Ugh, the ACT! It can be sort of a drag…it is a required test for all American high school students and is normally taken by juniors and seniors for college admissions. Students can choose to take it earlier if they desire. The ACT test can seem intimidating at first (I was super intimidated!), but once you get to know the tips and tricks of it, you can overcome that intimidation. The ACT is just like a board game. Once you know the rules, the strategic plays, and repetitive practice, you can win! Here are a few tips and tricks I’ve learned these past couple months after taking the ACT:
1. Invest in an ACT Prep Course
This summer, I took an ACT Prep course and raised my score up by 5 points! I highly recommend using Little School By the Creek’s ACT Prep Course as they not only helped me raise my score but also helped me overcome my fear of the ACT. You can also get specialized tutoring, more tips and tricks, and you can review your performances on practice tests with the instructors. If you can raise your ACT score with the course, you can get really great scholarships for college. The ACT Prep Course is so worth it. It’s structured, strategic, and effective. I took the ACT again without the prep course, and my score went down 4 points. The course can not only help tremendously with your performance but it can also help with your test day anxiety.
2. Familiarize Yourself With The Structure of the ACT and Invest in an Analog Clock for Test Days
Before junior year, I really didn’t know how the ACT was structured. During ninth and tenth grade, my school was required to take the Pre-ACT, and each time I took it I would walk in completely blind of how the test was structured or what would be on it. So I familiarized myself with the test structure, and it did numbers for my test day anxiety and performance. Here’s the structure of the test and how much time to spend on each portion:
English: 45 minutes
- 5 passages: 15 questions each (total of 75 questions)
- Spend 9 minutes per passage!
- Circle your answers for each passage and then go back and bubble in your answers on the bubbling sheet (it saves time from switching back and forth between papers after each question!)
Math: 60 Minutes
- 60 questions in 60 minutes
- On questions 1-20, spend about 15 minutes. These are easier questions that require less time than the others!
- On questions 21-40, spend 35 minutes on it.
- On questions 41-60, spend 20 minutes. This gives you a minute per question, and these are the most challenging questions on the test.
- Again, circle your answers for every 10 questions and then go back to the bubbling sheet and fill it in!
Reading: 35 Minutes
- 4 passages: 10 questions each (total of 40 questions)
- I recommend spending 9 minutes per passage except for the last passage. You will only have 8 minutes for the last passage.
Science: 35 Minutes
- 6-7 passages: (amount of questions is about 5-7)
- Spend about 5 minutes per passage.
- Again, circle your answers per passage and then bubble them in!
For all sections, be sure to thoroughly read the information. Trust me, it’s important to fully understand what you’ve read and been asked before answering the questions.
Also, invest in an analog watch! Unfortunately, it can’t be a digital watch, but analog watches will do! I found a great analog watch for $10 at Target that works perfectly fine. When I get to the test, I lay my watch on my desk. Before each section, I set the watch to 12:00 so I can measure how much time has passed easier.
3. Take the ACT at least three times. You are likely to improve after your first time!
You have twelve chances on the ACT. While I know the test is kind of a drag (it’s totally a drag), you should definitely take advantage of the multiple chances. I’m not saying to take it twelve times because that’s a whole lot. But, I would try and take it three times. You’re likely to improve after each time and your test day anxiety will also likely decrease because you know what to expect the second time around.
Also, I would think about what time of year you want to take it. I would recommend taking it at the end of summer because you can do the ACT Prep Course during the summer and then sit down to take the test at the end of summer. Also, I’ve found it difficult to study for the ACT while simultaneously doing my schoolwork.
4. Take ACT Practice Tests Every 2-3 Weeks
Like everything, a good performance takes a lot of practice. I recommend taking an ACT test every 2-3 weeks to keep those skills fresh. Think about a baseball player. During the season, they’re conditioning everyday. During the off season, many still practice but to a smaller degree. The players still condition to keep practicing important skills they’ll need during their games. When you’re finished with your ACT Prep Course, don’t forget to still practice those skills you learned during the course.
5. Don’t Be Scared!
For years, I was super intimidated by this test. I was so scared of the thought of even taking it. But then I realized, it’s just a test asking you things that you’ve learned before. The time constraint is really the major issue, but now that we know how to manage our time, this test isn’t too bad. And remember, you’re not alone. Every teenager in America is also taking this test!
Furthermore, you are so much more than your score on this one test. That’s what it is: it’s one test. Your life is so much bigger than that! You will have many more things that you will achieve and this one test may seem big at the moment, but after high school, you’re likely to not think of it again. There are many contributing factors to college acceptance, such as your GPA, your extracurriculars, your leadership positions, and more! There are so many opportunities to make a great impression on colleges and I’m sure each of you are going to make great impressions!!
Thank you so much for reading and I hope these tips were helpful! If you have any more tips or any questions, feel free to drop it in the comments. 🙂 I know each of you will do amazing things and I wish you luck on those ACT tests!