Last Minute ACT Tips and Strategies
The last ACT test of this school year in the US is this weekend. Are you ready? Of course you are! If you are a rising Senior then this might be your second or third ACT. Some of you will be taking it for the first time. Many of you are rising Juniors, and this is totally new. Whichever description fits you, there are still opportunities to improve and get some help.
Some of you know, others do not but the ACT sections are called tests. There are four separate tests; each test scores to 36. The Composite, which is the score that most colleges will take, is simply a mathematical average of the four parts. Most American colleges do not allow for what is known as super scoring on the ACT; however, there a few now that have agreed to do this. Super scoring is when the highest scores by subject or test no matter what date the whole test is taken are gathered and averaged into a new composite.
An example, without the essay, might be as follows:
February test date: E 28, M 25, R 30, S 22 …..Composite (28+25+30+22)/4 = 26
April test date: E 29, M 28, R 24, S 24…..Composite (29+28+24+24) /4= 26
June test date: E 23, M30, R28, S 28….Composite (23+30+28+28)/4=27
Without Super Scoring, the college would want the best composite of any given test date. In the above case the June test would be sent. When a college wants only composite, it literally doesn’t care about any of the sub-scores by test. So do not imagine any rationale for sending anything other than the best composite.
But if the school Super Scores the ACT (such as Washington University in St. Louis, MO)
It would take the following:
E 29, M 30, R 30, S 28…..Composite (29+30+30+28) /4=29!
Quite a difference!
So what will you need to do this Saturday to get that score up? Well, the hallmark of this test is time management. The more you learn about the content and structure of the test, the more you need to take the time to work the test in the best possible way to improve your score.
There are only four answer choices on three of the sections, save Math. Math has five answer choices. You can randomly guess on any questions you do not know, but should you? No. You really need to stick to a Process of Elimination strategy. Math has five answers to limit the opportunity and keep the curve of the test to a reasonable level. Math is the easiest subject on both the SAT and ACT, so the volume of high scorers in Math can skew the statistics for the testing group unfairly. So, math has an extra choice to keep the playing field more level.
By section the way to make the most of the time to ensure the highest volume correct is:
English-Do each passage as you go. Within each passage, immediately identify style and what is known as Rhetorical Skills questions and save these to the end. Some have absolutely nothing to do with grammar whatsoever. These are time consuming as are all questions with giant capital letters reading: EXCEPT. Work the grammar questions as you read the passage and when done, go back and eliminate and guess on the style questions. Do not waste time. Narrow it down to the 50/50 and guess. If you are running out of time and you still have a passage to go…SLOW DOWN!! Yes, slow down and get what you can correct and randomly bubble in the last 40 seconds.
Math-Math is a two pass system. Math goes to pre-calculus, 11th grade Math. So you must be on your toes a bit. The questions involving Radians are not noted to switch to Radians on your calculator. But if you see any answers with negative π, switch to Radians. Also, you have 60 minutes, so first pass; answer only those questions you can answer after one read! Skip everything else. Skip ALL questions with charts and graphs, and questions that have a series of questions presented for one figure or chart. Such as Questions 30-33 refer to Figure 2….or something of this nature. These are designed to suck time! So skip. You should be able to answer about 38 questions within the first 20 minutes this way. Then go back and start working on those you did not immediately know after one read. Last 40 seconds randomly bubble what you have left. These Questions DO NOT have an order of difficulty; so, the questions with higher numbers, say #40-60, are NOT harder. Do the 2 Pass system and get more correct!
Reading– The easiest section to read with the most straight-forward questions is the Natural Science. It comes last. So start with the last passage! Then go to Prose Fiction-if it is 20th Century American fiction, it will not be too hard, but if it is 19th Century British fiction, it could get cumbersome. So look at the piece…decide if you can read it easily. If not go right to Social Sciences, if not read the fiction, then do Social Sciences. SLOW DOWN! Leave Humanities for last, which tends to have more difficult questions and jargon in it.
Science-Seven Passages of which 3 are data analysis, 3 are experiments and studies which require some more advanced thinking and extrapolation of information, and 1 Dual Hypothesis or challenge section with seven questions. Data Analysis passages are the easiest. Look for them to do first. Then do the Dual Hypothesis and save the Experiments for last. SLOWLY, SLOWLY, SLOWLY do this section. It is a much higher score to slow down and get all that you can correct and miss an entire passage than to speed up, guess on some questions in each and finish. Yes, this section is not really mechanically difficult but it is a thoughtful section, so SLOW DOWN!
Remember at the end of each section; randomly guess in the last 40 seconds. Is there some magic guessing strategy such as all second letter answers or alternating first and last? NO. You can literally randomly guess and you have as much of a shot as getting some correct than anyone employing some fancy bubbling strategy. I have, in the past 20 years, tried all these elaborate strategies with various students, and the result was, none worked any better than randomly bubbling. So do not waste time or space thinking about how to randomly bubble!!!