How to Improve Your ACT Score
Written by Lee Gonet
Most test-prep advisors tell you to set goals, know what to expect, prepare mentally and physically, pinpoint problem areas, and don’t give up trying to improve. These are all general words of wisdom you should apply. However, I am going to give you tips you can directly implement on practice tests, which have been successfully proven to raise scores.
Tip # 1: Practice! Practice! Practice!
Your best results will be obtained if you take an official test immediately following several practice sessions. Practice tests should be timed, just like the real ACT, with only a ten minute break between Math and Reading. Take two to three tests at home the week prior to the formal test.
This practice generates improved speed and a relaxed attitude to the timed pressure. Taking multiple practice tests at home not only removes test anxiety, but also creates a familiarity with the material and format.
Tip # 2: Be Tenacious
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines tenacious as being "persistent in maintaining, adhering to, or seeking something valued or desired." All of my students have upped their ACT scores by a couple of points, but only the tenacious ones up their scores by 5-12 points!
You will need to be persevering, persistent, determined, dogged, strong-willed, tireless, indefatigable, resolute, patient, unflagging, staunch, steadfast, untiring, unwavering, unswerving, unshakable, unyielding, and insistent if you want to improve by great amounts.
Tip # 3: Rework Your Errors
After each practice test, have someone else mark your incorrect answers, and then you should rework all missed problems. Take your time and try your best to understand why you missed the question the first time. Rescore your test: this second result is what you could actually make on the ACT if it were not timed!
Afterwards, review & study all questions you missed twice. Look at the correct answers, read the explanations, seek help in weak areas or for confusing answers. This process gives your mind an opportunity to self-correct obvious mistakes and builds confidence.
When you are simply told the correct answers, you can see your errors (and feel bad about them), but often you will make the same habitual mistakes over and over. However, when you figure out the errors for yourself, your brain recognizes and corrects these problems on future tests, and your confidence will improve.
Tip # 4: Identify English & Math Weaknesses
Learn to recognize the types of errors you make habitually. Do you know your punctuation rules? Are you mixing up your verb tenses? Is redundancy a problem? Can you differentiate between geometry formulas? Are you confusing negative numbers with positive ones?
Every student is weak in specific areas which can be identified and strengthened. When reworking errors, ascertain the category of mistakes you are making, and learn the necessary principles. An infinite number of practice tests won’t help if you haven’t learned the basics!
Tip # 5: Read the Reading
Four sections are presented and always in the same order: Fiction, Social Science, Humanities, and Natural Science. Every student is weak in a different type of analyzing; therefore, save your weakest area for last. If you score well on only three sections, you can still score up to a 27!
Always read the sections before answering the questions and as you are reading, underline unusual words, names, statistics, etc. while reading. This process stops your mind from wandering and helps you stay focused on the passage.
Practice speed reading. Try to finish reading each passage in three minutes. And if you really want to improve your reading score, read non-stop for an hour or two every day.
Tip # 6: Don’t Read the Science
Go straight to the questions and do not read any of the material until necessary because the majority of the answers are found in the charts, graphs, and images. Save the comparison section for last as it requires the most reading.
Tip # 7: No Blank Bubbles
Fill in the scantron completely, bubbling all answers. Statistically, no penalty exists for guessing wrong answers.
Tip # 8: Set a Goal Score
You need an attainable "end" to your efforts. What are your prospective colleges’ entry score requirements? Scholarship scores? Will the college create a composite from your highest individual scores?
Tip # 9: Use Princeton Review Guides
I consider the PR to be the best test-prep program on the market and use its materials myself.
Tip # 10: Seek the Lord's Direction
Sometimes, gaining experience in the workforce will give you an edge on the ACT through increased responsibility, improved critical thinking, and a more focused attitude. Unless you have a strong area of interest and a specifically planned purpose for your degree, pray about taking a gap year and gaining experience in a field of interest.
I hope this information helps improve your scores. You might also consider joining one of my ACT Boot Camps this summer.