ACT Prep—Part 1
February 12, 2014

ACT Prep (Part 1)

On Saturday, February 8, 2014, I proctored for ACT, which means that I was the person reading to the high school and college students taking the test for college admittance, scholarship applications, and general knowledge. As I sat there watching these individuals take a test that I had so loathed, I thought perhaps a quick guide to taking the ACT might be in order. redOrbit does support education, so why not help with test prep?

For those who do not know what the ACT is, this is a standardized test that many colleges and universities use to help gauge whether a student will be accepted or not and whether students qualify for scholarships. For many, this test is a make or break it point for their future. Of course, a poor score on the ACT does not mean that one will not excel in higher education, but it means that the student probably struggles with timed testing, at the very least.

So, the first bit of advice is to do some ACT prep. The ACT website actually offers several options including online prep, prep guides, practice tests, and more. If you are interested in improving your score, test prep, practice tests, and general guides will do that. The more comfortable you are with the ACT format and whatnot, the easier it will be to reach the score that you want or need.

Beyond just the ACT websites, there are many places that offer ACT prep courses taught by professionals who not only help you to understand how to take the test, but they also prepare you for test anxiety and give advice on how to take the test. Often, these prep courses have sample ACT tests so that attendees can get a taste of what the test will be like.

ACT has a list of tips for taking the test:

  • Carefully read the instructions on the cover of the test booklet.
  • Read the directions for each test carefully.
  • Read each question carefully.
  • Pace yourself—don’t spend too much time on a single passage or question.
  • Pay attention to the announcement of five minutes remaining on each test.
  • Use a soft lead No. 2 pencil with a good eraser. Do not use a mechanical pencil or ink pen; if you do, your answer document cannot be scored accurately.
  • Answer the easy questions first, then go back and answer the more difficult ones if you have time remaining on that test.
  • On difficult questions, eliminate as many incorrect answers as you can, then make an educated guess among those remaining.
  • Answer every question. Your scores on the multiple-choice tests are based on the number of questions you answer correctly. There is no penalty for guessing.
  • If you complete a test before time is called, recheck your work on that test.
  • Mark your answers properly. Erase any mark completely and cleanly without smudging.
  • Do not mark or alter any ovals on a test or continue writing the essay after time has been called. If you do, you will be dismissed and your answer document will not be scored.

Additionally, be sure to bring #2 lead pencils (not mechanical ones), a photo ID plus your admission ticket, and a calculator. For the latter, make sure that it is one accepted by ACT. Not all calculators are allowed, so here is the breakdown from ACT’s website:

Prohibited Calculators

The following types of calculators are prohibited:

  • calculators with built-in computer algebra systems
    Prohibited calculators in this category include:

    • Texas Instruments: All model numbers that begin with TI-89 or TI-92 and the TI-Nspire CAS—Note: The TI-Nspire (non-CAS) is permitted.
    • Hewlett-Packard: HP PrimeHP 48GII, and all model numbers that begin with HP 40GHP 49G, or HP 50G
    • Casio: Algebra fx 2.0ClassPad 300 and ClassPad 330, and all model numbers that begin with CFX-9970G
  • handheld, tablet, or laptop computers, including PDAs
  • electronic writing pads or pen-input devices—Note: The Sharp EL 9600 is permitted.
  • calculators built into cell phones or any other electronic communication devices
  • calculators with a typewriter keypad (letter keys in QWERTY format)—Note: Letter keysnot in QWERTY format are permitted.

Calculators Permitted with Modification

The following types of calculators are permitted, but only after they are modified as noted:

  • calculators with paper tape—Remove the tape.
  • calculators that make noise—Turn off the sound.
  • calculators with an infrared data port—Completely cover the infrared data port with heavy opaque material such as duct tape or electrician’s tape (includes Hewlett-Packard HP 38G series, HP 39G series, and HP 48G).
  • calculators that have power cords—Remove all power/electrical cords.

If you have a calculator that is not permitted, you will not be allowed to use it.

The next tip I have is don’t go back and fill in previous tests. This will get you kicked out, which means your test will not be scored. ACT considers this cheating. Just don’t do it.

These are the obvious tips directly from ACT. In Part 2, I will write some more practical tips for taking each of the tests based on my experience and research.

Image Credit: Thinkstock

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Rayshell E. Clapper is an Associate Professor of English at a rural college in Oklahoma where she teaches Creative Writing, Literature, and Composition classes. She has presented her original fiction and non-fiction at several conferences and events including: Scissortail Creative Writing Festival, Howlers and Yawpers Creativity Symposium, Southwest/Texas Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association Regional Conference, and Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association National Conference. Her publications include Cybersoleil Journal, Sugar Mule Literary Magazine, Red Dirt Anthology, Originals, and Oklahoma English Journal. Beyond her written works, she successfully created a writer's group in rural Oklahoma to support burgeoning writers. The written word is her passion, and all she experiences inspires that passion. She hopes to help inspire others through her words.

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