Strategies One Should Remember While Embarking on Taking ACT Exams
The ACT or the American College Testing exam is a standardized test that is required to be attempted by the students who are looking to take undergraduate admissions in the US and Canadian colleges.
The idea behind this test is to provide colleges with a common criteria to compare all the applicants during the admission process.
Before talking about ACT test taking skills, it is important to know what ACT exam can do for you. ACT exam is not only important from the admission point of view, but it can provide several added advantages to you undergraduate studies.
Taking the ACT test and getting good scores on the test from efficient ACT test taking strategies, can increase your chances of earning good scholarships from the colleges. A student councellor found that over the time of 10 years, students have earned better scholarships with their ACT scores than through their SAT scores.
Colleges use your ACT scores to place you in the right classes and at the right levels to enable a smooth transition into your undergraduate studies; this way, you will not fall behind. If you have a good ACT score, it will also help you skip the remedial classes before your coursework. This will ultimately help you save a lot of your time and money.
Every question on the ACT test is based on high school curriculum that students have been studying for years. The best ACT prep advice anyone could give you is that you only need to focus on your high school curriculum to ace the test. The ACT also gives you a chance to outshine with a unique STEM score that can be used as a measure of your preparedness to take courses of STEM majors.
While the ACT has the same syllabus as your high school, the exam pattern is very different from the tests that you would normally take in your school. This is why your approach towards developing your ACT test taking skills need to be a little different too.
If you are wondering how to prepare for your ACT exams and need some of the best ACT test tips and ACT test prep strategies, we are here to provide you with some of the best ACT test taking advice that will help you find the ACT test strategies that work for you.
This will not only give you a confidence going into the test day, but also help you to efficiently improve your scores.
The best way to start with test preparation is by registering for the test if you have not done it yet. Registration will include creating an account on the ACT website. You would be required to answer the questions about your high school, background, family, etc. and provide correct information for identification such as your name, address, and passport details.
You are also required to upload your photo for verification of your identity when you arrive at the test centre. During the registration process, you will be required to select a location and date for the test. You can choose up to four colleges to send your ACT scores directly to, although this is not a compulsory requirement.
Once you are done with the registration form, you will be guided to a payment portal to complete your ACT registration by paying the fee. At present (2022), the fee for taking the full ACT test without the writing portion is $63.00, while fee for taking the test including the writing portion increases the cost to $88.00.
If you are absent on the test day or if you wish to switch to ACT no writing test, the test option change fee of $25 will be refunded to you on your prior written request. There is an additional $16 fee for sending your composite scorecard as well as section wise scores to four universities or colleges of your preference.
The ACT tests are offered each year in the months of September, October, December, February, April, June, and July. You have multiple opportunities to take the test in a year. The one of the efficient ACT taking tips is to plan your preparations according to the chosen test date. Select the date as per your convenience and mark it on your calender. Accordingly, start preparing for the ACTs. The expert ACT prep advice is to pick a date at least three months from the date of registration so that you will have enough time to prepare.
The next step is making yourself acquainted with the overarching structure of the ACT test. The test consists of four multiple choice sections of English, Math, Reading, and Science. There are a total of 75 questions in the English section, 60 in the Math, and 40 in the Reading section. The optional writing section has only 1 essay prompt.
Total questions asked in each ACT exam amount to 216 including the writing prompt. Each section is scored out of 36 points. The rounded average of the scores from these sections become your composite score. There is an optional writing essay test, which is scored out of 12 points. This section is not included in your composite score.
The ACT has its peculiar question style and formats that you must become familiar with while preparing for the test. The different sections of the ACT test assess you on different knowledge and skill areas, hence knowing what is asked in each section will help you strategise your approach in a better way.
English Section- The ACT English section is a 75 question, 45-minute test. It is always the first section of the ACT. Each english test has five essays accompanied by a sequence of multiple choice questions asked about specific phrases or entire passage as a whole. ACT English tests two broad areas- the Usage and Mechanics (punctuationm grammar, and sentence structure), and the Rhetorical Skills (including organization, strategy, and style).
