as a loony but gifted specialist you can call when your situation becomes desperate.

No one wants to deal with the eccentric specialist for too terribly long. The goal of this book, just like the goal of the expert, is to come in with the Code Blue crash cart, deal with the situation, and then leave rapidly with as few lives destroyed as possible. This book has one goal: to prepare you for the ACT — period. We’re not here to teach you every grammar rule ever created or every math formula that Einstein knew. We don’t include any extra “filler” material to make this book look fat and impressive on bookstore shelves. If you want a thick book to use as a booster seat for the vertically challenged, go find War and Peace. If you’re looking for something that you can use to prepare you for the ACT as quickly and painlessly as possible, again we say to you, welcome to ACT 2022 For Dummies.

About This Book

You likely can’t escape the ACT. Many colleges require you to take this entrance exam before they’ll even look at your application. Virtually every college accepts scores from either the ACT or the SAT. (Wiley just so happens to publish SAT For Dummies as well, should you choose to take that exam.) Many students decide to take both tests to see which one results in a better score. Is that a good idea? Absolutely. Even better, take practice tests for both (you can download a free full-length ACT from and eight complete SATs from to see which one suits you best and then concentrate on just that test.

Many colleges emphasize ACT scores to compensate for grade inflation. That is, some high schools may give you an A for doing the same level of work that would gain you a C at other high schools. Because the ACT is the same for everyone (students all over the world take the exact same exam), colleges can use the scores to get inside your head and see what’s really there. Think of this test as an opportunity, not a crisis: A good ACT score may help offset a low GPA. In just a few hours one fine Saturday morning, you can make up a little for a few mishaps in school.

In ACT 2022 For Dummies, you find out what types of questions are on the exam, which questions you should work on carefully, and which ones you’re better off guessing at quickly. (Good news: The ACT has no penalty for wrong answers, so guess on absolutely every question you don’t know.) We also help you figure out which approach to use for each type of question, and, perhaps most importantly, we show you some traps that are built into each question style. We’ve been test-prep tutors for many years and have developed a list of the “gotchas” that have trapped thousands of students over the years. We show you how to avoid being trapped, too.

This book is also full of the substantive information that you need to know, including grammar rules and geometry, algebra, and arithmetic formulas. Occasionally, we include some truly sick humor on the principle that, as you’re groaning at our jokes, you won’t notice that you’re suffering from the questions. (Hey, as the mushroom said to his friends, “Of course, everyone likes me. I’m a fun-gi!”)

Note to nontraditional students: The days of high school may be just a fading memory for you (along with your thin waistline and full head of hair). We recognize that not everyone taking the ACT is a high school junior or senior. Maybe you took a few years off to build your career or to nurture a family (or to pay your debt to society) and are now having to go back and review what you thought you had left behind years ago. It can be totally frustrating to have to deal with proper punctuation or quadratic equations all over again. Postpone your nervous breakdown. Things aren’t as dismal as they look. You’ll probably be surprised how quickly material comes back to you as you go through this book.

Foolish Assumptions

Although you could’ve picked up this book just because you have an insatiable love for English, math, reading, and science, we’re betting you picked it up because you have to take the ACT. (Isn’t it good to know at the outset that your authors have a remarkable grasp of the obvious?) And because we weren’t born yesterday, we figure that you’re taking the ACT in anticipation of applying to college. How exciting for you!

Because we’ve rarely met a person who actually looks forward to taking standardized entrance exams, we’re lumping you into the category of “readers who are going into the ACT kicking and screaming.” Okay, maybe we’re being overly dramatic, but we’ve got a hunch that you’re not especially excited about the prospect of spending four hours of precious sleeping-in time sitting in a stark classroom, darkening endless ovals on a bubble sheet under the watchful eye of a heartless proctor who continues to yell “Time!” before you’ve finished the section. Call us crazy!

Nevertheless, you picked up this book, so we assume that getting the best ACT score you can is important to you and that you care enough to sacrifice some of your free time to achieve that goal. Good for you!

