Fourteen days to the PSAE for Illinois high school juniors and time for a little "intensive study." If you haven't already, get a few copies of old ACT tests. The library or college department at your high school should have copies of the ACT preparation materials which include one sample. There are numerous prep manuals at bookstores. ACT publishes one and I also recommend the Barron's version because of it's similarity to real ACT questions and the clarity of answer explanations. Some online sources have samples too. Check out previous blogs for links.
YOUR 14 DAY PLAN...
1. Take a sample test, possibly over 4 days (one day for each section if you're under a time constraint) and keep track of how much time it takes to finish each section. Scoring your work will give you an indication of how much you need to study and timing will alert you to any need for pacing practice.
2 (One day) Choose the section in which you scored the lowest. Identify the concepts tested in each question you missed. Read the instructional material on that concept in the Barron's text or other answer key. Complete any sample questions available.
3. (The next day) Take another test on your #1 section. Score. Recognize improvement. Look over the rationale for the correct answer for any question you missed.
4. Repeat the process on the next lowest scoring section -- 2 days of review -- one day to study and the next day to retest and review. Repeat Step 4 until all sections have been studied.
If you used 4 days to take the original test, you've spent 12 days studying. Two more to go.
5. Take another full test. If pacing has been problematic, follow these guidelines:
ENGLISH (75 questions in 45 minutes): There are 5 articles, each with 15 questions. Try to finish all questions in an article in 9 minutes. Answer each question as you come to it. Don't skip any. Put answers directly on the scantron.
MATH (60 problems in 60 minutes): This may appear to give you 1 minute for each question, but the easier ones come at the beginning and the more difficult ones after #45. Try to spend just 30 seconds on most of the first 30 questions. From 31 to 45, plan on one minute each. From 46 through 60, you'll have about 2 minutes for each. If a problem requires too much time, skip it if you aren't looking for a perfect score. Either mark the scantron lightly so you know to return to the question, or default the question right away but lightly so you can change the answer if you have time to come back and work on it again.
READING (40 questions in 35 minutes): Each Reading passage has 10 questions. Plan to spend 8 minutes on each passage, leaving 3 minutes extra for the "extra hard" questions. Try answering direct questions first and inferential ones once you have an idea what the article is about. Mark answers directly on the test booklet until all 10 are complete and then transfer your selections to the scantron before moving to the next article.
SCIENCE REASONING (40 questions in 35 minutes): For pacing, plan to spend one less minute than the number of questions in the data set. This timing gives you 2 additional minutes; that's not much, so use it wisely. Answer questions in the order they are asked within the data set and mark your alternative choices directly on the scantron. BUT if you're not reaching for a 35 or 36 (nearly perfect or perfect score), hold an extremely difficult data set for last. Default the answers if you think you'll run out of time, but do so lightly enough so that you can erase if you get back to it and work out answers.
READY? SET? STUDY!