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Studying for the ACT can be daunting, but with the right strategies and techniques, you can improve your scores and increase your chances of getting into your dream school. Whether you're taking the ACT for the first time or looking to improve your previous score, this guide will provide you with the tools and knowledge you need to succeed. So let's get started and help you prepare for one of the most important exams of your academic career!
The ACT is a standardized exam that measures a student's readiness for college-level work in four subjects: English, Math, Reading, and Science Reasoning.
The test is essential for college admissions because colleges and universities use the ACT scores as part of their evaluation process to determine whether a student has the academic skills necessary to succeed in their programs.
Higher scores on the ACT can improve a student's chances of getting into the college or university of their choice and may also make them eligible for scholarships or other financial aid.
As for why someone should take the ACT as opposed to the SAT, it really depends on the student's strengths and preferences.
The ACT tends to focus more on content knowledge and has a science reasoning section, while the SAT has a greater emphasis on critical thinking skills and includes an optional essay section.
It's important for students to research both tests and take practice exams to determine which one they are more comfortable with and likely to perform better on. Ultimately, the goal is to take the test that showcases their strengths and helps them achieve their college admissions goals.
For more information on which test to take, check out our blog comparing the SAT and ACT tests!
Before studying for the ACT, It is an essential first step to understanding the format and content of the test. The test has four compulsory multiple-choice sections:
Additionally, there is also an optional writing component.
The total test duration with the Writing component is 3 hours and 35 minutes or 2 hours and 55 minutes without.
The table below provides a breakdown of the respective components of the ACT test.
|Number of Questions
|Time per Question
In this component, you are given passages where you are either instructed to
Doing well will require a sound grasp of the English language's fundamental grammar and style rules.
To break it down, there are five main areas that are tested
Here are the skills tested under these main question types:
Questions in this component are generally arranged in ascending order of difficulty. The main topics tested are
The specific skills required under each broad topic are provided as follows:
The reading test is broken down into four components, each containing either a long passage or two short and paired passages. Each question will test your comprehension of the passages provided.
The test assesses a student's ability to comprehend, interpret, and analyze written information, including:
This section requires you to interpret and analyze the information provided to you. The passages and data cover a range of scientific disciplines, including biology, chemistry, physics, and earth science. Here are the skills tested under each area of the ACT Science test:
The ACT Writing test is an optional section of the ACT exam that measures a student's writing skills. The test consists of one essay prompt, and students have 40 minutes to write a well-organized and persuasive essay on the given topic.
The prompt presents a topic related to a contemporary issue and asks students to develop an argument in response to the issue. Students must analyze the issue, develop their position, and use evidence to support their idea. The essay is scored on a scale of 1 to 12 by two independent evaluators who assess the essay based on four criteria:
As the all-too-familiar adage goes, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”
Construct a well-defined study timetable. This ensures that the preparation is sufficient and progressive, preventing the needless stress associated with hasty or last minute preparation.
There is no one template nor a good or bad study plan. Allow yourself the flexibility that best accommodates your needs and spend more time on your weak areas. To pinpoint exactly where these strengths or weaknesses are, you could take a practice test first.
Prior to the actual test day, you should ideally have completed several timed ACT practice tests, along with any additional preparation required for tricky concepts or problems.
|Take a full-length practice test to establish a baseline score and identify areas for improvement. Review grammar rules and practice editing sentences and passages.
|Review basic concepts, such as arithmetic operations and algebraic expressions. Practice solving problems and use online resources to identify areas of weakness.
|Practice reading comprehension skills by reading passages and answering questions. Focus on identifying main ideas, supporting details, and inferences.
|Practice data interpretation skills by analyzing graphs, charts, and tables. Practice evaluating experiments and identifying patterns and relationships in scientific data.
|Study the prompt structure and practice organizing an argument in response to a given topic. Review grammar and usage rules and practice writing clear and coherent sentences.
|Practice identifying errors in grammar, punctuation, and usage. Review more advanced concepts, such as parallel structure and modifier placement.
|Review intermediate algebra concepts, such as factoring and quadratic equations. Practice solving word problems and multi-step equations.
|Practice time management skills by reading passages and answering questions within the allotted time. Focus on identifying the main purpose of each passage and supporting details.
|Practice identifying trends and patterns in scientific data. Review more advanced concepts, such as chemistry formulas and physics principles.
|Review sample essays and practice organizing and developing an argument in response to a given prompt.
|Practice sentence structure and organization by revising and editing paragraphs and short essays. Review rhetorical devices, such as metaphor and allusion, and practice identifying them in passages.
|Review coordinate geometry concepts, such as graphing lines and circles. Practice solving problems involving trigonometric functions and angles.
|Practice reading passages and answering questions more quickly and accurately. Focus on developing a reading strategy that works best for you.
|Practice using scientific vocabulary and understanding the relationships between different scientific principles.
