The ACT and you; a Junior’s guide to success

The ACT is a standardized test that is used to enter most colleges in the United States. The ACT has four multiple choice sections – English, Math, Reading, and Science – with an optional fifth test, Writing, which typically costs extra.

The composite score is the average score of the four test scores. Each test and the composite score is graded on a 1-36 scale, except for the writing test, which is scored from 2-12.

Every school has a range of desired scores, called the middle 50 percent, that they will usually select to enter their school. Finding out these scores for one’s desired college(s) is very important.

To prepare for the ACT, one should study efficiently and consistently, for between 10 and 150 hours. Taking practice tests in ACT-like conditions can help one get a feel for what the ACT can be like, and can help improve overall performances.

Students should also monitor the time while taking the practice tests to know what needs to be improved. It is important to use one’s time wisely.

Making sure you have everything for the test day will also help on the day of the ACT. Some items include snacks, extra pencils, an eraser, a scientific calculator, and a watch.

The first test, English, is 45 minutes long and contains 75 questions. This test will primarily focus on grammar skills. It’s generally advised to pick the simplest answers for the questions.

The second, Math, is 60 minutes long and contains 60 questions. For this test, it is important to memorize formulas.  It is a good rule to do the easy questions first, then go back and do the harder ones.

Next is the Reading portion, which gives 35 minutes to complete 40 questions. The Reading ACT has four passages: prose fiction/literacy narrative, social science, history and fine arts (humanities), and natural science. For this test, taking notes and marking the text will be helpful, as well as making sure the answer is directly evidenced in the text. Reading the questions before reading will also help test takers find answers in the passages more quickly.

The final test is the Science test, which is also 35 minutes long with 40 questions. The Science ACT contains multiple passages: biology, chemistry, earth/space science, or physics. These passages are formatted as research summaries, conflicting viewpoints, or data representation, so knowing how to comprehend these forms will help students get through this test.

For the Writing ACT, there is 40 minutes to write an essay at least four paragraphs long. Successful essays usually use clear main ideas, strong supporting details, and concise wordings.

Those who keep these tips in mind will be more likely to get a higher score on the ACT.

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