Taking the ACT: A low down
So I just wanted to do this because my teacher told me I should write a book because I’ve taken the ACT about nine times now. Coming from me - here’s what you need to know! (for all you West Coasters, that is, I know jack squat about the SAT so you’ll find none of that here)
The Low Down
Time - WAY Before the ACT
*Make sure you take it multiple times!! If you’re a Junior, take them ALLL. You can take it like 12+ times. DO IT.
*things to study - ¾ of the test is about English reading speed and comprehension. If you can read quickly and understand it all, and have a good knowledge of English grammar, you’re going to do very well on the ACT. If not, it’s something to practice, the reading speed and comprehension most importantly. I used an ACT prep program for this called Word Smart and it helped me a lot but there are word reading speed programs online for free you can use as well.
*APply! Do it now. Go sign up for the ACT website and Have yourself registered with plenty of time to spare so you don’t pay late fees and your center doesn’t run out of seating! (It happens! Especially the December one when all of the seniors who haven’t taken it yet take it for the first time for college -see point one-)
*Don’t know which one to apply for? (Writing or Non) If you know what college you’re going to, see what they like, if not, take mostly Non and then do one Writing just in case!
**What’s the difference you ask? (between Writing and Non) one has an essay at the end that gets mushed with your English score, but doesn’t affect your overall score. You have thirty minutes and a prompt and you do your essay and it gets graded and it takes like a week or two longer to get your scores.
TIME - Day Before the ACT
*Get ALL of your stuff ready. Get your pencils and erasers and your calculator charged (make sure its an approved calculator! I recommend one with graphing capabilities). Make sure you have like 4+ pencils, just in case and that they are all sharpened! Have your ticket printed out and set this all aside for easy grabbing in the morning so you’re not stressing
*Go to sleep *early* so you have plenty of rest! You won’t regret it, it’s about a 3 hour long test, you need to be awake for it all!
*Set several alarms, just in case, so you can get up in time for…
Time - the DAY OF the ACT!
*Make sure you have plenty of time to eat a very good breakfast! I recommend nothing greasy that could possibly upset your stomach! It needs to be filling, though. I prefer oatmeal!
*pack some snacks (this can also be done the night before) for your break! And maybe a drink too! You can’t have these out in the testing room but you can have them in a pocket or purse
*Bring a purse of something with big pockets for storage, even a drawstring, no one cares and it’s helpful for keys and wallet and snacks and calculator
*DON’T FORGET YOUR PHOTO ID - if you’re 16+ and drive this should be simple, but if not see if you can get ahold of a passport or visit a local officials office or printing of an ID (permits work too)
*Here in the CST we have to start at 8 for the test, no matter your time just make sure you get there with plenty of time to spare in case you have traffic problems!
*Wear comfortable clothes! You want to be in the best mindset possible while taking the test and NO ONE will care what you look like because they’re focusing on the test too!
*I do recommend a watch. I never brought one myself but it helps with pacing (my rooms always had clocks) and then during your break you know when to go back without feeling rushed or late MAKE SURE it’s a watch that doesn’t beep, though, because a beeping watch can get you ejected from the test just as much as a phone going off can
*GO TO THE BATHROOM BEFORE YOU LEAVE
Time- At the ACT center, before the test!
*LEAVE YOUR PHONE IN YOUR CAR. JUST DO IT. YOU CAN’T GET IT OUT ANYWAYS AND my phone went off with an alarm even though I turned it off and I got kicked out, there are NO exceptions and you just blew a good chunk of money and a lot of your time!!
**If you didn’t drive yourself, the test normally gets over anytime between 11:30-12:30 so leave if with your ride, or at home, and tell them that time. If they’re not there, ask people at the test center and find a phone to use there, or a friend who drove’s phone
*DON’T be dreading it! It won’t help! They design the ACT to test your test taking skills and set it up accordingly for you to be tired and ready to leave by the last test, which is why most say it’s the hardest. Just keep a chipper mind and relax
*If you have test anxiety, doing it multiple times really helps. I was so nervous my first few times but my last times I wasn’t because your routine is the same, the only things that’s slightly different is the questions
Time- DURING the Test!
*the ACT test consists of four different sections. You’re first two sections are English and Math. English is 55 minutes long, Math is 60 minutes. Then you get a 10 minute break. Then back for Reading, which is 45 minutes and Science which I think is about 45 minutes also.
*Pace yourself! Just take a breather. Don’t try to figure out how many questions you need to do a minute (I have. It doesn’t help) Just do it.
*DON’T spend too much time on one question! You are allowed to mark in your test booklet. Just mark it and come back. You’ll figure out how much time you spend on average per question, and if it takes more time than that, just skip it.
*You DON’T get faulted for wrong answers! Unlike the SAT, where wrong answers lose you a point from what you already have, on the ACT you just don’t get the point, but you don’t get marked off for it either. SO, if you’re running out of time, just try to figure out a few more and then fill in the rest. IT’S BETTER TO GUESS THAN NOT ANSWER AT ALL because at least you have a chance of getting it right.
*During the break, EAT SOMETHING. stand up and stretch! Go to the bathroom! It will help you wake up and be more alert for the last portion of the test, which you need to be!
*ENGLISH SECTION - focuses on grammar and sentence structure. Has the most questions in it. Tips: Trust your instinct with your answers and don’t over think it. If you have done well in your English classes in the past, you know what you’re talking about. Just go with your gut.
*MATH SECTION - mostly Geometry and some Trig! If you haven’t taken these classes yet, then don’t worry, that probably means you have some time before the test is super needed (your senior year) just do the best you can. Tips: NEVER stay on one question for too long. If you don’t understand something, SKIP IT IMMEDIATELY, until you find a question you do understand! Then, once you have all of those, take a breath and go back to the beginning and reread. I find, sometimes, that I did understand the question, but in my math section panic, I forgot. If you don’t know it at all, make a logical quess.
*READING SECTION - focuses mostly on reading comprehension. NEVER go to the question and try to find the answer in the article!! It takes more time than you think! TIPS: Just read the whole thing, soak it in, and then answer the questions. It’s a lot easier and less time consuming. Time is of the essence during this test!
*SCIENCE SECTION - focuses mostly on your ability to take a test (endurance) and focus on reading graphs! If you finish Reading early, take a deep breath before this one and just chill. They’re going to throw terms at you that you may not know, but they aren’t important! The questions will focus on their studies, which will all be able to be found in the graphs! TIPS: Read through the info and get a loose understanding. Accept terms but dont try too hard to understand them fully. They just are. Graphs are your friends. Make sure you know how to read them! SKIP QUESTIONS you don’t understand! But with the graphs, it should help!
*ACT Prep! — Don’t get it the first time ! Take it a few times and if you’re not improving, then get it! It really does help!
*START YOUNG. I started sophomore and freshmen year. You can. You can take it so many times. Just do it. Take it like three times sophomore year, maybe once freshmen, five times junior, and as many times as you can senior!
*If you have a score you’re happy with, great! But if you think you can do better DO IT. I believe in you! Reward yourself when scores go up too!
*Ask your teachers for help! Especially if they’ve taught prep courses for the ACT or helped administer it!
*If you get a 30 one time, and then a 27 the next, colleges will only look at the 30, or whatever your best score is! So no worries if it goes down! You don’t lose anything!
*You can ONLY BENEFIT from taking the ACT multiple times where as only taking it once or twice can hinder you! Experience really helps with this one!
Last words of wisdom: You can do it! I hope you get the score you want! Rock on! Your ACT score means money and I hope you get lots of it! :3 Lots of love~ I’m sure you’ll do amazing when you take it!