Here are the other assumptions we’ve made about you while writing this book:

  • You’re a high school student, and, like most high school students, you carry a full course load, participate in a number of extracurricular activities, may even have a job, and prefer to carry on a social life. Or you may have already graduated from high school and may hold down a career and tend to a family. Either way, you don’t want us to waste your time with a bunch of stuff that isn’t on the ACT. For instance, as much as we enjoy creating vocabulary flashcards, we don’t share those with you in this book because you don’t need to memorize word meanings to ace the ACT.
  • You’re not all work and no play. We want to make studying for the ACT as painless as possible, so we’ve tried to lighten things up a bit with a few jokes. Forgive us, please. Some are really lame.
  • Because you’re college-bound, you’ve spent some years engaged in a college-prep curriculum that includes algebra, geometry, and likely a little algebra II and trigonometry. We’re pretty sure you’ve had your fair share of English, social studies, and science classes, and you’ve written an essay or two. Therefore, we don’t bore you too much with the elementary stuff. (We do, however, cover the basic math and grammar concepts that you may have forgotten.)

Icons Used in This Book

Some information in this book is really, really important. We flag it by using an icon. Here’s a list of the icons we use and details about what they mean:

Tip Follow the arrow to score a bull’s-eye by using the tips we highlight with this icon.

Remember Burn this stuff into your brain or carve it into your heart; it’s the really important material. If you skip or ignore the Remember icons, you won’t get your money’s worth out of this book.

Example This icon marks sample problems.

Warning Pay heed to this advice and avoid the potential pitfall.

Beyond the Book

In addition to what you’re reading right now, this book comes with a free access-anywhere Cheat Sheet that includes tips to help you prepare for the ACT. To get this Cheat Sheet, simply go to and type “ACT For Dummies Cheat Sheet” in the Search box.

You also get access to all the full-length online practice tests and dozens of flashcards. To gain access to the online practice, all you have to do is register. Just follow these simple steps:

  1. Register your book or ebook at to get your PIN. Go to
  2. Select your product from the dropdown list on that page.
  3. Follow the prompts to validate your product, and then check your email for a confirmation message that includes your PIN and instructions for logging in.

If you do not receive this email within two hours, please check your spam folder before contacting us through our Technical Support website at or by phone at 877-762-2974.

Now you’re ready to go! You can come back to the practice material as often as you want — simply log on with the username and password you created during your initial login. No need to enter the access code a second time.

Your registration is good for one year from the day you activate your PIN.

Where to Go from Here

You’ve probably heard the joke about the student who was debating whether to buy a book at the bookstore. The sales clerk, eager to make his commission, proclaims, “Buy this book — it’ll do half the work for you!” The student brightens up and exclaims, “Great! I’ll take two!”

As much as we wish we could simply transfer test-taking material into your brain in one dump, we realize that learning it takes effort on your part. Meet us halfway. We’ve done our job by showing you what to study and how to go about it; now it’s your turn. We suggest two ways to use this book:

  • Fine-tune your skills. Maybe you’re already a math whiz and just need help with the English grammar. Go right to the English review we provide in Part 2. If, on the other hand, you’re a grammar guru who wouldn’t know a nonagon if you met one in a dark alley, turn to the math review we offer in Part 3.
  • Start from scratch. Grab a sack of food and some sharpened pencils, lock yourself in your room, and go through this book word for word. Don’t worry; it’s not as bad as it seems. Actually, starting from scratch is the preferred method. Many students make what we call the “mediocre mistake”: They’re good at one section, mediocre at a second, and dismal at the third. They spend all their time in their worst section and barely look at the sections that they’re mediocre or good in. Big mistake! If you spend two hours studying something that’s totally incomprehensible to you, you may improve your score a few points. If you spend two hours studying your mediocre material, you may improve your score by one or two points. A couple of points that you gain in your mediocre section are just as valuable as — and a heck of a lot easier to gain than — the same number of points you gain in your weakest section. Humor us and read the book from cover to cover. You’ll pick up some great material.

Regardless of whether you hunt and peck your way through the chapters or approach the first six parts consecutively, absolutely take the three practice tests in Part 7. How you choose to use the full-length practice tests is entirely up to you. However, may we suggest two tried-and-true methods?

