4 Steps to Improve your ACT Score on September 14th

1) The Reading Test: Train Yourself to Read Faster

The test is about six weeks away on September 14th, and there’s a good chance you’ve yet to get to your summer reading.

As the ACT is a speed exam, you could practice picking up your pace as you read. For example, time yourself to see how long it currently takes you to read a page in the book you’re reading. Now see if you can read the next page faster without retaining less. The trick is to develop the skill of reading faster and retaining as much and hopefully more.

2) The English Test: Cut the Extra Words

As for the English portion of the exam, we’d suggest you start practicing on retired ACT tests that you can acquire online. Click here for the ACT’s free study guide, which includes a full length practice test.

A small tip: the test makes the assumption that most high school essays are too long. Look to take words out. Look to find the most direct sentence. Look to spot and delete the off topic sentences.

3) The Science Test: Know the Format

Spend some time reviewing the format of the test and the differences between the three section types. You should teach yourself to tell the difference between

  1. data representation passages (no headers),
  2. research summaries passages (study/experiment/activity headers and figures/tables), and
  3. conflicting scientists passages (looks like a reading passage, often with two to four scientists offering a one to two paragraph opinion).

Once you have the format of the test, develop a strategy for each passage type — we recommend reading the introduction ONLY in research summaries passages, and doing no prior reading in data representation passages. Finally, practice. Take note of where answers come from when you practice. Label the source for your information in the passage when you practice.

4) The Math Test: Know When to Skip

Learn your timing. You have sixty questions to complete in sixty minutes here, and they’ll get harder as you go. This is key strategically — it often doesn’t make sense to skip questions at the beginning of the test just to make sure you finish the test. In fact, most students might benefit by not finishing! But if your goal is to finish, you should be aiming, for example, to have 40 questions done in 30 minutes. The reason is simple — the last 20 are going to be much harder!

If you must skip a question in the first half of the test, make sure to return to it. Most students can complete these questions with a second try. However, if you’re stuck on a question near the back, there’s a decent chance it’s actually quite difficult and not worth spending too much time on. Keep going, because there are still likely to be a couple of questions in the 50-60 range that you can get done.

Lastly, don’t forget to learn your calculator. If you have a TI-84 like most students, this means making sure you have a quadratic formula program, understanding how to use the conics app, understanding how to use the solver, becoming a graphing expert, a table expert, knowing how to switch between radian and degree mode, and knowing how to edit the window and use the trace functions of the grapher.