Math Section- The Math Section for ACT is 60 minute long with a total of 60 questions. This section consists of pre-algebra (20-25%), elementary algebra (15-20%), intermediate algebra (15-20%), coordinate geometry (15-20%), plane geometry (20-25%), and trigonometry (5-10%). Pacing and problem solving becomes the biggest challenges in this section.
Science Section- The Science section is 35 minutes long containing 40 questions. This section tests your scientific skills more than your knowledge. It essentially measures your interpretation, evaluation, analysis, reasoning, and problem solving skills rather than measuring your knowledge about specific facts.
Reading Section- The ACT reading section is 35 minutes long and consists of 40 questions. There are three single passages along with a set of paired passages usually in the Social Studies, Natural Science, Prose Fiction, or Humanities subject areas.
Writing Section- The ACT writing section is 40 minute long consisting of one essay prompt. This section essentially allows the students to demonstrate their analytical writing ability in a more better and comprehensive way.
Once you have an overall idea about the syllabus and structure of ACT test, you would want to establish a baseline of your own skills by conducting your skill analysis. The most important element in this analysis is identifying your strengths and weaknesses. This will help you to maintain a study schedule with more focus on the topics where you need a little help to improve.
As mentioned earlier, ACT test is scored from 1-36. The ACT initially counts the number of questions answered correctly for each section, then the raw scores are converted into scale scores. These scale scores are used to calculate your composite scores.
There is no negative marking on a wrong answer so make sure that you are attempting every question even if you are not sure about answers to some. The composite score is the average of your section wise scores rounded to the nearest whole number. Colleges receive your composite as well as individual sectional scores only for the tests you submit.
The average score on the ACTs is 20.7 according to the most recent data from American College Testing. However, the definition of a good score on ACT usually depend on the students and their goals. What’s considered a good ACT score will also depend on the colleges you are interested in. For example, a score of 30 may get you a full scholarship at a public university, but would not be considered good for an Ivy League School.
This is why setting a target score is important. Your target scores must be realistic enough to be accomplished, and reflect the schools you are interested in.
Preparing to achieve a high score on the ACT is not about cramming facts and formulas between now and the day of test. This is why, creating a study schedule comes at the front of ACT test prep strategies planning. It is best recommended to spend a consistent amount of time every week to prepare for the test. You must determine the hours to dedicate each week, make your daily schedule around it, and prioritize working on your weaknesses first.
The most efficient ACT test strategies involve taking practice tests to stimulate actual exam conditions. Take practice tests in a distraction-free environment and complete every section in the time allotted for them. This will help you know improve on your pace of attempting the questions, and will also give you an idea of exactly what to expect on the test day.
There are two main elements to practicing for the ACTs- the practice questions, and the tests. Make use of practice questions to target sharpening the skills you will need to perfect the test. Second key is to complete at least, a couple of practice test runs to get acquainted with the exam format and improve your pace such that you do not leave out any question on the test.
The ACT is a time bound test of 2 hours and 55 minutes without writing section, and 3 hours 35 mintues including writing section. It contains four individually timed sections. This is why you will need to be more comfortable with the timing of the exam so that you complete it before the time runs out.
The pace can be established by taking regular time bound practice tests, and increasing your analytical speed. Knowing the concepts well also help you to maintain an efficient pace when solving problems on the test.
Don’t let a difficult question slow you down. Either make a good guess, or move on and make a note to revisit the question once you are done with the rest of the section. You do not want to loose guaranteed points on an easy question because you ran out of time by spending too much of it on a trick question. When you are dealing with such a trick question, be aware of trick answer choices. These choices are designed to confuse you. If you feel it is taking up much of your time, feel free to avoid such questions.
The ACT english section broadly tests the understanding of students about the basic rules of English language, logic, word usage, and rhetorical skills. A few tips that might help to you to prepare better for the section are given below-
Learn all the basic high school grammar including the punctuation usage, sentence formation, structure, and usage. When attempting the questions from this section, always follow the rules instead of going for an option that ‘sounds right’ to you.
The questions in this section are based on passages, and therefore it is important that you make a habit of reading passages and sentences completely.
Acquainting yourself with the questions asked in ACTs using practice tests will help you understand the style of questions better. Attempt official practice tests and analyze your answers regularly and carefully. Make sure you are analysing all your answers carefully. This will help you understand where you are lagging.
