ACT & SAT Prep and College Admissions Blog

5 Simple Ways to Improve Your ACT Test Scores

Posted by Dane Dormio on Tue, Nov 05, 2013 @ 02:32 PM

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Though there are many factors that play into the college admissions process, your score on the ACT carries a lot of weight.  It can influence not only what colleges you get accepted to, but also the availability and amount of scholarship funds, and is therefore not to be underestimated.  If you weren’t the best student in high school, and thus don’t have the best grades, doing well on the ACT represents an opportunity to partially make up for less than stellar academic performance in high school.  So, it can really be viewed as an exciting opportunity, instead of a stressful requirement.

With that in mind, here are 5 strategies you can apply to get the best score possible.

Strategies 1 and 2: Before the Test

Study Comprehensively 

Though it can seem overwhelming at times, the ACT represents a fixed target, which anyone can hit with sufficient preparation.  It is not an IQ test.  It tests knowledge and skills developed in high school and which are needed for college, and which, most importantly, can be learned.

Well before you plan to take the test, buy one of the many comprehensive ACT study guides on the market, like the Real ACT Prep Guide, and read all of it, doing the practice problems along the way.  This may seem like a lot of work, but if you do the heavy lifting on the front end, taking the test will seem easy by comparison, and you will be able to max out your score.

Take Practice Tests

The best way to both predict and improve your performance on the ACT is by taking practice tests under the same conditions as the actual test.  Give yourself a time limit, and don't allow any references or distractions.  Research suggests that, like the old adage, practice is what gets people closes to perfect.  It turns out that even purported geniuses in their particular field, like Mozart or Michael Jordan, actually practiced much, much more than those around them at their craft. 

The more times you do this the better, but four is a decent minimum.  Space the tests equally, say one per week for four weeks, and give yourself time to review the problems that you missed or that you didn't understand.  If you study your mistakes carefully, you will be able to improve your performance each time, and once you can consistently get a perfect or near-perfect score on practice exams, you will be able to take the real test without breaking a sweat.

Strategies 2-5: During the Test

Use The Process Of Elimination

When you are taking the test, there is no reason not to answer every question, even if you have to guess (which, if you have prepared thoroughly as recommended above, should only happen rarely if at all).  But before you do, you should identify and eliminate the answers that are obviously wrong.  This may help you identify the correct answer if you are stumped, and will at least improve your odds if you have to guess.

Review Reading Comprehension Answer Choices First

On the Reading Comprehension section you will be required to read a number of passages and then answer questions about them.  Since the passages are fairly long, it is helpful to quickly read the questions first, so that you will be primed to spot the answers as you are reading. This will save you the time of having to reread or refer back to the passage in order to answer.

Keep Your Stress Down

Do whatever you need to both take care of yourself and ensure that you are well prepared. Stress inhibits performance, so you want to avoid it as much as possible.  The better prepared you are the less stressed you will be, but here are some other strategies to put into practice

  • Get plenty of sleep the night before so that you can show up for the test ahead of time and well-rested.
  • Envision a positive outcome.
  • Remember the first rule of tight-rope walking: don't look down.  Remember that if you don't get the score you want, you can practice more and re-take the test, so you have nothing to be afraid of.

And of course you can always hire an ACT tutor to help with the preparation process.  A tutor can help not only improve your score, but help you learn faster and more easily than you could on your own, which helps keep stress down.  If you are interested in hiring one of MyGuru's many quality tutors, get in touch with us today.

Dane Dormio is an online tutor and academic coach who helps students get the most out of school and life.  You can find more articles and resources on his blog at www.synergy-tutoring.com.

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