The ACT isn’t everything when you’re applying to colleges, but it’s still very important. Learning how to take the ACT actually helps you prepare for college work, because the analyzing and thought processes you must go through are exactly what you will experience in the college classroom. Studying for the ACT and doing well doesn’t entail any shortcuts – it takes a lot of time and effort. But almost anyone can benefit from studying in the right way for it, and an hour of studying properly is probably as good as several hours of inefficient, unstructured study time.
The key to improving your score on the ACT is simulating the exam many times over. Many students can significantly improve their scores – by up to five or more points in some cases. Some teachers will tell you that most of the studying is done by learning what you need to know in high school. This is partly true, but utilizing the proper strategies to prepare for the test and for when you actually take it can also be of huge benefit and should not be ignored.
You can spend thousands on tutors and courses, but budgeting for three to four study guides and perhaps a tutor for a few sessions is sufficient for most people. Develop your own strategies based on your learning style and test-taking skills and also consider the following:
Determine your best subject (Math, English, Reading, or Science) and try to obtain a high score on that part of the test. Notice how Math and Science go hand-in-hand, just like Reading and English do. Spending all of your time trying to improve your weakest area may not be a good strategy; yet many teachers and tutors seem to encourage this. No one wants a low score in a certain area, but trying to maximize your weakest area can result in a lower overall score. Familiarize yourself with each of the four subjects and look for additional hints for each section in the study guides.
Simulate the exam at least 10 times. Simulate it to the letter – pencils, answer sheet, time limits, everything. Learn from the answers you missed. Start studying during the early summer. Go to the library or some other place to study if you find that home is too distracting. Have intensive sessions for a few weeks and then take a week or two off. Find whatever motivates you and use it as a reward. Personal pride, possibly scholarship money, a parent’s offer of some reward for a certain score – all of those are powerful motivators.
Before you take the real exam, ask a good doctor about a multivitamin, diet and other factors. Don’t study the night before the test.
Retake the test if you’re not happy with your score. Consider taking it twice, and cancel the second date if you’re happy with your first score. You probably won’t be disappointed if you put a lot of hard work into studying this basic and predictable exam.