Five tips on taking ACT test

Home > ACT Test > ACT Skills > ACT Test Prep Skills

Do the easy stuff first. You will have to get familiar with the format of each section of the ACT so that you can recognize passages and questions that are likely to give you trouble. We suggest that you bypass "pockets of resistance," and go around those trouble spots rather than through them. It is a much better use of your time and energy to pick up all of the correct answers that you can early on, and then go back and work on the tougher questions that you actually have a legitimate shot at answering correctly. Remember that you don't have to get all of the questions right in order to get a great score on the ACT. So, you should learn to recognize the ones that are likely to give you trouble and be sure not to get goaded into a fight with them.

Although all of the questions on an ACT test are weighted exactly equally to one another, some of the questions are harder than others. You don't have to get all of the questions right to get a great ACT score. Do not get sucked into a battle with a hard question while there are still other, probably less difficult questions waiting for you. We often tell students that they should picture their ACT test booklets sitting in a stack in a locked closet somewhere. Your book is there, waiting patiently for you. Within it are some questions that you are probably going to get wrong on test day. So, when you see them, don't be surprised. Just recognize them and work on the easier material first. If time permits, you can always come back and work on the challenging problems in the final minutes before the proctor calls, "Time!"

This strategy is both a time management and a stress reduction strategy. The idea is to make three or four passes through the test section, always being sure to work on the easiest of whatever material remains.

Manage the answer grid. You should be certain to avoid the common mistake of marking the answer to each question on your answer document as you finish the question. In other words, you shouldnotgo to your "bubble sheet" after each question. This is dangerous and wastes time. It is dangerous because you run an increased risk of marking your answer grid incorrectly and perhaps not catching your error until much later. It wastes time because you have to find your place on the answer sheet and then find your place back in the test booklet. The amount of time that is spent marking each question is not great, but it adds up over the course of an entire test section and could cost you the opportunity to get a few more questions done correctly.

Instead, you should mark your answers in the test booklet and transfer your answers from the test booklet to the answer sheet in groups. Doing this after each passage on English, Reading, and Science Reasoning is an obvious idea and has the added benefit of helping you to clear your head between passages. This will make it easier to concentrate on the passage at hand rather than possibly still processing memories of the previous passage. On the Mathematics Test, you should fill in some "bubbles" on your answer sheet every two pages or so. On any of the sections, filling in bubbles can be a good activity to keep you busy when you simply need a break to clear your head.

There is a dangerous and dishonest strategy that we have heard of from some students. Apparently, some so-called ACT prep experts are telling students to put little pencil dots in the answer ovals on the answer sheet and then come back to fill them in completely later. Specifically, some students are taught to do this on the sections that they have trouble finishing on time. Then they are told to come back to the section later and fill in the ovals while they are supposed to be working on another section. The idea is dangerous because of the directions for the ACT, which clearly state that a test taker is not to work on any other section than the one being timed by the proctor. This rule means that you maynotgo back to fill in the ovals that you marked with a dot. If you are tempted to cheat in this manner, remember that ACT will not hesitate to report confirmed instances of cheating to colleges and universities.

Use the test booklet. An ACT test booklet is meant to be used by one test taker only. Except for the writing test, if you take it, you will not have any scratch paper on test day. You are expected to do all note taking and figuring on the booklet, itself. Generally, no one ever bothers to look at the test booklet, since you cannot receive credit for anything that is written there. Your score comes only from the answers that you mark on the answer sheet.

Be aware of time. You really don't want it to be a surprise when the proctor yells "Time!" on test day. Therefore, you are going to want to time yourself on test day. You should time yourself during at least some of your practice exams so that you get used to the process and your timepiece. We suggest that you use an analog (dial face) watch. They generally are not set up to give off any annoying beeps that could get you in trouble with your fellow test takers and your proctor on test day. If you want to avoid the subtracting that comes along with checking the board at the front of the testing room for the time that the proctor wrote down as start and stop times (who wants to do moremath on ACT day?), you can turn the hands on your watch back from noon (12 o'clock) to allow enough time for the section that you are working on. For instance, if you are working on an ACT Mathematics section, which is 60 minutes long, you can turn your watch back to 11:00 and set it on the desk in front of you. You will be finished when your watch points to 12:00. Similarly, if you are working on a Science Reasoning section or a Reading section, which is 35 minutes long, set your watch to 11:25 and, again, you will be done at noon. This method has the added benefit of helping you to forget about the outside world while you are testing.

All that matters during the test is your test. All of life's other issues will have to be dealt with after your test is finished. You might find this mind-set easier to attain if you lose track of what time it is in the "outside world."

Don't second guess yourself. You need to find out whether you are an answer changer or not. In other words, if you change an answer, are you more likely to change itto the correct answer or from the correct answer? You can only learn this fact about yourself by doing practice exams and paying attention to your tendencies.

More Information