Guest Blog Post by Cassie Kosareck--Private Tutor and Writer for Varsity Tutors
Remember when you were in the third grade and wanted nothing more than to be a better soccer player or dancer? And remember how you didn’t master kicking that ball back and forth or rhythmically tapping those tap shoes until you had kicked and tapped a thousand times? Preparing for the ACT follows the same principles of “getting better” as you learned in your childhood days. With continued practice over time, familiarity with your material, and instruction where you need it, you can absolutely become an infinitely better test-taker. Here are three keys to helping you perform better on the ACT:
1. Start practicing at least one month in advance – two months is even better.
If you want to make sure your ACT score reflects your highest potential, it would not be advisable to just walk in and take the test on a Saturday morning with no previous weeks of preparation. Practice is critical because it familiarizes you with the types and formats of questions given on the test, as well as the strict time constraints under which you’ll be expected to answer those questions. Give yourself at least one month to review the material and practice answering sample test questions. Remember that the more time you allot for practicing, the better chance you are giving yourself to succeed.
2. Know what’s on the test: the format, the material, and how much time you’ll have to complete it.
The ACT assesses what you’ve learned in high school, so reviewing those triangle theorems from your sophomore geometry class and the list of literary terms from freshman English is a must. Don’t find yourself staring blankly at a problem that you could have easily solved had you only remembered to brush up on the concepts you learned in school. In addition to reviewing relevant material from your high school classes, you should also review how the test itself is given. Make sure you know exactly how much time you’ll have for each section of the exam. Figure out how much time you’ll need to allow yourself for planning and outlining your essay before actually writing it. Be aware of how many answer choices are given for each question and the structures that the questions will take. For instance, you should know well before test day that the Reading section of the ACT is 40 questions long, all multiple-choice with four options each, must be done in 35 minutes, and features four distinct types of passages – Prose Fiction, Social Studies/Sciences, Humanities, and Natural Sciences. Get this information down pat for the remaining sections as well and you’ll have a great leg up on preparation.
3. Get help for your weak areas.
Early on in your ACT prep, you should be able to clearly identify the areas in which you could use extra support. For example, you may know all of the relevant geometrical rules for the test, but frequently find yourself unable to apply them to the test questions. In these circumstances, it could highly beneficial to consider tutoring, studying with friends, or consulting your teachers. In deciding who to approach for this help, take into account how well they know the subject area in which you are struggling, how well they understand the ACT questions, and whether or not they are willing to meet with you regularly until the test date. Finding a tutor, teacher, or friend who can troubleshoot questions and help you understand your mistakes will prevent you from making those mistakes again by finding alternate ways for you to solve these difficult problems.
Start applying these guidelines to your ACT preparation early on and you will be well on your way to a remarkably high score. Good luck in your studies!
Cassie Kosarek is a private tutor and contributing writer for Varsity Tutors. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Bryn Mawr College and specializes in various areas of test prep such as SAT, ACT, and SSAT prep.