In exactly a week from today, the first ACT of the year will be administered. While there haven’t been any major changes recently, it is worth remembering some of the useful tips that will get you a bump in your score. Hopefully you have a solid game plan for this week so you can get enough practice before the test. Or maybe you have done yourself one better: you’ve been studying for the past month or two.
Whatever the case may be, remember that the ACT is often a test of speed rather than wit, so your largest struggles may come from simply answering questions within the time limits--which is why it is so important to practice!
Here are some helpful reminders on how you should approach each section of the ACT:
1. ACT English: Shortest is best; less is more
Because concise writing is good writing, usually the shortest answer choice will be the correct answer on the ACT. Of course, this means you should be cutting out as much unnecessary information as possible, but don’t cut a detail that may be important for, say, an “add info” question. Also, many students don’t know what to do with commas, so just try to use them as sparingly as possible; in many cases you need to remove all commas from a sentence because they disrupt the flow. If you don’t know why a comma should be somewhere, then it may not need to be there at all!
2. ACT Math: Use question order to your advantage
Since there are 60 questions on the math section, the difficulties divide into these three categories: 1-20 are easy; 21-40 are medium; and 41-60 are hard. If you are solving one of the “easy” questions, imagine how the test sees the content and treat the information as such--basically, don’t overthink problems that require simple solutions. That being said, it is important that you work out as much as possible on the sheet itself and not in your head to prevent silly mistakes.
3. ACT Reading: Closely read and then solve
The Reading test is not going to ask tricky questions that require you to always go back to the passage; that’s the SAT. Instead, you can spend 3-4 minutes carefully reading a passage, mastering as much information as possible, and then you can solve the questions. Your goal should be to read the passage so well the first time that you don’t have to look back at the information in the text. You’d be amazed how well this works, especially when questions can be as simple as “Who is the narrator's father?”
4. ACT Science: Vary strategies depending on passage type
The Science test will include three different passage types, and many have called the Science test the Reading test #2. For the Data Representation passages, you can go ahead and skip the passage and start solving the questions. For the Research Summary passages, you can also head straight to the questions. And finally, for the Conflicting Viewpoints passage, you should read the whole passage first and then look at the questions. Do not attempt a single strategy for all the passage types; be flexible and know how the information requires different approaches!
5. ACT Writing (Essay): Pick a side and argue
Now that the ACT Writing test provides you with a topic and three perspectives, it may seem necessary to approach the response with nuance. Your response should be sophisticated in its style but more basic in its argument. In other words, you should pick a clear position and argue your points while simply acknowledging which perspective agrees or disagrees. Thankfully you can use simple logic and reasoning--not wild examples you planned in advance--to make your points clear.
Overall, the ACT is best treated as an exam that isn’t trying to pull any tricks on you. While the SAT is notorious for its traps and misleading answers, the ACT usually is straightforward. Again, time is the major enemy, and with the right confidence and knowledge of the test, that should be no issue.
Looking for a last minute cram before your February ACT exam? B2A has teachers ready to help you master each of the five sections so you can see that sweet 30+ composite score. It is the first ACT of the year, but with the right studying and practice, it hopefully can be your last!