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My Personal Advice to ACT Takers

888dean888dean Registered User Posts: 9 New Member
edited November 2018 in ACT Preparation

I thought I would share a little about my ACT experience and advice while procrastinating on my college essays.

So I took the ACT three times: Feb, Jun, and Jul.

My Feb. score got canceled (bogus proctor), which if you want to know more about, message me.

But I retook my ACT in June and got a 36 (breakdown: 36, 36, 36, 34), and 8 on the essay.

So before my June score came out, I was freaking out because I thought it was terribly hard and definitely did bad on it, so I immediately signed up for my July ACT. After my June score came out, I still decided to take the July one because I didn't like my essay score. My July one was a 36, also (breakdown: 36, 36, 36, 36, 36) and I got an 11 on the essay.

So I hope my advice will be helpful since I def had some tricks and tips to score high...


So one of the main reasons, I think, that my essay improved so much was because of my essay length. I did almost no ACT practice between my June and July tests, and to practice for essays, I just read a few sample ones. However, my June essay was two and a half pages, while my July essay, I filled up the entire four pages they give you.

Remember that each grader spends maybe 2-3 minutes on each essay while grading, so first impressions play a big role. At first glance, if your essay seems long, graders will most likely think that you know what you're talking about and give you a higher score.

With that said, length isn't everything: content and style easily trump length in importance. With that, I just recommend you plan ahead before writing and really think through what you want to say, because time passes super fast and its better if you have an idea before setting your pencil on paper and going for it.


For math, it's just practice. I have no other advice. The ACT has a certain style of questions they constantly use and reuse, and if you do enough problems, you'll be familiar with the question formats.

For reading and science, I recommend that you also do plenty of practice sets. I did enough science that I could go directly to the problems without looking at the article and be able to figure out answers just by glancing at graphs. Both reading and science are all about speed (and pacing) so it's critical you set a pace for yourself and you're familiar with how many minutes you can use for each article. I recommend reading through each article for the reading portion and don't just skim, try to retain as much info as you can the first time around so you don't have to go back to the piece (except for line references, of course).

For Language Arts: Again, practice, practice, practice. LA isn't about content at all. Sure, in the end, you're always asked a few content-based questions in the end, but those are always incredibly easy. During this section, your eyes should always to drawn directly to where the number is and what is underlined. Focus only on the question, and don't try to read through the entire article (or skim quickly). Similar to math, LA always has certain formats of questions, so familiarize yourself with them so you know how to answer each type.

Hope this was helpful! Good luck to my juniors and sophomores out there!

Feel free to ask me any questions; I'll be happy to answer any.

Lots of love~

Replies to: My Personal Advice to ACT Takers

  • abthestarboyabthestarboy Registered User Posts: 18 Junior Member
    I got a 19 on reading and 24 on science. How do you suggest I bring that to a 32+
  • ilovebillyjoelilovebillyjoel Registered User Posts: 134 Junior Member
    My D improved her superscore by 4 points. She participated in a great online prep program which gave her daily tasks and gave her mini-tests every few weeks. With the ACT, you have to get proficient in pacing yourself, especially with the Math section. You also need to figure out all the test's strategies (as that is mostly what these tests are).
    I "practiced" along with her sometimes, and learned a lot of tricks and strategies from YouTube videos.
    Also make sure that the practice tests you do are official ones.
    And pay attention to the timing! D's tutor told her to do the math in the time allotted and mark where you finished, and then finish the rest and be sure to know how long that took.
    Good luck!
  • WishfulThinking2WishfulThinking2 Registered User Posts: 1 New Member
    Thank you! I will have to use these tips!!!
  • dowpigdowpig Registered User Posts: 1 New Member
    Hi - which online prep program did you use? There are a lot out there and it's hard to tell which ones are worth the money
  • 888dean888dean Registered User Posts: 9 New Member
    abthestarboy: I think time management is a really important part of reading and science. I started off with pretty low scores in those sections too (probs lowers than yours) and improved them by quickening my pace. Take one set of reading/science problems and time yourself by an article. So each reading section has 4 articles and 35 minutes; give yourself 12 minutes per article to read, digest, and answer questions. When you can do that with a high score, move to 11 minutes per article, than 10, and so forth.

    If it's not a timing issue and more of an accuracy issue, I suggest buying practice books and thoroughly reading and digesting the explanations for each reading/science section. Learn to think the way ACT test writers think. Focus on one article at a time, until you understand each answer. Then move on, and you'll slowing see improvement.

    Best of luck!
  • 888dean888dean Registered User Posts: 9 New Member
    dowpig: I self studied, haha. I relied on released online tests and the Princeton Review books the most. Didn't like Barron's because of how different their questions were to the actual test.

    Besides that, I also got friends together and planned group tests, so I was more motivated to sit down, time myself accurately, and complete a full 4-5 hours of testing in one sitting.

    Best of luck!
  • ppxyz123ppxyz123 Registered User Posts: 49 Junior Member
    @888dean please share online links where you took the practise tests and what books you used for practise test or online courses?
  • KnowsstuffKnowsstuff Registered User Posts: 1,751 Senior Member
    @888dean. How many tests did you actually do full length. There are studies out showing the more full length tests done the better the score, especially if going over the ones you got wrong.

    Excellent suggestion on pace. That was my son's issue. Once he figured that out with practice tests his scores rose dramatically.
  • 888dean888dean Registered User Posts: 9 New Member
    @ppxyz123 @Knowsstuff

    I relied mostly on the *official* ACT prep guide, as well as ACT Premium Edition from the Princeton Review. I did all the practice tests on those books and carefully digested the explanations. There are also lots of released official ACT tests online i.e. prep scholar. TBH any practice you can find would be helpful.

    I completed about 15 practice tests, give or take. It sounds like a lot, but if you commit to around one full test per week, which is what I did, it takes 3-4 months (so a little more than a summer, if you keep a schedule) to get through everything.

    I started averaging maybe a 28 on the entire test. I scored consistently well on math, ok on english, and pretty low on science and reading (I was so slow). With the summer of practice, I pulled my score up so that the last 2/3 tests were 36's in every single section.

    There's lots of hope!

  • KnowsstuffKnowsstuff Registered User Posts: 1,751 Senior Member
    See that is the key. People that do like ten tests tend to score high since you figured out the way the questions are asked. Good for you!!! Wish everyone would follow your advice
  • DGDG Registered User Posts: 25 Junior Member
    thanks for your feedback....are the Princeton Review questions similar to the actual ACT test, I finished the official prep guide with the handful of tests they have...I have the Princeton book so I'll try that too...first try in Feb!
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