|Write a full-length practice essay and have it evaluated by a teacher or tutor. Review feedback and make revisions.
|Review tone and style in writing and practice identifying the author's voice and purpose in passages. Review the organization and structure of paragraphs and essays.
|Review plane geometry concepts, such as angles and triangles. Practice solving problems involving area, volume, and surface area of shapes.
|Review test-taking strategies and take more full-length practice tests to build speed and accuracy.
|Practice identifying errors and biases in scientific data and understanding the scientific method.
|Write another full-length practice essay and review feedback to identify areas for improvement.
|Practice vocabulary by reviewing commonly tested words and using flashcards or online resources to learn definitions. Practice identifying context clues and understanding connotations.
|Review miscellaneous topics, such as basic statistics and probability. Practice using logic and critical thinking to solve problems.
|Practice reading passages from different fields and become comfortable with unfamiliar topics.
|Take a full-length practice test to gauge progress and identify any remaining areas of weakness.
|Write a final full-length practice essay and review feedback to make any final revisions.
|Review all test-taking strategies and practice pacing and time management skills. Take a final full-length practice test to prepare for the exam.
|Review all concepts and problem types that have been identified as areas of weakness. Practice the most challenging concepts until they become comfortable.
|Practice staying focused and alert during long reading sections. Review test-taking strategies and develop a plan for each passage.
|Practice analyzing and interpreting scientific data quickly and accurately. Review concepts that have been identified as areas of weakness.
|Review all sample essays and feedback to identify areas for improvement.
Practice makes perfect. Make use of official ACT study guides and practice exams that are accessible online - both on official sites and on sites like Khan Academy. To swiftly pinpoint your strengths and weaknesses, taking a first sample exam can be helpful. Subsequently, adjust your study strategy accordingly.
Review your responses after each practice test - find out why and how to avoid similar errors. Aimlessly going through tests without looking at your mistakes will waste time!
Follow the time allotted for each question as closely as possible. While it is acceptable to finish on time initially, leaving some time for checking is ideal.
When it comes to more complex questions, cross out incorrect answers. There may be more than one choice that sounds plausible, but first, cross off any options that seem absurd or inaccurate to begin the process of elimination. If you must guess, this can help raise your odds of getting the correct response via likelihood.
If you cannot eliminate any option, it may be best to leave it for later. Make a mental note of it, and return to it when you are done with other questions - do not dwell on any one question for too long!
Work hard, but work wise as well. As you practice more, quickly identify the section(s) you are weaker in and the question types you struggle with.
For instance, if you work with trigonometry questions under the Math segment of the ACT, you could attempt more similar trigonometry questions found in general maths practice books beyond the ACTs. If your problem is with reading comprehension, spend more time exposing yourself to the language and learning how to tackle different question types that call for other comprehension skills.
We feel stressed whenever we are under pressure or threatened. Stress is not a problem, it can be beneficial, pushing us to work diligently and stay disciplined.
Instead, the problem lies with excessive stress, which becomes counterproductive to your preparation and performance.
How do we manage stress? There are different strokes for different people, but some healthy ways of self-care include an exercise routine and meditation. It could be any activity that makes you feel happier and provides an outlet from the stress of ACT preparation. It can also be helpful on test day or before each practice test to affirm yourself through positive self-talk.
Besides stress, staying motivated is also a struggle for many. Perhaps you are practicing daily and not seeing giant leaps in your scores anymore, or you are just tired from waking up every day to the same study routine. The key to staying driven will be to remind yourself of the purpose behind the ACT - whether it is going to your dream college or future career aspirations.
While seemingly contradictory, motivation seems more of a myth than an essential ingredient to success. Ultimately, discipline keeps us on the right trajectory no matter how we feel, allowing us to work towards our desired goal instead of focusing on instant gratification.
Sometimes, you must grit your teeth and remind yourself of the higher purpose behind your preparation for the ACT. Start building that discipline muscle today!
The ACT preparation process can be lonely but it does not have to be. Studying for it with a group of friends may be a lot more enjoyable since you can exchange study techniques and find accountability partners.
If you're looking for one, you can easily find study groups online with communities on platforms like Discord. If you need further support, look for ACT tutoring services in your region and online; choose one that best suits your requirements and budget.
Do your best to get in touch with your seniors or friends who have previously taken the ACT; they will be able to provide you with tips while leaving your wallet intact!
Studying for the ACT can be a challenging but rewarding journey, and with the proper guidance and support, students can achieve their dream scores.
If you're looking for expert advice and personalized guidance to help you prepare for the ACT, consider booking a free consultation with Crimson Education. Our team of experienced college admissions consultants can help you develop a customized study plan, provide test-taking strategies, and offer feedback on your essays to maximize your chances of success on test day. With Crimson's support, you can feel confident and prepared for the ACT exam and achieve your academic and career goals. Book your free consultation today and start your journey to success!
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