For high school students hoping to attend college in the future, learning strategies that will help them pass the ACT will likely pay off down the line.
There are two primary college entrance exams for students in the United States: the ACT and the SAT. College entrance exams allow admissions officers to evaluate students from different high schools on a level playing field.
While colleges and universities use both tests to gauge a student’s knowledge and capability, there are some differences in content and strategy. Notably, the ACT has a science section, allows you to use a calculator on all math questions, and makes the writing portion of the test-optional.
Read on to discover a few of our best tips and tricks for mastering the ACT.
Preparing for the ACT
There are several ways to prepare in the months before a student’s first time taking the ACT. A good first step is to sign-up for a practice test.
A practice test will allow students to familiarize themselves with the structure and timing of the test. Its results can also serve as a benchmark to discover which areas of the test need the most improvement. This benchmark also helps students see how their test preparations pay off and what score they need to pass the ACT.
After the practice test comes more practice! Practice test booklets and more practice tests are the best way to learn the test format.
This is also a great time to work with a tutor or take an ACT Prep Workshop. These services help provide study materials and test strategies. Tutors can also craft plans that directly target the areas of the test you need more help with.
Finally, start considering test strategies that might work for you. For instance, many students benefit from time management strategies. A popular time management method is to break down the test according to how many minutes you have for each question. This time will vary from section to section.
Another helpful tactic is to master the calculator. The calculators permitted for the test are more powerful than people realize! Students who learn everything their calculators are capable of can use that knowledge to their advantage on test day.
What to Do the Day Before the ACT
On the day before the test, it is important to relax. After weeks or months of studying, one more day is not going to make a difference. Instead of stressing out and cramming, make time to do something enjoyable.
Low-stress activities that get your mind off of the test are ideal. Consider watching a movie or going for a walk in the park! Whatever you do during the day, just be sure you are able to get to bed at a reasonable time.
Our brains need sleep to function properly. The most common recommendation is to aim for seven to eight hours of sleep.
In the morning, students should have a satisfying and filling breakfast and plenty of water! Nutrition and hydration also play a vital role in performance.
Stay Calm During the Test
Although much of your knowledge needed for the test has to be learned well in advance, there are a few tricks you can use on test day to maximize your chances of a good score.
For instance, there is nothing wrong with guessing during the ACT. Unlike the SAT, the ACT does not take away points for wrong answers. This means students should make a point to fill in every bubble by the end of the section.
The best tip for guessing is to pick a letter and stick with it. This gives students the best shot at getting at least a few answers right.
Another useful tip is to take advantage of your test booklet! Feel free to write in the booklet and utilize the space provided to map out your thought process if needed. Students are encouraged to underline valuable information, cross out wrong answers, and make notes as they go.
Additionally, crossing out wrong answers is a tactic on its own. Sometimes a student doesn’t know the correct answer, but they do know which answers are incorrect. In that case, the process of elimination becomes instrumental.
Finally, don’t forget that the test doesn’t have to be completed in order. A helpful strategy is to tackle the easiest questions first, then move on to the more time-consuming questions. When breaking the test sections up like this, also take a moment to identify the most difficult questions.
If the most challenging questions seem time-intensive or beyond your knowledge base, skip them. Students can always return to them if they have extra time, but these questions are not worth expending too much energy on. The test is as much about time management as it is about knowledge.
What to do After You Pass the ACT
Once your first ACT is in the books, the first thing to do is to take a moment to celebrate the accomplishment. These college entrance exams take a lot of time and energy to complete. No matter the score, finishing is an accomplishment on its own.
Typically, it takes between two to eight weeks for the ACT to post test scores. During that period, there is nothing wrong with taking a break.
Once a student receives their score, they can begin to consider next steps. If a student gets their goal test score on the first try, there is no need to retake the score. However, those students may want to consider aiming higher if they feel they can do even better.
After all, student’s scores on the ACT are placed on college applications and considered for college enrollment. Higher scores may be necessary for admittance into certain colleges or for scholarship opportunities.
If a student receives their score and is shy of their goal, there is no need to panic! Students and tutors can review the test score and narrow down focus areas for the next test.
College entrance exams are long and cumulative tests that can significantly impact a student’s future. Taking the time to study and hiring a professional tutor is a small but necessary investment that can eliminate stress and improve performance.
If you are a student or the parent of a student preparing for the ACT, The Learning Team’s test prep workshops and private tutoring sessions can help. Get in touch with us today to get started!