Score a 36 on your ACT test? Wouldn’t that be great? I can hear you thinking, “How am I going to do that?” Obviously you’re going to have to start with some basic intelligence and some knowledge in Math, Science, English and Reading. But strategies to teach reading fluency, I’m assuming you have a lot of that already, or can get some help from a competent tutor. You probably have more knowledge in those subjects than you give yourself credit for. So, in addition to applying your own natural capabilities, here are seven more ways to improve your ACT test score, and maybe even earn that top score of 36.
(1) Preparing for the test beforehand can be hard work, but is critical to help you score higher. If you go in blind without preparing, I guarantee you will get surprised by the unexpected. Get yourself a good ACT test prep book such as The Real ACT Prep Guide or from Barrons, Princeton, McGraw-Hills or get several.* Read the book(s) well and take the practice tests to see how you do on each of the four sections. This will help you know what kind of questions to expect in the actual test, and will tell you which section you need the most help with, if any. The test prep books also help you understand what kind of strategy you need to follow to score better on the real test. Take the practice tests under conditions that will be similar to those you will experience in the actual test (for example, on a Saturday morning in a quiet well lit room with no distractions like a TV or cell phone).
(2) Don’t try to cram your review of the test prep book and your practice test taking into a few days. Spread it out over at least a month or even two, spending one to three hours per day on your test preparation. By giving yourself enough time, you’ll absorb everything better and will be able to get help on any subjects you may not have quite mastered.
(3) When you take the practice tests, make sure you only allow yourself the amount of time you will actually have during the real test for each section. Use a stopwatch or alarm clock to make sure you stop after the allotted time. If you have trouble finishing in time, you should take another practice test forcing yourself to do one of two things; either mentally focus on speeding up answering each question, or set the timer for less time than the actual test will allow so you know you must answer questions faster. For example, if the test allows 30 minutes, set the timer for 20 minutes.
(4) Answer the questions in all sections of the practice test before you look at the answers in the back of the book. You have to practice relying on your own knowledge and thought process before relying on the book’s answers. The answers at the back of the book are there just to check your answers and to show you which problems or sections you need to spend more time on. The ACT rewards you for correct answers and essentially doesn’t penalize you for incorrect answers, so if you don’t know the answer for sure, make an educated guess. Don’t leave any question unanswered unless you completely run out of time.
(5) For the reading section, you should read the questions first and then read the text you are supposed to be answering the questions about. This seems to help many students tie in the questions to the context of the reading passages. It may help you to read the passage as if you were the author and you are reading what you just wrote. What would you have been thinking about if you just wrote the passage? What would you have been trying to say? What facts were you presenting? Then, answer the questions in the practice test for that passage.
(6) If you find a number of questions you can’t answer correctly, or perhaps one of the four sections that gives you a significant problem, get some help from a qualified tutor who offers ACT test prep assistance. Don’t assume that the actual test will be any easier than your practice tests. It won’t be. If you need help, get it now before you take the real ACT test.
(7) On the day before the real test, get plenty of rest and good nights sleep. Have a healthy light breakfast in the morning and head off to the test well prepared. Make sure you have everything you need for the test including a calculator, pencils and your admissions ticket. Expect to be a bit nervous. It’s natural. Expect to find at least a few questions that throw you a little. For those questions, take an educated guess at the answer by eliminating any answer that can’t logically be correct and choosing the best of the remaining choices. Don’t panic. With all your preparation, you will score better than you would have before the preparation. Maybe even that coveted 36. And, even if you don’t like your score, you can take the test again and keep the best score. Good luck and here’s to you scoring your best on the ACT.