With summer in full swing, Juniors and Seniors will begin preparing for their first (or second) attempt at the ACT.  As an ACT teacher and tutor,  I've compiled a quick list of helpful tips for students and parents who want to give their students an extra edge. Disclaimer: These tips only apply to English, Reading, Science, and Writing. If you are looking for Math help, you’ve got the wrong girl! 

English Test:

  • Think about author’s purpose as you read. There will usually be a question about this.
  • Be careful of questions that include NOT or EXCEPT
  • When deciding if you should “OMIT” or eliminate a sentence, try taking it out and see if the passage still makes sense. Make sure removing it doesn’t change the meaning of the paragraph. If not, take out anything redundant or unnecessary. TRIM THE FAT! (If it truly is fat!)
  • A commonly missed grammar mistake: Who vs. Whom…What’s the difference?
    • Use whom when you are referring to the OBJECT of the sentence
    • Use who when you are referring to the SUBJECT of the sentence
    • If you still don’t know, remember whom ends with “m” like him and who doesn’t end with “m” like he. Decide if you could fill in with “him” or “he.” Decide if you can answer the question with “him” or “he.” If it’s with “him” then choose whom, if it’s with “he” then choose who.

Reading Test:

  • ANNOTATE!!! This is a quick paced test, so mark the test up. It will increase fluency and help you to have places to refer back to later when you are answering the questions. For example, underlining character traits for the prose section, underlining important details for the humanities, social science, and natural science selection, starring new definitions, writing a word or two to summarize each paragraph, etc. will give you reference points for later.
  • Practice, practice, practice your timing! The more you practice, the better your fluency will be. Aim for taking three minutes to read and annotate the passage and 30 seconds per question to answer.
  • Be aware of author’s purpose, main idea, and character thoughts and feelings (for prose). Make sure you go back to the text for questions that include “the passage states” “on line 37” or “according to the passage.” Use evidence from the passage to make an inference on questions that include “the passage suggests” or “we can infer from the passage” or “the passage implies.”

Science Test:

  • This is not a science test. This is a reading/logic/reasoning test. DO NOT BRING OUTSIDE INFORMATION INTO THE TEST. Many good science students do not do well on this test, because they are trying to add outside knowledge instead of looking for the information given in the passage.
  • The science test assesses your ability to reason, read charts & graphs, and read for information.  Note what’s being charted or graphed and ANNOTATE like you would the reading section.
  • If you are having trouble with time, go to the passages that only have charts and graphs first. Skim the charts & graphs, and go straight to the passage. Skip the passages that compare more than one experiment and appear more like the reading test. Make sure you mark the questions you are skipping on your scantron so you can go back to them later. When you go back to the longer reading passages, treat them as a reading passage. These passages usually ask you to compare two viewpoints on a subject or experiment. I recommend starring any similarities or differences you see because there will usually be several questions about that.

Writing Test:

  • Take a strong stance on the issue. Do not argue both sides. When brainstorming, make a pros and cons list and see what you have the stronger argument for and go with that.
  •  State a thesis in your introduction that restate the question, but does so in a creative way so it doesn’t seem like it’s restating verbatim.
  • Two strong body paragraphs with good transitions, strong points, and lots of evidence are better than three weak body paragraphs.
  • Make sure you state a rebuttal and rebuke that rebuttal. Include a conclusion that restates your thesis and points and leaves the reader with something to remember.
  • USE SENTENCE VARIETY. Have long, complicated sentences mixed with short emphatic ones.
  • TAKE RISKS. Use higher vocabulary & more difficult sentence structures. Make sure you are being creative, having a voice, and making points that you don’t think other people will make. This will get you the 5 or 6, rather than just sticking to a formula that demonstrates you know how to write an essay, which will only get you the 4. Have smooth transitions that don’t just follow the formula. You want your essay to have life.

Final Tips:

  • The best thing you can do to prepare for the ACT is just to practice. Practice timing yourself and going through the test. Some people think it’s fine to just go into the test and take their chances.  However, chances are, if you know what you can expect from the test and you know strategies that can help you with the test, you are going to do much better.
  • Also, if you don’t do the best the first time, sign up again! 55% of students increase their scores from the first test to the second.
  • Exercise the week before the test (it not only helps the body, it helps the mind!), eat a healthy breakfast, get plenty of sleep (but don’t go to bed too early or you will just be restless during the night), and be confident!!

**I highly recommend “The Real ACT Prep Guide” as a study tool.

**Also, I recommend L.E.A.P LLC ACT Preparation Course or tutoring to help better prepare for the ACT.  Visit http://www.leaprogram.com/ for more information.