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ACT tips, tricks, and helpful hints

Malora Lake

Hayley Koontz, 11

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When some students hear the acronym ACT, their palms start to sweat, their blood pressure rises, and their faces drain of all color. The prospect of sitting in a quiet room for three hours and answering seemingly endless math, science, reading, and English questions can seem daunting. However, strategizing can take some of the guesswork out of the test. Standardized testing is an important part of the college admissions process; scholarships, class placement, and college acceptance letters all depend to some degree on the score a student receives on the ACT, so it’s advantageous for students to be prepared for the test.

Taking practice tests is an effective way to become familiar with the format and question style of the ACT. Working in depth on subjects one struggles with and brushing up on familiar concepts prioritizes the material by degree of importance to the student.

“I feel that (practice tests) are pretty important. It insures that you get a decent score on the ACT, and it prepares you for what’s going to be on the test,” Timothy Boerma, 12, said.

Writing in the ACT testbook is not only allowed, it is encouraged. When taking the reading, science, and English sections, underline or circle important information. This allows students to quickly locate answers and makes it easier to comprehend the material. The math section involves a great deal of geometry and algebra, so it’s beneficial to draw diagrams and pictures to make sense of problems.

“If I can see what I’ve been thinking and can put it together in front of me, it helps my thought process,” Gloria Martinez, 10.

Another effective ACT strategy is to skip around to easier questions and save the difficult ones for later, because every correct answer carries the same weight in the ACT. Also, students are not penalized for wrong answers, so it’s wise to guess on problems that one is unsure of.

“If you spend more time on the longer problems, you won’t have time to do the other ones,” Drake Middleton, 11, said.

Effective time management is a critical component of performing well on the ACT. The longest test, math, is an hour long and contains 60 questions, which leaves exactly one minute to solve each problem. English is 45 minutes long and has 75 questions; allotting about 40 seconds for each question. Reading and science are both 35 minutes long and contain 40 questions, which means each question must be answered in 53 seconds. This means that it’s important to watch the time and move quickly through questions.

“I go through it, and if I feel like I’m taking too long on a question, I either circle it and go ahead or I just come back to it later,” Eric Webb, 11.

Consider taking the ACT test more than once. After taking it for the first time, students know what to expect on the test and therefore are better equipped to retake the ACT. Taking a few minutes a day to study ACT questions keeps the material fresh in the mind and reinforces the concepts covered on the test. Lastly, have a goal in mind and be prepared to work to make that goal become reality.

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ACT tips, tricks, and helpful hints