1. English – Slow Your Roll! Historically, one of the most difficult aspects of the ACT is that it is extremely fast-paced; most students have serious difficulty finishing the sections in the time allotted. However, of all the subjects on the test, the English Test is the least restrictive with regards to time. So, don’t feel the need to rush through the section! Use the nine minutes allotted per passage to insert each answer choice you think could be correct into the sentence. Read the sentences before or after the current question to ensure that pronouns, verb tenses, and transition words are used correctly. Remember, you are better off using all of the nine minutes allotted per passage to be thorough than to rush through the section, finish with 10 minutes left, and then go back to check some answer choices in your spare time.
2. Math – How to Get Past Your “Oh Crap!” Moment. For 99.99% of ACT test takers, there will be at least one question on the ACT math test that completely stumps them. For most students, that number of questions is closer to five or ten. When you get to a question that throws you for a loop initially, don’t panic! Try to use your mathematical knowledge to take the information given to solve a small part of the question. Even if you don’t get all the way to the answer, you can use that new information to eliminate wrong answers. You can also use some of our ACT math strategies (plugging in values, estimating, guess and check) to eliminate answer choices. Let’s say you did not know the answer to 10 questions. If you blindly guessed on those 10 questions, probability says that you would guess correctly on two questions. However, if you were able to use your mathematical knowledge and strategies to get down to two answer choices for each problem, probability says that you would guess five questions correctly. That three-question difference can make a huge difference on your score!
3. Reading – The Backup Plan Reading four passages and answering forty questions in only thirty-five minutes is an extremely difficult task. As a result, students can sometimes arrive at the final passage (natural science) with only a few minutes to go in the section. If this happens to you, remain calm. There is still a way to salvage some points in the final passage. First, skim through the passage very quickly (1-2 minutes depending on how much time is left) and circle every name, date, number, proper noun, and term in quotation mark. In addition, try to use the introduction and topic sentences to get some semblance of the main idea. When you get to the questions, do not do them in order. Instead, look for questions that have specific line references first, as that will help you locate the necessary information the quickest. Next, answer any questions that reference a proper noun, number, or quoted term by scanning through the circled terms in the passage to find the term mentioned and answer the question. Save the questions that refer to the passage as a whole for last, as you will accrue more knowledge about the passage as you reference back to it to answer the previous questions!
4. Science – The Two-Handed Approach. The ACT Science Test evaluates students’ abilities to locate and interpret data found in various tables, charts, and graphs. Students should start each passage not by reading the introductions, but by going straight to the data to identify key terms and quickly find trends in the numbers. When reading the questions, use the index finger of your non-writing hand to move zero in on the data mentioned in the question. For example, take the following question: Suppose we were to test solubility at 200°C. According to Figure 1, How many grams of cesium bicarbonate would we expect to dissolve? Here we can see that Figure 1 is mentioned, along with the keywords solubility, the temperature 200°C, and cesium bicarbonate. When you see that Figure 1 is mentioned, put your finger on Figure 1, then move it to the data for cesium bicarbonate, and find where it intersects with 200°C. This approach will save you time by leading you to the correct answer before (or at least shortly after) you finish reading the question! Now go practice these techniques with your ESM mentor! You should never use a strategy on an official test without practicing if first. Good luck, and stay confident!