Many high school seniors will be taking the ACT test on September 8 and October 27 this fall. It is a mental marathon and stressful experience for many students. Most colleges and universities use the ACT not only for admission purposes, but also for scholarships.
Some might argue that preparing to take the ACT is a waste of time. As a private college counselor and test prep coach, I would have to disagree. Students might not always make large gains in their total composite score, but frequently a one or two point improvement can make a difference.
While some students may be too busy to do a lengthy test prep course, if they can squeeze in a short course or review, it is probably worth doing. Regardless, here are 10 strategies and tips to improve your ACT score.
1. Memorize the directions for each section of the ACT before you take the test. There is no sense in wasting time reading them during the actual testing period.
2. Learn or relearn math formulas because they are not listed on the math section. Review all the math that you took previous to Algebra I.
3. Wake up at least one hour before taking the test. You need at least that amount of time to be mentally alert.
4. Eat a good breakfast and work a few ACT questions. It will prepare you to get started as soon as the test begins.
5. Arrive early at the test center. Give yourself enough time to find your room and relax before you start the ACT. Don’t be rushed or you set yourself up for anxiety during the test.
6. Wear a watch and monitor your own time. Learn how to pace yourself so you are neither going too fast nor too slow. Use all of the time each section allows.
7. Take a few deep breaths before and between sections. If you feel unfocused or anxious during the test, put down your pencil, close your eyes, and count backward slowly from 100 to 90.
8. Have a snack for the break and bring a bottle of water. Dehydration is one of the biggest causes of fuzzy thinking on any standardized test. Drink enough water so this does not affect your ACT score.
9. There is no penalty for guessing on the ACT so every oval on your answer sheet needs to be filled in, whether you actually answered the question or not. At least you can guess.
10. Utilize the process of elimination to get rid of incorrect answers. It is always easier to spot wrong answers than right ones.
There is nothing wrong with taking the ACT more than once or twice. Colleges are interested in the best scores you get and will use them to determine eligibility for admission and scholarships.
College Direction in Denver, Colorado will have a six week test prep course for the ACT beginning on September 17. There is also a short online course that is beneficial for students who are motivated to practice on their own.