English section, if taken seriously, can be the highest scoring section for the students. Hence, do not rush through or skip the preparation for this section. Revise important concepts and go through previous papers. Securing high scores in ths section can have a positive impact on your overall average score.
The math section of ACT exam tests the mathematical skills based on algebra, geometry, probability, statistics, etc. These skills are usually of high school level and require consistent practice. A few tips for preparation are given below-
Math section is impossible to attempt without memorizing important formulae. This is why learn the formula for different concepts by heart and keep revising till the day of exam.
Practicing the section through frequent practice tests will help you identify your weaknesses. Work on improving them by solving as many problems as you can.
You will have under a minute to solve each question on the paper, make sure that you are practicing enough to manage your time.
Knowing tricks for solving certain long problems can help you solve them faster. This will ultimately help you free out some time to recheck doubtful questions, or solve more complex questions.
The ACT reading section evaluates the ability of a student to read closely, give logical reasons about text using evidences, and integrate information from various sources. Here are some ACT test tips for the reading section-
Practicing will help you get acquainted with the style of questions in the section. After the practice tests, analyse your answers carefully. You must pay special attention to the incorrect answers and the answers that require guessing.
Reading mindfully is very essential while attempting this section. When you are reading, be conscious of the relationships between ideas, and how it progresses.
Try to develop a habit of reading questions first before going on to the passage. This will help you obtain a clearer picture of what you need to look for in the passage, and will eventually save a lot of your time.
The Science section measures the interpretation, evaluation, reasoning and problem-solving skills required for the natural sciences. The questions in this section are based on scientific scenarios described to the students. Some tips for preparation are given below-
Specific factual knowledge of science is not tested generally in this section. Brush up on the basics of physics, chemistry, and biology.
The passages in science section are provided as research summaries, data representation, and conflicting opinions. To navigate through this section, try to read some scientific journals and get acquainted with the writing.
Read and examine the scientific information presented to you by the means of text, graphs, tables, and figures. Examine them to establish and understand relationships between all the variables.
The aim of this section is to evaluate the ability of the student to compile different lines of reasonings to write a compelling essay. Some tips that will help you perform better in this section are given below-
Our daily lives offer us a number of debatable situations. Read analytical texts, participate in discussion, and watch news debates to develop careful thinking for understanding other perspectives to a topic with respect to your own.
Spend time structuring your essays based on the prompts. This will help you set the flow of the essay. The outline should be such that if focuses on making your main argument clear to the readers.
Make sure that your idea is laid out well. You do not need to include fancy words, just make sure that your essay is clear and effective.
Rachel Horwitz - Manager of Scholastic Achievement , JBG Educational Group
1. How much high school math do students need before they can start preparing for the ACT?
Students can certainly begin preparing in Sophomore year as they likely have covered the Geometry, Algebra, and Fundamental math they need, but working on ACT more seriously in Junior year will give them a better breadth of content knowledge.
2. Should they use an educational consultant?
Yes. While there are great resources available online, nothing will compare to partnering with an expert who can individualize their approach to that students' needs. Educational consultants like at JBG Educational Group also know insider tips, tricks, and strategies that can help students maximize their score.
3. How should they start preparing for the ACT Essay Prep?
Reviewing sample prompts and sample responses is a great way to get a feel for what's expected on the ACT essay. Being able to effectively pace themselves through the short timeframe is also a good skill to master.
Denise Thomas- Your Debt Free College Coach, Get Ahead of the Class
1. How much high school math do students need before they can start preparing for the ACT?
The ACT math is not as hard as most think. As a matter of fact, the advice of waiting until mid to late high school junior year could be detrimental to students who began high school math in middle school. Since there are only 4 trigonometry problems, students can usually learn the quick facts to pass that small number of trig problems. The majority of the math is Algebra 1 and Geometry. The farther the student gets from the basics the poorer their ACT math score may be.
Also, the ACT math section does not provide formulas so the teen will have to have appropriate formulas memorized.
On the ACT there are,
33 Algebra questions:
14 pre-algebra questions on fractions and decimals, basic number theory (rules of zero, order of operations, etc.), and terminology (integers, prime numbers, etc).
10 elementary algebra such as averages, inequalities, linear equations, percentages, and ratios.
