How to Improve your Score on the Act Test

The ACT is one of the most important tests that you will take in your life.  It is an integral component of any college application, and, with a poor score, you’ll find it hard to get into any prestigious college.  But don’t panic – studying for the ACT is a simple and rewarding process.

You can’t improve if you don’t know your weaknesses.  Rather than spending thousands of dollars on prep classes, buy an ACT prep book, which will contain a few practice tests.  Take one practice test before studying, so you’ll be able to determine your weak and strong points. Make sure to study the sections that you performed poorly on as much as possible.

Practice.  And then when you’re done practicing, practice some more.  Unfortunately, the only way to get better is to put in effort.  Also, make sure that you practice under real, stimulated test conditions, since practice doesn’t make perfect – perfection in practice makes perfect.

Learn how to guess.  Nobody really likes the feeling of uncertainty that comes with guessing, but if you can eliminate three answers, two answers, or even one possible answer, you greatly increase your chances of getting that answer correct.  And don’t be afraid of guessing.  On the ACT, unlike many other standardized tests, there is no penalty for choosing the incorrect answer.  Can’t eliminate anything?  Go with your gut feeling, and never second guess yourself.

Motivation is key in every aspect of life, and the ACT is no exception.  Find what motivates you, whether it be that fat college acceptance letter you’ll receive in the mail or the internal pride of scoring the highest out of everyone you know.  These things don’t motivate you?  Here’s a great idea.  Make a bet with your parents – if you get over a certain score, they’ll pay you, but if you get under that score, you have to pay them.  This usage of rewards and punishment will certainly motivate you more than just the reward or the punishment by itself.

Get a good night’s sleep before the test.  By now, you’ve hopefully studied for one or two months.  Don’t try to cram in any last information the night before the test.  You want to be wide awake and ready to do your best!

If you don’t perform as well as you think you should, take the test a second time.  While this may seem like a pain, it is worth it when applying for colleges or scholarships.  Statistically, you have a very good chance of doing better, since 55% of students retaking the ACT improve on their previous score.

Since the ACT is split into four sections (English, Reading, Math, and Science), here are some more tips to improve scores in each section.

English

In this section, you’ll be presented with sentences that may be grammatically incorrect, and asked to improve upon them.  Don’t make a choice without reading all the answers.  Instead, think of how you would read the sentence if you were saying it out loud.  If all else fails, and you really have no idea what the correct answer is, pick the shortest sentence – the longer ones tend to either be run-ons or redundant.

Also make sure to eliminate as many answers as possible.  This is the easiest section to do so in (the hardest is math).  Some sentences will just sound wrong to your ears.  These are almost always incorrect.

Reading

The biggest problem here will not be comprehending the material given.  More likely, it will be being able to read the material fast enough.  On the reading section of the ACT, you are given 4 passages, 40 questions, and only 35 minutes, so it will probably be a struggle to finish.  The best way to remedy this problem is practice.  Buy magazines or newspapers (pick something like the Economist, not Seventeen or Vogue) and read through an article as quickly as possible.  Then think about exactly what the article was saying.  Rinse, and repeat.

Come test day, the best strategy is to not read the passage presented in its entirety.  Instead, skim the first line of every paragraph to get the main idea.  Then read through the questions, and go back to the passage if necessary.

Math

The only possible way to do better in this section is practice.  Unlike the SAT, where the highest levels of math tested are high school geometry and algebra, the ACT will test basic trigonometry.  It’s quite possible that you haven’t reached that level of difficulty yet, so you will have to thoroughly go over the material given to you in your prep book. 

Science

This section really shouldn’t be labeled the way it is.  Instead, the name should be changed to Reading Part II.  In this section, you’ll be reading passage, charts, or graphs that pertain to the scientific field and answering questions about them.  No scientific knowledge whatsoever is needed, since all the information is given to you.  Thus, the advice given here will be very similar to that in the reading section – just learn how to read quickly.

When I took the ACT, I received a 35 on the first time.  If you follow all of these tips, there is no reason why you shouldn’t score well.  Good luck, and have fun studying!