We won’t sugar coat it: there’s a lot that’s riding on your ACT score. But you already know that or you wouldn’t be here. You want to test well so that you can get into the college of your choice, so that you can earn a scholarship (or several). Getting a great ACT score is one of the first steps on your road to college life and that dream career that you think about at night.
But first you’ve got to take the test. And love them or hate them (most people hate them) it’s going to be a standardized test.
There are big downsides to standardized tests, which you probably already know about, but the one good thing about them is that they’re, well, standardized. That means that there are things you can do, things you can study, to train yourself to be better prepared to take the test. They’re not tricks to help you pass the ACT, really, but they are training methods that have been tried and tested and we know they will elevate your score.
Let’s look at the top seven tips to improving your ACT score by 10 points:
Take Practice Tests
When we say to take practice tests we’re not implying that taking practice tests over and over is going to raise your ACT score by 10 points. Instead, what you need to do is take the practice test a couple of times and then analyze your performance. Don’t just look at your test score and promise that you’ll do better next time: make the effort to learn from the practice tests what your strengths and weaknesses are.
We recommend doing this at the beginning of the studying journey, because this will give you a baseline. All of the study that comes after this will hinge on the items that you have identified as problem areas.
Analyze Which Sections Were Difficult For You
And we’re not just saying “I’m not good at English”. The point is to figure out why you’re not good at the English section. What are the problems that you’re getting stuck on, and, more importantly, why are you getting stuck on them. Perhaps you’re struggling with grammar and punctuation; that’s something that you’ll need to add to your study list. But maybe the problem is that you’re having trouble reading quickly and retaining the information. That’s an entirely different type of skill set that you’re going to have to work on.
You see, there are many things about studying for a standardized test that have nothing to do with the subject matter and everything to do with the test -taking procedures. Once you master the task of taking a test, you’ll be on your way to earning that extra 10 points.
Be Aware of the Time Constraints
Another part of dealing with standardized tests is being able to work under the clock. This is an area that stresses a lot of people out, so if you’re in this boat recognize that you’re not alone.
The ACT moves fast, so you can’t dawdle on any one question too long or else it’s going to take time away from answering other questions. Here’s a chart that breaks it down for you:
|Total Number of Questions
|Total Time Allowed
|Number of Seconds per Question
You need to prepare yourself to answer questions in the number of seconds allotted for each question and, if you get stuck on a question and are spending too much time on it, you need to have the presence of mind to abandon it and move on to the next question. You might spend three minutes on a math question and get the right answer, but that means that you’ve just sucked up the time you need to answer two other questions. Wasting too much time on any one question–even if you eventually get it right–can cost you in the end if you don’t have enough time on the clock to finish the test.
Memorize What Can Be Memorized
There’s a lot on the ACT that can’t be memorized. You don’t know what the readings are going to be so you won’t be able to be prepared for the questions they ask (although you can prepare for the types of questions).
But there are things that you can memorize, and if you have them down by heart, you’ll be able to fly through certain portions of the test.
These include math formulas, such as the quadratic formula; the Pythagorean Theorem; how to find the area of a circle, triangles, sectors, rectangles, parallelograms, and trapezoids; slope-intercept formula; and trigonometry functions including sine, cosine, and tangent.
Memorizing these things, using whatever memoization technique is easiest for you, will save you a lot of time.
Take Your Time Studying
Remember that you can’t start doing all of this work the week before the test. Preparing yourself to be able to score 10 more points on the ACT will take time and effort and can’t be “crammed” right before you have to take the exam.
Begin early. You can take practice tests any time you want, and taking them early will be a good first step toward learning your strengths and weaknesses. Then you can spend weeks or even months refining your skills, learning good habits, memorizing what needs to be memorized and training yourself how to read faster and retain the information, how to examine whether a question will be a time sink and you should skip it, and knowing how to finish strong.
All of this takes time, you’ll be able to do it if you put in the work up front. Remember: this is your ticket to college and scholarships, so you shouldn’t balk at some early studying.
Take Care of Your Body and Mind
Taking the test is stressful. Some people handle standardized tests better than others. Some people handle high pressure better than others. Some people handle long periods of sitting better than others.
This is another point where you need to analyze your strengths and weaknesses so you can prepare yourself to overcome them. For people who get stressed easily you may want to learn meditation or calming therapies. For people who have a hard time sitting still and focusing, you’ll want to find the best habits you can.
This may require the help of a parent, a guidance counselor, or a therapist who can help you learn good habits and techniques. It will also require that you admit to your weaknesses and accept help for them.
You’ll also want to get into good sleeping and eating habits. If the test is a week away, now is the time to start going to bed early, eating healthy regular meals, and doing calming exercises. Going to bed early the night before the test isn’t enough; you need to build up the habit so your body is in the right cycle.
Lastly, we recommend that you get help on your path to improving your ACT score by 10 points. Doing all of the above mentioned things is fine, but following a tried-and-true path toward success is far better.
At Kyo Standard we offer custom training for each student, overseen by a personal progress manager. We provide materials to help you study. We provide feedback to help you find your strengths and weaknesses. And we can provide the type of caring mentorship that will get you across the finish line.
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