ACT Prep (Part Two)
February 14, 2014

ACT Prep (Part 2)

In part one, I wrote about the more traditional prep tips available to those who take the ACT. Here, I wanted to write the more practical tips and tricks for taking the ACT, those tips and tricks that will help during the test. Some of these come from my personal experience while others come from discussions and research.

Trick #1

Before taking the test, do research on the directions to each test. The ACT consists of four tests: English, Mathematics, Reading, and Science. Most ACT test prep guidebooks will include the directions as do online sites. This is beneficial because if you know the directions beforehand, you do not have to give up that time to reading the directions. You can simply move into answering the questions. Since each test is timed, even a few minutes more toward answering questions will benefit you. The breakdown of tests is as follows:

English=45 minutes for 75 questions.

Mathematics=60 minutes for 60 questions

Reading=35 minutes for 40 questions

Science=35 minutes for 40 questions

Some choose to take the Writing test as well, but it is not mandatory. The Writing test is an essay test where takers have 30 minutes to complete it.

Trick #2

Answer every question because you do not get penalized for incorrect answers, but you will get penalized for unanswered questions. The score is based solely on your correct answers. Essentially, if you don’t know, guess but guess intelligently. Try to figure out what the answers are. Usually every question has one or two answers that are obviously wrong, so eliminate those and then guess based on what is left. If you are short on time, then start filling in ovals.

Trick #3

Along the lines of Trick #2, as you take the test, answer the questions you know immediately, skip the ones you don’t, but come back to the latter at the end and guess. Remember, incorrect answers do not hurt your score. Blank ones will, though.

Trick #4

Check your answers

Trick #5

On the heavy reading tests (Reading and Science), a good method is to actually read the questions first, then skim through the reading selections for answers to the questions. Many try to read the reading selections first and then answer, which is a logical way, but you only have 35 minutes to answer 40 questions in both the Reading and Science sections, so reading the questions first then focusing on the selections may help to save time.

Trick #6

Mark up your test booklets. Take notes and identify words you don’t know. Try to do the Math formulas and such. Mark what answers you know are incorrect. All this will help as you go back and check your answers and/or try to answer the questions you just didn’t know.

Trick #7

This is going to sound hokey, but come to the test showered, dressed nicely, and having eaten a healthy meal and drinking water. It seems silly, but if you get up and spend time prepping in the morning, you will feel better about yourself. If you eat and drink water, your physical needs will be met, so you won’t be distracted during the test. I know these seem silly or commonsense, but I promise they can make a difference.

Trick #8

Continuing on with the hokey, stay calm, stay positive, and stay happy. The ACT is not easy even for the most academically talented. It’s intimidating for sure. But if you stay calm and don’t work yourself up, you’ll be able to focus more. If you stay positive, you’ll feel better. And being happy is always just a good strategy for everything in life. And remember, if you don’t do well this test, there’s always another opportunity in two months.

I hope the tips in both parts help those taking the ACT. Basically, practice before hand with ACT prep books and classes, bring all you will need including admittance ticket, id, calculator, and #2 pencils, and learn the tips and tricks to use while taking the test. And know that the ACT is not the end-all of your academic career. Keep calm and do your best.

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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