by Hannah Robinson
It is one of the most critical tests you will ever take. It is a big factor in determining the outcome of college and scholarship applications. This test is what we all know as the ACT. In Wisconsin, all high school juniors are required to take this assessment. Because this is not an optional test, every one of you will find yourself taking it at one point or another. And, while the ACT can seem very intimidating, especially due to its incredible importance and daunting length of over three and a half hours, there are many ways that you can prepare. Continue reading to hear some of the best tips and tricks from Little Chute High School seniors who have already gone through the ACT process.
“Wake up early in the morning so you’re wide awake when you’re taking the test,” Abigail Buchholz shares. “Also, eat a big, hearty breakfast because otherwise you’re going to be starving during the test. That will probably make your score go down.” It is obviously not a good idea to go into testing day tired. Luckily, this is something that can easily be controlled. Make sure you get at least 8-10 hours of sleep the night before to ensure that you do not get droopy-eyed during the test. Also, Abby suggests getting up a bit early on testing day so that you have enough time to “wake up” before actually beginning the ACT. Another critical point Abby makes in her advice is that you must eat a good breakfast on the day of your test. If you eat a small breakfast or no breakfast at all, your grumbling stomach will no doubt make it very difficult for you to concentrate on anything but your hunger, and your scores will reflect that. However, with enough sleep and a sufficient breakfast, you will be physically ready for your test.
“Go into the test open-minded and confident,” Lexi Halase suggests. “Don’t go in with a closed-off and pessimistic attitude.” While the ACT is a measurement of skill and knowledge, the results will change depending on your attitude while taking it. If you make sure to have a positive attitude throughout the test, you will most likely have better results over all. This “I can do it” approach will allow to you to take on the challenging questions more confidently and, as a result, will produce better scores. On the other hand, if you go into the test thinking that you aren’t going to do well, then your scores are going to show that. This is relevant not only before the test, but throughout the entire assessment. If you do not know how to do a question, don’t sweat it! Do your best, skip the question, and go back to it if you have time. The key to having confidence is to be prepared, and the best way to do this is simply to practice, practice, practice! “Utilize the ACT after school and lunch prep sessions with teachers. They help you understand what’s actually going to be on the ACT and the teachers help you find resources. For example, for English, Mrs. Vandeyacht found videos to us understand grammar better.” Throughout your junior year, you will be offered many opportunities to sign up for ACT preparatory sessions in all four subject areas of the test. These sessions occur either during lunch or after school and you will be able to sign up for however many you think you need to do well on the test. Breanna Fritsch suggests that you take advantage of these sessions which have proven to be very beneficial in her ACT experience. They only last about a half hour each, and the teacher whose room you sign up for will help you in any way they can by providing you with additional resources and giving you tips on the subject. Sign up for as many as practice sessions as you can because they will help you in ways that simply practicing on your own cannot.“If you can’t come up with an answer to a question in a minute and a half, you have to move on so you have more time to answer the rest of the questions instead of focusing on just one,” Libby Vandenberg reveals. Learning to manage your time on the ACT is crucial. Because we are rarely timed on standard high school tests, time management is something that we must practice to improve on. The more you practice, the better you will understand how long you should spend on each question of the four subjects of the test. Obviously, this will vary by person depending on his or her level skill in the subject and the difficulty of the problem. However, as a general rule, Libby suggests that if you cannot find the answer to a problem after about a minute and a half or so, it’s probably best to move on the next question. Come back to it later if you have time. If you do this, though, be sure to skip the bubble for that question so that you don’t mix up all of your answers. Don’t freak out if you don’t know a question; it’s one of many! Rather than wasting time trying to figure out the answer to it, continue with the rest of the test so that you can get points for other questions that you do know. The best way to improve your time management skills is to time yourself when practicing. Doing so will allow you to keep track of how much time you have remaining on each test, which will also be the case on actual testing day. The test proctors will tell the beginning and ending times for each test section, and there will be a clock in the room. Use this to your advantage! When practicing at home, see what question you are at certain times into the test. For example, in the math section, you have 60 minutes to complete 60 questions. That rounds out to one minute per question. Therefore, when you practice with the time, do your best to keep that pace so that even when you are halfway through the test, you still have half an hour remaining. For many, time is their worst enemy on the ACT; however, with lots of patience and practice, you will find the method that works best for you. As a high school senior myself, I have taken the ACT a total of four times and, as a result, have learned some tips along the way as well. The first step for me was to set a goal score. Keeping this number in my mind as I practiced and scored at-home practice tests, I was able to numerically judge how well I was doing and see if I was on track to reach this score on the actual test. Thankfully, my hard work paid off and I achieved the score I wanted. However, this simply encouraged me to set a higher score for myself. I highly suggest to anyone who will be taking the ACT to set a goal score for themselves because it truly did help me keep track of my progress.It will also prove very beneficial to you to schedule specific times to practice for the test. While you will obviously have other commitments such as work and school, you must find time to practice because this is the best way to improve your score. This “scheduling” can be as specific as making a hard copy schedule with exact times for practice or as broad as making sure to set aside half an hour each day for practice. On the topic of practicing, it is vital that you begin practicing months or at least weeks before your test. Cramming your study time within the last week is very stressful and not very effective in getting you the score that you want. This can be avoided, though; it just requires dedication and self-motivation. ACT practice books can be found at your local library, online, or in select stores.
While the ACT is very important, don’t fret if you aren’t able to achieve the score you want on the first try. You are always able to take the test again, and these tips will help you better prepare for the next time. Be sure to get lots of sleep, eat a good breakfast, take advantage of school study sessions, pace yourself, and practice as much as possible. If you keep all of this in mind and maintain a positive attitude throughout, you can ace your ACT!
Click the link below for some helpful, official ACT help and resources.