Standardized tests, such as the ACT, are one of the greatest predictors of college success for prospective freshmen. Although many colleges are no longer requiring these exams for admission, students should still strive to achieve the highest score as possible to obtain scholarships and to stand out from other decorated applicants at highly competitive universities. To improve your cumulative ACT score, here are three steps you can implement now (that are also free)!
1. Understand the Format
Going completely blind into the ACT is not recommended, because each section requires a specific strategy for time management. For example, the English section is 75 questions, but students only have 45 minutes to complete---the equivalent of a mere 36 seconds per question! Often, students who have not practiced the ACT ahead of time will spend 1-2 minutes per question, usually realizing after the 10-minute mark that they are falling dangerously behind pace. Failing to complete a section (or more) is an instant score-killer. By learning ahead of time the format for each section, students exponentially increase their ACT time management skills and heighten their chances of successfully completing each unique section of the exam---which are essential components of a high cumulative ACT score.
2. Read, Read, Read!
Not only does the ACT have a specific Reading section, but each section requires strong reading comprehension to properly understand and answer the questions. Even the Math section has word problems! Since strong reading comprehension is essential for mastery of the ACT, students must exercise their reading skills daily to get in shape for the exam. Reading for at least 20 minutes per day is the best way to not only sharpen students' reading comprehension and vocabulary for the Reading section, but also their sense of grammar, syntax, and style (which are indispensable keys for the English section). When selecting your reading material, be sure to push yourself and select something at the high school or college-levels, such as a classic novel. News articles are often written at a fourth-grade level, so those are not the best practice materials.
3. Utilize Free Online Resources
There are several online resources that students can use to improve their ACT scores. Our recommended resources are:
ACT.org: This is the official site for the ACT, and they offer free practice exams for each section. We recommend you use a timer when completing these exercises to monitor your time management. For every question you miss, ACT.org offers you a detailed explanation for the correct answer.
Princeton Review: They are a publisher of test prep books for a variety of standardized tests. They offer a few free practice tests, but the rest require payment.
Khan Academy: Although Khan Academy is not ACT-specific, they offer a plethora of resources for improving students' understanding of math, reading, English, and science. They do a great job of labeling the grade level of what you're working on. For example, for the math, many students have not practiced pre-algebra for a while before taking the ACT. Khan Academy offers an opportunity to refresh subject areas that students may have forgotten.
Although these are all great free resources, many students still benefit from having an adult guide them through the ACT. Our ACT Prep Course teaches students strategies for every section and is constantly testing their time management throughout the entire course. We also give feedback to each student to help them with their unique testing needs. Many students improve 4-6 points on their cumulative ACT scores with our help, which can be the difference between just getting into college or obtaining a scholarship.