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Upasana Gupta -

10 Tips for Acing the ACT

Learn How to Improve Your ACT Scores

The ACT ( American College Testing Assessment) is one of the two major standardized college entrance tests taken in the United States today, (the SAT is the other). The ACT measures the knowledge, understanding, and skills you have acquired throughout your education. This knowledge is accumulative and not something you can cram for. While practice is essential, no matter which standardized test you are taking, there are some significant differences between the ACT and the SAT. The ACT tests you on what you learned in high school – which is why it is good to take it in the spring of junior year – whereas the SAT tests you on how you apply that knowledge. The essay is required on the SAT, but optional on the ACT. Also, the SAT deducts points for wrong answers, while the ACT does not.

(Suggested Read: ACT Resources; View our Exam Section for info on all other standardized tests. )

There are simple things you can do to improve your ACT score. When taking the ACT test, you should do the following:

1. Read directions for each test carefully: The English, reading, and science tests ask for the 'best' answer. Read and consider all of the possible answers, then choose the answer that best answers the question. The math test asks for the 'correct' answer. You may want to work out the problem given, determine your answer, and look for it among the choices given. Revise the problem if your answer doesn’t match any of the options.

2. Answer the easy questions first: After answering the questions you find easy, go back and answer the more difficult questions. Use logic to answer the more difficult questions.  Eliminate as many incorrect answers as you can and then make an educated guess from the remaining answers.

3. Answer every question on the ACT: Your test score is based on the number of questions you get right. You are not penalized for guessing.

4. Come back to a tough question: If you’re stuck between two answer choices, circle the question and come back to it with fresh eyes after you’ve answered the other questions. Remember you have to pace yourself.

5. Although the essay is optional, write the essay anyway:  You never know if it’s required by a school you decide to apply to at the last minute. The ACT writing test lets you demonstrate your skills in planning and writing a short essay. If you choose to take the optional writing test, the following tips may be helpful:

--Pace yourself: You have 30 minutes to complete your essay for the ACT writing test. There is no formula for dividing your time between planning, writing, and reviewing. You are unlikely to have time available to draft, revise, and recopy your essay. Because of the time constraints, taking a few minutes to plan what you are going to write may be a good strategy.

--Read the writing prompt carefully: Be sure you have a clear understanding of the topic given in the writing prompt before you plan and write your essay. Outline the essay- jot down your thoughts and ideas on the topic.

--Writing the essay: Begin with a strong first sentence or two that clearly states your main points. Use the rest of your essay to reinforce your ideas with facts and examples. Be sure that your message is presented in a logical manner that makes sense to the reader. Do not use vocabulary words to impress especially when you are not sure of their meaning. Also, be certain to follow the rules of standard written English.

--Write neatly: If your reader cannot read what you have written, they cannot appreciate it and they cannot score your essay. Your essay must be written in pencil (soft lead No. 2) and on the lined pages in the answer folder.

6. Always review your work: If you have time after answering all of the questions on a test, go back and check your work.

7. Be precise in marking the answer sheet:  Be sure to completely and correctly fill in the correct ovals on your answer sheet. Make sure the number on the answer sheet is the number of the question you are answering. Mark only one answer for each question. Make sure to erase completely if you change your answer.

8. Bring your own calculator: The test center will not provide you with one, so bring an approved calculator for easier math work. (All the questions can be answered without one, but bring one anyway.)

9. Practice. You’ve heard it before, but it’s really the truth. Fortunately there are many free and low-cost ways to help students' reach their ACT potential. Read my previous blog on ACT Resources to get  information on free ACT prep courses and tutorials.

10. Take relevant AP courses: One of the most efficient and productive ways to increase your ACT score is by taking relevant Advanced Placement courses in Math, Science and Reading.