If you or your child is about to start preparing for the ACT, you might be wondering what exactly will show up on the test? What does one need to know to do well on the ACT?
Here’s a brief overview of what’s covered in each section.
The ACT English section measures standard written English and rhetorical skills. You must know how to correctly use the rules of punctuation, grammar and usage, and sentence structure. Understanding meaning and purpose of passages is important for questions that ask you to make decisions about strategy, organization, and style. An ACT tutor or ACT prep class can help you to simplify and streamline the rules and train you in how to apply them efficiently and accurately.
Imagine every math class you’ve ever taken in high school all rolled up into one test – through the skills most students have acquired in classes taken through the end of the junior year, that is. There’s no calculus. But, you’ll still have to know Algebra, Geometry, Trigonometry, and more. Sound intimidating? No worries, though. Even though the ACT covers math content ranging from pre-algebra to pre-calculus, the test limits itself to fairly specific areas within each of those topics. A tutor can focus and streamline review to cover the core concepts you’re sure to see on this section. Once you’ve mastered the core concepts and strategies, you can explore advanced topics that become more important to know as your score moves higher on the scale.
Are you an expert in social studies, natural sciences, prose fiction, and humanities? The ACT will ask you to answer 10 questions based on reading passages that cover those topics. It is simply trying to measure your ability to comprehend what you read. Fortunately, you don’t need to have a PhD in any of the four areas in order to do well. Your tutor can help you to develop and tweak the skills and strategies needed to read efficiently, extract important information, anticipate questions, and select answers.
Guess what? You don’t actually need to know much at all about science to do well on the ACT-Science section. It’s a strange part of the test.
In reality, this section is designed to test your ability to read and interpret charts, graphs, and scientific information. It’s not really designed to test your knowledge of science. The background knowledge you’ve already absorbed in your classes in chemistry, biology, and/or physics will be helpful, however. As you prepare for the ACT by working through a prep book and taking practice tests, you’ll learn to leverage that knowledge by applying analysis and logical reasoning. Over time, the arcane subject matter and large amounts of data presented in this section will seem much more manageable.
ACT Writing – Optional
The optional writing test measures skills emphasized in high school English classes and in entry-level college composition courses: essay structure and flow, spelling, grammar, clarity and consistency of arguments, etc. While this section is optional, some schools require it, so you should probably take it.
How to Prepare?
Some students can get a 30 on the ACT without doing much at all, while others spend hours and hours with an ACT tutor and can’t seem to crack 25. But, keep in mind that the ACT is not an IQ test. It is designed to measure your ability to succeed in college, and as such seeks to measure your skills in Reading, English, Math, and Science – skills that can be learned and improved. Because the ACT score is so important in the college admissions process, it doesn’t make any sense to not prepare fully.
For many students, the issue becomes one of confidence. Some students’ critical thinking skills and general knowledge base might suggest they can score above 30 easily, but stress rattles their confidence and results in silly mistakes on test day. The solution is often preparation, which provides the confidence to relax and trust yourself on test day.
Of course, the more time you have to learn and improve, the better off you’ll be. If you’re taking the ACT in 4 weeks, you don’t have a ton of time. We recommend leaving yourself at least two months to study, whether you’re studying on your own with a prep book, doing a prep class, or working with a tutor. We also recommend taking the official ACT at least twice. Many students take it up to 5 times, seeking to improve their scores each time – colleges don’t seem to discourage this. Plus, many colleges accept the ACT “super score” – the best scores from each section taken on multiple tests.
This post is courtesy of our friends at MyGuru. MyGuru is happy to help you prepare for your ACT exam. You can explore their services online, email them at firstname.lastname@example.org or call them at (312) 278-0321.