ACT Tips and Tricks The ACT is a key factor in college admission and scholarships. For four-‐year institutions, no other factor weighs as heavily (not GPA, extracurricular activities, etc.) than the ACT in determining acceptance to a school as well as eligibility for scholarships. For community colleges, although the ACT is not required for admittance, it is a key factor in determining placement in entry-‐level English and math classes and scholarships. It is important to understand your strengths and weaknesses when taking any type of standardized test. Time allowed to take the test is one of the biggest issues for students, so it is important to know what your strengths and weaknesses are in order to help you prioritize your time when testing. Below, the test has been broken down by sections to help you understand the test and improve your scores. These simple tips could help you improve your scores in each of the four areas of the ACT.
English NEED TO KNOW: KEEP IT SIMPLE ACT likes a short and clear answer. Don’t choose the option that is wordy, it might make sense but the extra words are unnecessary, making the answer wrong. EXAMPLE: I grew up with buckets, shovels, and nets waiting by the back door; hip-‐waders hanging in the closet; tide table charts covering the refrigerator door; and a microscope was sitting on the kitchen table. 1.) Having studied, my mother is a marine biologist. A. NO CHANGE B. As my mother’s interest is science, she is C. My mother’s occupation is that of D. My mother is There is only one answer that make to sentence flow the best. The correct answer is D, My mother is a marine biologist. The other choices make the sentence hard to follow.
NEED TO KNOW: The rules for deciding between a period, semicolon, comma, and colons. • • • •
Period-‐ Both part of the sentences are complete with a subject and verb. Semicolon-‐ Used to connect two sentences where the second one further describes the first sentence EXAMPLE: I went to the store; I bought some shoes. Comma-‐ Used in multiple sentences 1. Connects Intro clauses to main clauses EXAMPLE: Under the table, I saw my dog. 2. Used to set off appositives EXAMPLE: Mr. James, the store owner, is my friend. -‐What goes in between the two commas have to be non essential information. If removed, the sentence will still make sense. Colon-‐ Used in two situations 1. At the beginning in a series of items connected by commas. EXAMPLE: The principal will address the students on the following subjects: dress code, tardiness, grades, and school activities. 2. Connect a declaration from an answer. EXAMPLE: The teacher gave 3 more makeup tests: raising the class average by 7 points.
NEED TO KNOW: When to use Who, Whom, and Which Who is used to replace a subject. EXAMPLE: My teacher, who is wonderful, won teacher of the year. Whom is used to replace the object of the verb. Usually comes after the verb except in a question. EXAMPLE: My teacher Mrs. Smith is whom I rely on. Notice where is, the verb, is placed in these two sentences. Is comes after Who but before Whom. • Which-‐ almost always requires a comma before the word. EXAMPLE: Mrs. Smith is a great teacher, which is why she is my favorite. NEED TO KNOW: Transition Words • •
There will be multiple questions regarding the best choice to transition into the next paragraph. The similar choices are repeated to help you narrow the best options. It is important to know when transition words are appropriate with the author’s tone. • Positive Words-‐ keeps the theme and further explains the previous statement.
EXAMPLE: Therefore, Moreover, Furthermore, As a result, Accordingly The sun shines every morning. Therefore, plants are able to grow. • Negative Words-‐ changes the theme and presents a new statement different from the previous one. EXAMPLE: On the other hand, However, In contrast. The sun shines every morning. However, it rains some days. NEED TO KNOW: Possession Words
• • •
Their-‐ more than one owner. *you can knock out easy questions that make you decide between their, there, and they’re. EXAMPLE: It is their bike. Lets take it over there. They’re going to come get it It’s-‐ it is; not showing ownership. EXAMPLE: Its= subjects possession. That is the bird’s nest. That is its nest. Who’s-‐ who is; not showing ownership Whose-‐ shows ownership. Whose sunglasses are those?
NEED TO KNOW: Subject Verb Agreement Look at what tense the passage is using to help you decide on a choice. If was is used in other parts of the passage choose the answer that mirrors that tense, which is was. Stay consistent. NEED TO KNOW: Testing Rules • •
Read the sentences around the questions. Don’t get caught up on one problem, there are 75 questions but the highest score is a 36. They don’t count much per question so don’t sweat it if you can’t figure out one.
Math NEED TO KNOW: Be familiar with formulas Here is a list of formulas: https://www.act.org/workkeys/assess/math/formulas.html to keep handy while practicing. Trying to memorize all of the formulas is impossible, but they are helpful when practicing for math. Practicing the formulas is the best way to help you remember them for the test. NEED TO KNOW: Find a strategy that helps •
Skip over the ones that will be time consuming so you can come back to them after you knock out the easy ones fast.
*Make a mark by the ones that you are skipping but go ahead put an answer down. You could be running out of time at the end and you don’t want to have any questions without answers.
If you know your weaknesses, go ahead and guess on the problems you won’t get. There are problems on the test that are difficult to get with the time constraints. Again practicing tests can help you identify them so you can make a quick guess and it can also buy you extra time.
NEED TO KNOW: Pay close attention to what the problem is asking •
Most of the questions you will miss are ones where you didn’t do what the question asked. Don’t assume or be misled, find the answer, then read the problem again to make sure you are doing what is asked.
NEED TO KNOW: Test Rules •
Practice! You will see the same type of problems over and over. It is to your benefit to practice so when you have that type of problem again you know exactly how to find the answer.
Reading Everyone is at a different reading level. The majority of students are unable to complete the reading section in the time allowed. NEED TO KNOW: If you read the passage but are not good at remembering the details, underline words and dates and jot down what each paragraph was about as you go. Answers will be easier to search for. NEED TO KNOW: If you are always rushed at the end of the test, do not read the passages you have not gotten to. Seek out the questions that have line specifics in them.
EXAMPLE: 1. As it is used in line 30, the phrase something innate most nearly means:
The question tells you exactly where to look and can be answered without taking the time to read the entire passage.
NEED TO KNOW: Some students are able to answer the question and not read the entire passage. They have to hunt for the answers. It is NOT suggested to try this out for the first time while testing, but if you practice this strategy and repeatedly have a better score than you do when you read the passage, then go for it.
NEED TO KNOW: Test Rules •
Make a mental note to spend about 10 minutes on each of the first 3 passages. This will leave you 5 minutes to search for line specific questions on the last passage. Wear a watch to keep track of how much time you are spending on each passage. Don’t get caught up on a question. Mark the best choice and move on.
Science NEED TO KNOW: Passages that have graphs •
Ignore the explanations and focus on the graphs. The explanations are wordy and confusing and they will only eat up your time. Only pay attention to the graphs.
NEED TO KNOW: The passages that are explaining what a scientist found and there are no graphs • •
Mark answers and move to the next passage. These are time consuming; if you have time left over come back to it. Read one explanation and answer the questions regarding that explanation. Read Scientist 1’s explanation, then answer the questions that are just asking about Scientist 1.
NEED TO KNOW: Test Rules
• Don’t get caught up on a problem, make your best answer and move on. • This is the last test and it can be hard to focus but it is only 35 minutes!