The ACT Preparation Program
Preparation usually begins with a free diagnostic test taken in my office to insure that the ACT is the right test for each student and to establish a baseline score.
I meet with students weekly. The length of preparation and number of weekly sessions depend on each student’s learning needs and score goal.
Test Content and Preparation System
The “English” section of the ACT requires students to answer 75 questions in 45 minutes. The section tests a wide array of grammatical rules as well as rhetorical material such as style, transitions, relevant information, paragraph improvement, etc.
In order to consistently finish the section within the time limit with high accuracy, students must learn the material tested as well as effective test taking strategies and time saving tactics.
Students learn rules, strategies, and time saving tactics all at once. Each rule/strategy/tactic item is followed by an immediate drill practice in order to reinforce learning. Flashcards are then created for the item for further memorization.
The “Reading” section of the test requires students to answer 40 questions in 35 minutes, including reading time. The “Reading” section consists of 4 long reading passages (Literary Narratives, Social Studies, Humanities, Natural Science), each followed by 10 multiple choice questions.
To answer questions with speed and accuracy, students must learn to easily extract the main idea of a passage and the structure of its argument, while mapping the location of important details (except for fiction passages, which require their own techniques).
The most important skill students must develop is to balance reading time with question answering time. The balance is unique to each student and is developed through experimentation and practice. I work closely with each student as they learn the timing that yields the highest accuracy within the time limit. Timing is critical for the ACT since the test is extremely fast paced.
WRITING THE ESSAY
Students must write a persuasive essay in support of their point of view on an issue, chosen among three perspectives on that issue. The essay is optional but most colleges prefer to have it. I provide an easy to follow template that allows students to consistently write effective essays (after some practice).
Timed Full-Length Graded Practice Tests
When students have integrated enough material, they take free timed practice tests in my testing room in order to assess progress and develop the stamina needed to focus for up to 4 hours. When students’ scores are close to their score goal, they take the official ACT test. I recommend that students plan to take a second test: it takes stress off to know that there is another chance, and it corrects for a potential off day on the first test. Some students take up to three official tests.
To master the ACT requires:
- Learning the material tested
- Integrating effective strategies and time tactics
- Practicing the above
- Taking several timed full-length practice tests
The summer is a good time to focus on standardized test preparation, since the school year is usually filled with various obligations. For example, a rising junior (current 10th grader) can make a great progress on his/her preparation and take the test for the first time at the end of the summer or in the fall of junior year.
ACT Tests Dates and Registration
To find out about test dates and to register, open these pages:
Tests are given throughout the year with a long break between mid-June and early September.
The Broad Benefits of ACT Preparation
- Thorough test preparation increases reading and critical thinking skills, preparing students for the high volume and complex reading that is required in most college courses
- The extensive/intensive review of grammatical and rhetorical skills sharpens writing ability
- The essay practice develops logical reasoning and persuasive skills
To understand that test preparation leads to college preparedness motivates students to give their all to the process, often increasing their ability to attend “reach” schools.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What is the cut-off ACT score that allows to be considered for admission by the most competitive colleges in the country?
A: While no score (including a perfect 36) guarantees admission at any college, a score of 31 will get your application read and reviewed by even the most competitive schools, including Ivy League colleges.
Q: Is it true that the ACT does not test vocabulary?
A: It does not test vocabulary directly (neither does the new SAT), but the reading section does ask to define words in context. You do not need to know the exact definition of those words. You only need to find a synonym among the answer choices that does not change the meaning of the sentence. A strong vocabulary, however, is necessary to understand the reading passages well.
Q: How many times can I take the ACT?
A: The test can be taken as many times as you wish. However, I recommend that students do not take it more than three times. Some schools require that the scores of all tests taken be sent to them. To send several low test scores does not give a good impression. That is why it is much better to wait to take a first official test when well prepared.
Q: How do colleges compare SAT to ACT scores?
A: Colleges use a concordance table to compare scores. For example, an ACT score of 31 used to be equivalent to a SAT score of 2,100. The concordance table for the ACT and the new SAT has not been published yet. As soon as it is, this page will be updated.