9 intermediate algebra questions such as exponents, quadratic equation, roots, and simultaneous equations.
23 Geometry questions:
14 plane geometry-angles, area, circles, perimeter, length, triangles, quadrilaterals, and volume.
9 coordinate geometry questions such as distance, graphing, slope, midpoint, parallel and perpendicular lines, and points of intersection.
4 Trigonometry questions:
4 questions on sine, cosine, and tangent functions, trig identities, and graphing.
2. Should they use an educational consultant?
For the ACT and SAT exams there are strategies that can be very helpful. Many can be found online without coaching. However the teen who needs accountability to study might do well to have a coach.
3. How should they start preparing for the ACT Essay Prep?
The ACT writing section is optional for most colleges today. But if the teen chooses to take the writing exam understand the essay is more of an opinion piece, a complex issue that they are given 3 different perspectives and asked to choose one to write about.
The key is to actually choose. Take a side. Acknowledge that there are other perspectives but your perspective is the right one. The teen can also lie or makeup facts to prove his point. Being truthful is not a criteria.
You can opt for any of the best ACT test prep strategies to achieve your target score. Most people use the following 4 methods to prepare for their ACTs.
The biggest advantage to self studying is that you can customize your study schedule and syllabus as per your needs. This method is also fairly cost-effective than others. However, you must stay constantly motivated and on track to finish your preparations in due time. If you are planning tp study on your own, make sure that you do a thorough analysis of your strenghts and weaknesses, and work on clearing your concepts for the difficult topics first.
A high quality test-prep program can be very beneficial for you. It will help you to accurately diagnose your Strenghts and weaknesses, and give you an environment to get you acquainted to test pattern. The test preps would also provide you with high quality and clear content review questions to practice on.
However it is important that you choose a right program as the wrong one is a huge waste of time and your money.
If you have trouble studying by yourself, these scheduled classes will help you stay on track with your preparations. However, with the classroom teaching, there is very less customization available for individual students. These courses are expensive and the quality of teaching has a big impact on your preparations too.
A good tutor is very valuable asset to your ACT test preparations. They will not only help you identify your strengths ans weaknesses, but also help to clear your concepts about complex topics. Additionally, they will keep you motivated throughout your preparation journey. This is why hiring a good tutor becomes essential to your ACT test prep strategies.
If you hire someone who has had a good ACT score, but is not able to guide you properly, it will not only be a waste of your money, but you will feel very demotivated and unprepared for your exam. Make sure you refer to testimonials and trusted recommendations while hiring a professional ACT test tutor.
Before we wrap up, here are some last minute ACT test prep strategies that will be of use a few days or hours before the exam.
Revise concepts that are important, specially for Math and English sections.
Work on your weaknesses and fix your mistakes.
Take at least one full length time bound ACT exam a week before test day. This will help you to be mentally prepared for the test day.
Pay attention to improving your pace of solving, especially for the Math section.
Don't make an attempt to learn new concepts right before the exam. This will only put unnecessary pressure on you which might have a negative impact on your performance.
Take adequate sleep and eat properly on the night before the exam.
Carry all the essentials items to your exam center.
Make sure that you carry a simple calculator, 2 HB pencils, an eraser, a sharpener, and a ball point pen.
Carry a valid identity proof for verification at the centre.
Keep your admission ticket printed and ready to carry on your test day.
Keep your calm as you go into the test center to appear for the exam.
A dedicated and highly focused approach towards preparation for ACTs will definitely help you obtain your target scores, and land you in your preferred college. Make sure you prepare for the exam with utmost dedication, and stay motivated throughout the process. Take as much time as you want, to prepare for the exam and enjoy it as a learning experience.
Prepping for the ACT exam is not an easy task and requires quite a good deal of time, effort and commitment. There are a lot of online sources and books on the subject matter but you cannot be sure of how reliable and authentic some of these sources are. And for this reason, you must be extra careful about trusting unequivocal information from such harsh sources as the official website of ACT or any other site.
You should consider all aspects such as the resources, guidance and practical help coming from the various sources before you make your final decision. Ultimately, it is up to you to prepare according to your own individual needs and requirements. But the fact that there are so many options available in market should not deter you from making a proper choice and select only those resources that genuinely matches your expectations.
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