  • Diagnostic: Take the first practice exam to see how you score. Then devour the subject reviews and advice we provide in the first six parts of the book. Finish by taking the other two practice tests to see how much your score has improved.
  • Pure practice: Devour the reviews and advice first and use the three full-length exams to practice and reinforce what you’ve learned in the rest of the book.

Either way, you may choose to save one of the exams to practice on during the days right before you take the ACT. That way, you can walk into the test site with the test questions fresh in your brain.

After you’ve covered the information in this book, you may discover that you need more in-depth English or math review. Or maybe you just can’t get enough of this stuff! Several Wiley publications are available to accommodate you; just search for the most recent editions. Dig more deeply into the rules of Standard English in English Grammar For Dummies and find tons of grammar practice in the English Grammar Workbook For Dummies both by Geraldine Woods. Those of you who are math challenged will find these books helpful: ACT Math For Dummies and SAT Math For Dummies by Mark Zegarelli; Algebra I For Dummies and Algebra II For Dummies by Mary Jane Sterling; and Geometry For Dummies by Mark Ryan (all by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.).

Figuring Out How Long All This Studying Will Take

In the real world, you have classes, family obligations, community service projects, sports practices, work, and, if you’re lucky, a social life. How on earth are you going to fit reviewing this book and studying for the ACT into your schedule? The answer is that you have to commit to this project and make it a priority. How many hours should you carve out of your schedule? Here’s what we suggest.

Reading the ACT overview in the first three chapters shouldn’t cut out too much of your free time, no more than 30 minutes. Other parts require more of an investment.

The five parts of the book that review English, math, writing, reading, and science contain one or more chapters that explain how to approach the subject at hand and one short chapter full of practice questions. Soaking up the information in the explanations and taking the short practice tests should take you about an hour or two per test subject.

Additionally, the English Test part features a very important grammar review that we strongly suggest you spend at least an hour or two studying. Even if you’re good at grammar, this section features all sorts of persnickety grammar rules, just the type that (with your luck) you’d get caught on during the ACT. Finally, the Math Test part features a pretty comprehensive math review — number basics, geometry, algebra, coordinate geometry, and trigonometry — that should take you about three hours to fully absorb.

And don’t forget the three full-length practice tests, of course. Each of the tests takes 2 hours and 55 minutes to complete (a half hour longer with the Writing Test), not including breaks. Give yourself about an hour to review the answer explanations for each exam. That should be enough time for you to review the answer explanations to every question and to take advantage of the opportunity to see shortcuts you may not have noticed or traps you luckily avoided. So taking and reviewing each exam should take you about 4 or 5 hours. Here’s the final timetable:



Reading the ACT overview

30 minutes

Reviewing the approaches to the five test topics and working through the practice questions at 1.5 hours per topic

7.5 hours

Absorbing the four math review chapters at 1 hour per chapter

3 hours

Engrossing yourself in the grammar review chapter at 2 hours

2 hours

Enjoying the three full-length practice exams at 4 hours per exam

12 hours

Groaning in pain at the authors’ lame jokes

15 minutes

Firing off letter complaining about authors’ lame jokes (or sending along better ones!)

15 minutes


26 hours

Fear not: You don’t have to do it all in a day. The last thing we advocate is sleep deprivation! This book is designed so that you can start any part at any time. You don’t have to have finished the general math chapter, for example, before you go through the general reading chapter.

Okay, are you ready? Are you quivering with anticipation, living for the moment when you can pick up your yellow No. 2 pencil and hold on for the thrill of a lifetime? (Or are you thinking, “These authors need to get a life!”?) Listen, you’re going to take the ACT anyway, so you may as well have a good time learning how to do so. Laughing while learning is the whole purpose of this book. Take a deep breath, rev up the brain cells, and go for it! Good luck. Just remember that for you, ACT can come to stand for Ace Conquers Test!

Part 1

Coming to Terms with Reality: An Overview of the ACT


  • Get cozy with the format and content of the ACT and develop a checklist of the items to take with you to the exam (and leave home). Find out how your efforts will be scored and when it's a good idea to take the ACT for a second, or even third, time.
  • Develop a plan to beat stress during the test and learn other ways to avoid messing up your performance so that you can achieve your best possible score.
  • Benefit from the advice of seasoned college counselors to help you answer the question, “What do colleges want from me?”