As one of the two standardized tests, the ACT is taken by many students all across the United States. Even so, only a small percentage every year get a composite 36, much less a perfect score. In this blog, we’ll go over some tips on how students should prepare and how to score that perfect 36 on the ACT.
Making the Decision
Although everyone that’s reading this blog most likely has already decided on the ACT, it is important to know that there are two types of tests you can take: the ACT and the SAT. Before deciding which to take just based on how “popular” the test is among your community or searching about how “easy” either of them are online, everyone should first take a mock ACT and a mock SAT test to compare and see which one is more suitable for you. Both tests are viewed the same to college admissions, so whichever test you can score higher on is the one you should aim for. Generally, most students stick with one test, as it’s more time-efficient and you get to understand one test and perfect it.
If you want to read more about the differences between the SAT and the ACT, see this blog.
The Week before the ACT
These tips that will be listed below are all crucial, and if I had seen them before, it would have saved a lot of unnecessary stress and problems.
Remember to PRINT OUT YOUR ACT TICKET: Please print out your test ticket a few days before the actual exam, and have at least two copies! You will NOT be able to print out your test on the day of the exam, so don’t even try to procrastinate. While forgetting to print out your test is not necessarily the end (some test administrators will still let you take your exam if you arrive at the test center), your score may be delayed, and it will cause a lot of stress.
Eat a good breakfast: While this tip is overused, there are still some points I would like to add. If your brain requires a full stomach to operate, as some people are, then you should eat at least 30 minutes before your actual exam. And if having a full stomach makes you feel queasy during the actual exam, then feel free to take the test on an empty stomach! That’s what I did, just make sure to bring a snack in case you go hungry.
Get plenty of sleep: Before my exam, I was used to my normal sleep schedule, which was sleeping at 12:30 am. What I didn’t seem to understand was that I had to wake up at 6:00 am to take the test, meaning I would have less than 6 hours of sleep. I thought it was okay. Turns out, it is much better to get a full night’s rest, which means for high schoolers out there, sleeping much earlier than you may be used to.
Bring a Sharpener and a Few #2 Pencils: Oh, and an eraser and pen. The ACT paper exam does not allow you to bubble in your test with either a pen or a mechanical pencil, so it is crucial you are comfortable using and remember to bring #2 pencils. If you’re taking the writing portion of the ACT exam, the sharpener will make everything much easier.
Tips on the ACT
Practice is Key: The more you practice, the more you’ll be able to see and analyze patterns in common question types. For the ACT, patterns are everywhere, and it is greatly beneficial to see them. From the misplaced modifiers on the English section to common but tricky probability problems on the Math section, practice will help you find similarities between each question.
Time Yourself: One of the key characteristics of the ACT is timing. The questions themselves are usually simpler than the SAT, but what makes the ACT so difficult is that the time per question the test gives you is less. What does this mean? It means that if you get stuck on a question, or spend too much time, it can greatly impact your score. Thus, you should time yourself and become comfortable with a stressful testing environment, so on the real exam, timing will not be an issue.
Take Notes and Annotate Details: Everyone has their different style of annotation, but for the actual exam, especially for the reading section, be sure to underline, highlight, or do whatever it takes to find the details! With the little time you have to read each passage and to answer the accompanying questions, the faster you find details and what’s important, the easier the test will be.
Cross Out Wrong Answers: Similar to the previous tip, feel bold and free to scribble all over if it helps you understand the problem! This means crossing out wrong answers, as it will help you narrow down to two or three answer choices, which means higher probability of you getting the problem right. Moreover, if you go back to the question, you won’t have to spend extra time rereading each answer. Save your brain cells!
Enjoy the Testing Experience: Now, this is a more controversial tip. What do I mean by enjoying the testing experience? To clarify, you don’t actually need to like taking the exam. What is important though, is that you turn your anxiety and nervousness into something positive, like determination or even excitement. The test is like a rollercoaster! Instead of being afraid of it and nervous, feel excited! And remember, you can always retake the exam if something goes wrong.
Take the Writing Exam: Because, why not? During the actual exam, you will have an option to cancel the writing exam! So, if you’re too tired to write a whole essay after taking the test, then feel free to just leave. The test administrator will give out the details before you start your ACT exam. Thus, it’s better to just sign up for the writing exam on an upcoming ACT test, and just cancel it if you don’t feel like doing it anymore.