Sure, sure, everybody’s heard of the SAT, but what about the other big test for the college bound– the ACT? It’s very different. Do you know how?
For one thing, it’s got four sections: math, science reasoning, English grammar and reading comprehension. It’s designed to predict how you’ll do on those subjects in college.
To help you ace the exam, we caught up with Melissa Kelly, About’s Guide to Secondary School Educators who writes her site’s ACT advice page. She dished. We quiz. You ready? You may begin!
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Tips on how to conquer the ACT.
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The biggest mistake youre likely to make on the ACT is going too slowly.
Going too quickly and not reading directions or fully understanding the question are the biggest mistakes youre likely to make. This can be avoided by reading the questions and underlining key terms. For example, if the question asks you to organize dates from earliest to latest, underline the words earliest to latest to remind you of the order.
I have to take a prep course if I want to be ready for the test.
There are two forms of preparation: test taking and review. You can choose a long-term review where you take courses, but this is quite a commitment as it lasts for months. If you choose to do the review on your own as opposed to the prep course, you can buy test preparation guides from firms like Barrons, the Princeton Review or Kaplan and use them one to three months prior to the exam.
I should plan to take the test more than once.
Its truly a personal matter, but if you were sick on test day or were ill-prepared, its a good idea to take it again. That means scheduling your first exam with enough time left on the calendar to take it again if youre not happy with your first score. One other thing to keep in mind: you cant mix and match your section scores if you take the test more than once; however, you can decide which colleges get which set of scores.
For the English section, I have to know grammar terms like "gerund."
Yup. Go through your English grammar book and look at the main topics. If you dont know what a term like gerund means just from looking, then you should go to that section and study it.
For the math section, calculators are allowed.
Yes, calulators are allowed. However, If you are going to one, get familiar with it before entering the test room. For the rest of your math prep, use the ACT Web site to find out exactly what topics will be covered. Spend your time on the topics about which you are unsure.
There will be tables and graphs in the science section.
Spend some time with tables and graphs to make sure you understand how to use these scientific tools. Also check the ACT Web site for an exact listing of what science skills will be tested.
In the reading comprehension section, I will have to write an essay.
This section consists of reading passages and answering questions which pertain to them. One way to approach this is to read the questions FIRST, then read the passage. That way, as you read, youll know for what to look. You can also practice by reading. An article in ESPN, a movie review, anything will help. Just look for main idea that the author is trying to get across to you.
Pencils and calculators will be provided for me on test day.
On test day, you should plan to bring your admission ticket, an official ID or a school letter with a photo, a permitted calculator, at least two sharp No. 2 pencils and a jacket or sweater in case the room is chilly.
Its OK to bring my prep book with me into the test room for last-minute browsing.
The following are not allowed in the test room: textbooks, dictionaries, notes, books, magazines, highlighters, pens, pagers, other electronic devices like PDAs and CD players.
Theres a penalty for guessing.
There is no penalty for guessing. If you can eliminate a wrong answer or two, youve got a good chance of guessing the right one. Dont leave anything blank.
Each question counts for the same number of points.
Each question counts for the same number of points, so skip over the ones that seem hard and get as many easy ones as possible. Note that the questions are not put in order of difficulty, that is, the easy ones arent at the beginning of the section.
The best way to get ready is practice, practice, practice.
While the questions change from year to year, the structure of the test doesnt. Take practice tests until you get used to the way the sections are put together. Youll save a ton of time and will feel calmer if you know what to expect.