This post: ACT Tips & Tricks: Help Your Teen Act the ACT
Written by: Connor Greene / Study.com
Your teen is probably wondering if there is a magic set of tips and tricks to land a perfect score of 36 on the ACT test… the answer is, unfortunately, no. However, there are plenty of tips they can take advantage of to improve their overall success.
As the capstone College Career Readiness System, the ACT test (along with the SAT test) is one of the most popular college readiness evaluations designed to assess students’ college readiness. While some students may cringe at the idea of taking yet another standardized test, the fact that the ACT is standardized means students can use the standard format to their advantage to help them prepare and perform well on the test.
To avoid stress and anxiety and help your teen prepare for the ACT, we rounded up a few helpful tips and tricks to make sure they land the best possible score.
What You Need to Know About the ACT
When taking the ACT test it should be comforting to know that the academically rigorous courses your teen took throughout high school will likely provide them with a solid foundation to help them score well on the ACT. But it’s also important to know that practice makes perfect. The more they understand the structure of the test and how to prepare along with key study techniques, the more likely they’ll be to perform well when exam day rolls around.
The ACT tests reasoning, problem-solving and critical reading skills which are broken down into five sections:
|English||75 multiple-choice questions||60 minutes|
|Math||60 multiple-choice questions||60 minutes|
|Reading||40 multiple-choice questions||35 minutes|
|Science||40 multiple-choice questions||35 minutes|
|Writing||Persuasive essay||40 minutes|
The writing section is optional, but it’s best to check the admission requirements at your teen’s top college choices to determine if it’s required.
Some students choose to take the ACT a few times so they can pick their best score or combine their best subtest scores into a “superscore” (which is allowed by some universities’ admission rules). It’s also important to make sure that they take their last ACT exam two months before their college application and scholarship deadlines.
What Do the ACT Scores Mean?
There are so many different scores for the ACT that it can get a bit confusing – what is the scale score, composite score, STEM score, and ELA score?
The scale score for each multiple-choice test is between 1–36, and the average of these is called the composite score. To make things a little more confusing, the writing score is between 1–6. The STEM score combines the math and science scores and the ELA score combines English, reading, and writing.
ACT Study Tips
How can you help your teen make the most out of their prep? They will need to know facts and formulas, of course, but how are they supposed to memorize all of it? We have a few helpful tips to help you support them.
First things first, find out how they learn best. Are they a visual learner? Do they learn best through listening or reading? Do they like summarizing information? Now that you know, it’s time to encourage them to take out their notes and mark up their study materials –highlighters to the rescue!
Practice tests will be your kid’s friend in the ACT study process – they help make study time more efficient by giving studiers an idea of strengths and weaknesses, a feel for the style of the questions, and help with answering pace. Make sure the first timed test they take isn’t the real exam! Check out some great ACT practice tests.
Now that your child knows what they don’t know (i.e. their areas of weakness) they can focus specifically on those areas and make the most out of their time spent studying. Using mnemonic devices can help them memorize facts, definitions, and formulas. Here are a few to try:
- Loci, the Latic word for “places,” can help them remember things by associating facts or concepts with specific locations.
- Keywords can help them remember unfamiliar vocabulary words in any subject by connecting the sounds in a word to visual reminders.
- Chunking, or combining multiple pieces of information into larger units helps to improve their ability to recall them.
Amongst all this studying, it’s important to check in on your teen’s wellbeing. Even students who don’t normally experience test anxiety may feel stressed out about college admissions exams like the ACT – here are some tips to help:
- Encourage a relaxed mindset. Remind them that an ACT score is just one part of their college application.
- Help them make a study plan. Make sure to account for proper breaks and downtime.
- Promote a good sleep routine. Rested teens are better learners and test-takers.
- Take advantage of breathing exercises. Rapid, shallow breaths can heighten anxious feelings.
- Practice getting to the test center. Make sure your teen knows how long it will take to get to the testing center on test day so they can arrive feeling calm.
Subject-Specific Tips for the ACT
The ACT English section involves identifying and resolving problems with organization, strategy, and style in given passages. Reading the question carefully, being concise, thinking about context, and how the sentences sound in their head will help your teen with rhetorical skills questions. This section also features a lot of questions about punctuation, grammar, and word usage – help them learn how to look out for common grammar issues.
To ace the ACT reading section, students should be familiar with analyzing passages and questions. It’s important to analyze what the question is asking before reading an entire passage so they know what they’re looking for. This strategy can be a real time-saver when practiced consistently.
Scientific reasoning is the focus of the ACT science section – not scientific facts. Getting familiar with graphs, charts and scientific passages, and how to read them, is going to really help your teen. Again, always read the question first.
If your teen is taking the ACT writing section, they should practice writing persuasive essays. An efficient way to write an essay is to:
- Plan the response before writing
- Organize the outline to include an introduction, include evidence for each argument and add a conclusion
- Assume the reader is uninformed on the subject, and explain everything
- Proofread to check for errors before wrapping up
The ACT math section can be a little intimidating – it contains topics taught from 7th to 11th grade. One of the most important things to do for this section is to learn all the formulas and practice, practice, practice.
For even more tips for you and your teen in the throes of ACT preparation, including all the math formulas they need along with explanations, check out this free ACT tips and tricks guide with a free downloadable pdf for your teen to take with them wherever they most like to study.
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