Thursday, April 7, 2016


With only a couple of days left before the next ACT administration, what can be done to boost that score?

If a previous score is already... 
IN THE 30s...
   1) avoid silly mistakes.  Read questions carefully and highlight specific information to guide your decisions.
   2) watch your timing.  Don't let a single challenging question slow you down.  Skip it and come back for a second look if time permits at the end of the section.

...25 TO 29...
   1) review previous preparation homework.  You're probably falling for "typical" ACT red herrings.  Identify your personal, common errors and evaluate ways to avoid them.
   2) conquer impending fatigue.  Especially if you start out strong and peter out as the test moves on, try wiggling in your seat, stretch, take deep breaths, adjust your posture, have an appropriate snack during breaks, and stay hydrated with water or sports drinks - no soda pop or coffee, please.  When weariness threatens, use a couple of the available seconds to refresh and dig back in with renewed energy. 

...20 to 24...
   1) focus on accuracy.  You don't need to answer every question in order to climb to the high 20s; you just need a few more CORRECT answers.  There's no penalty for leaving an answer blank, so insure that any work you do is precise.  Default questions that resist solution and mark them for reconsideration if time permits later in the section.
   2) stay focused on answering questions.  Avoid cluttering your mind with unimportant information. Use your pencil to circle or underline vital data, but don't try to remember details from an article or statistics from a math or science problem.  Take each question one step at a time and move on to the next challenge.

   1) relax.  You're probably undermining your best effort with worry or lack of self confidence.  You can always take the test on a later date, so concentrate on doing what you can right now, at the moment, this time.
   2) keep moving.  Adopt a "point collection" attitude.  If a question is daunting, skip it, mark it ON THE TEST BOOKLET (not the answer sheet) and move on.  If there's time remaining after you've addressed the last question, return to the skipped ones and either reconsider an answer or default it.

     Experts will tell you to get a good night's sleep, eat a healthy breakfast, have your photo id and entrance ticket laid out the night before, be on time, have several pencils (and a WHITE eraser), and fresh batteries in your calculator.  Some of my friends recommend yoga or other relaxation exercises and 'envisioning success.'  
     Personally, I favor a 'get in the groove' approach.  Before the English section, I think about the routine grammar rules I expect to see, like its-it's, subject-verb agreement, punctuation between sentences.  In Math, I anticipate operations on fractions, mean-median-mode, properties of quadrilaterals and similar basics in the first half of the section.  For Reading, I'm prepared to identify relationships in the Fiction essay and will look for nouns to research in the Non-fiction articles.  When Science Reasoning is the upcoming section, I plan to focus on the axes in graphs and the headings in charts.
     Whatever your preferred strategy, keep in mind that this is just one test out of the hundreds you'll take in your lifetime.  This one is not the most important, nor is this your 'last chance.'  Prepare beforehand and CELEBRATE WHEN IT'S OVER.  Good Luck!

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