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ACT Tips

Teacher/Instructor Devorah Goldblatt
Devorah Goldblatt

Summa cum laude
Perfect scorer on the SAT & the ACT

Devorah is the founder of Advantage Point Test Prep and the author of the book “Boost Your Score” The Unofficial Guide to the Real ACT.

So before we drive in to ACT test taking strategies, guys I have a dating tip for you. If there's a girl you want to impress, here's what you need to do; cook for her, women love this really. But here's the thing, you want to cook for her? You want to look confident? You want to feel comfortable doing it? It's really tacky if you spend all this time reading a recipe and trying to figure out what it's talking about so you're going to want to know your recipe ahead of time, so you'll look pretty good just carrying it through. You also don't want to take a lot of time making the food, what if she's starving? Not very cool, so you want to know up front what you're going to do and you want to do it really quickly and efficiently so you look comfortable and confident.
Well ACT is exactly like that; you want to come in comfortable, confident, you want to know the directions ahead of time so you feel good about what you're about to do and you also want to know a lot about pacing so you can tackle all the questions you need in the short period of time that you have.
Let's get started, first very quickly know the directions ahead of time, memorize them you don't want to be reading them. We're going to go over all the directions for each of the sections as we get in that section so you're going to be really familiar with the directions before you get there on test day. You don't want to be that person spending a minute, even two minutes reading directions on testing when you could have known them before hand.
We talked about knowing the directions ahead of time, let's talk about pacing. On ACT there's not a lot of time and you get a lot of questions that you have to answer. You're going to want to set a target score to determine your pace, to determine how fast you're going to want to go through the sections, what do I mean by that? Well, you're going to use your practice test results to figure out what's the target score that you're aiming for and how many questions you have to get right to get that score and depending on how many you need to get right that will determine how fast or how slow you're going to go through out the test. Let me show you a great table, this is a new bonus material too if you want to take another look. Here we go; we see here that let's say you're aiming for a composite score of about a 26 okay in that case first of all not a bad score, ninetieth percentile score so better than 90 percent of the rest of the people taking the test. Okay and to get that 26 you need 75 percent of those answers correct, this is going to affect your pacing strategy you know you need three quarters of a test so there's a quarter of a test that you don't have to worry about as much so as you go through the test, you're going to want to work pretty rapidly, pick up as many points as possible but if it get to a question that seem really difficult or seem really really time consuming not a problem, just strategically guess on them and keep going. On the other hand, if you're someone aiming for let's say a 31 you know you need 90 percent of the questions correct so in that case you've got to adjust your pacing accordingly. First of all you need to review a lot more and make sure you've got all the concepts down to get them right and you've got to adjust your pacing so you know you're speeding up and giving yourself the right amount of time to tackle those questions and answer them correctly. Let's take a look at a section just to break this down a little bit more; Spotlight on English, let's see how this would work with an English section. So here, target scores on English; this is kind of interesting because we look at how many we need to get correct. Again for that 26 well ninetieth percentile score, 60 correct answers, what is this? So there are 75 total so 60 out of 75 correct so I only can get about 15 wrong and again this is going to affect first of all, will I budget my time when I'm studying? because again we talked about how we all know how many times a question tab will appear so you'll know where you need to target your work and also as you move through the section, you'll know how much time you need to spend on each particular question so that you now the right amount of questions to get your target score.
Now we'll talk about how we're going to save time on test day and let me just tell you we're going to have some great pacing strategies on the particular section so really really good ones just for math, just for reading, here's just some general stuff to know about the ACT as a whole. So do the easy ones first, on the ACT unlike the SAT your questions aren't in any order of difficulty, so you're going to have some easy questions at the end of the section just like you're going to have them at the beginning, at the middle, just throughout. You want to make sure you get through each section so you can get the easy ones so what you're going to want to do is make a couple of sweeps and make sure you're going to rush through the easy ones and don't get stuck on any difficult or time consuming questions and then if you have time, go back and try the ones that were difficult the first time around. I was one of those people who had a lot of majors in college, one of them was psyche and I learned a lot about the human brain, there's a completely different part of your brain that bubbles and that solves problems. You want to get into the groove, you want to get into a problem solving groove so you're going to be solving problems, solving problems, completely different part of your brain to shift over and fill in that bubble so it doesn't really work to solve a problem, shift over, solve a problem, shift over, terrible idea and I know most students do this. Much better idea is to go through and let's say do all the answer choices on a page you know so find those answers, circle them in your text booklet and then when you're done with the actual page, transfer those onto your Scranton. The cool thing about the ACT like we talked about, it goes through a, b, c, d to the next answer choices for the next one will be something like f, g, h, j then a, b, c, d then f, g, h, j etcetera back and forth so it's really hard to miss grid so this strategy will work great. You get to first circle in a text booklet and then transfer onto your Scranton.
On to strategic guessing, a new thing about the ACT unlike the SAT no penalty for guessing, no penalty for wrong answers meaning if you don't know how to do a question, if you're not sure you should just guess because there's not going to be a penalty for getting it wrong so on the ACT you want to make sure you fill in every bubble you want to guess on every question that you don't know how to do but you don't want to just guess blindly, you want to guess strategically, you want to see if you can cross off one or more of the answer choices so statistically your chances of getting the correct answer will be increased. Cool thing on the ACT always one ridiculous answer, so usually you'll be looking through the answer choices and you'll be looking to guess and at least one of them sometimes two will be totally out there so make sure you can cross those off. And this is really new, you can get a 26 which we're talking about as a really good score, a ninetieth percentile score with only half of the answer choices correct and statistically half of them with educated guessing meaning if you're aiming for a 26 and you only got half of the answer choices correct by doing it throughout and then you guessed on the other half but you guessed strategically so you are able to cross off a couple of the answer choices before you guessed, you could get a 26. Let's take a look at an example of when we may use strategic guessing. Here we've got an English question and when we get to English we'll talk a little bit more about this type but you've got something underlined and you've got to say what sounds better. Okay let's say we're running out of time, only we're stuck, even without reading this let's see if we could eliminate some answer choices that are just totally out there. Okay we want a better phrase in this blank, would you ever say something like 'requests of plant?' And you know if you wanted to plug it in a little bit would you say 'requests of plant a virtual green patch?' No totally out there so we know that B just doesn't work. What about C, Requests for planting.' Not as terrible but D, 'Requests to planting,' who would say something like that? and this is very common on the ACT so here we go. We've actually got two answer choices that we can just cross of and statistically our chances of getting it correct increase.
Bottom line; first of all know your directions you don't waste time reading them. Second pace yourself and [IB] the bonus materials for pacing charts, you know how many you need to get correct. Last guess strategically and remember there's no guessing penalty on the ACT.