Low act score

So I’m a junior in high school and I only got a 22 on the practice act. I was quite surprised by this because I’ve always thought of myself as above average level Intelligence. I wasn’t expecting a really high score but I was hoping I would at least get a 26. I’m in AP calc right now and I understand everything just fine. I was also in GT as a kid so I didn’t expect such a low score. I wanted to at least get into a state school because I’m aware that I’m not a genius but I just thought I was better than average. I also have a 3.9 gpa and I barely try in school. Everything comes really easy for me. Any thoughts on what this means?

Have you considered a tutor?

I agree with this, all of my kids had tutors who taught them how to take the tests, not just content. It helped tremendously (classes did not). They would go over practice tests every week, and learn why the answer they chose was wrong.

If you dont want or cant afford a tutor, at least change your approach to studying for the ACT.

I am a test prep tutor. I suggest you read the pinned post on the test prep forum called Common Sense tips for the ACT and SAT.

These test are not intelligence tests. They are supposed to gauge your level of academic achievement. In reality, they are pretty artificial and don’t truly reflect what you’ve learned. They are very unlike any tests you take in school.

I often find that some of my most intelligent students don’t do well on these tests for a number of reasons: they overthink, they don’t manage their time well, they get bored because the test material isn’t interesting, they don’t know some of the consistent traps on the tests, and so forth.

I personally do not think classes are worth the time or money. They are really basic and will not help you figure out exactly what your particular issues are with the test. Spend your time and money on a private tutor, or investigate some of the many YouTube videos and various blogs that have helpful advice.


Did you get the answers wrong or was it a time issue? what were you sub scores?

There are tips and approaches that can better help select the correct answer or help you speed up.

I got 22 on English, 22 on reading, 25 on math, and 21 on science. I’d say the biggest problem for English would be the fact that I barely know any of the grammar rules on there. For reading, time was a big issue and it was really hard for me to focus during it. For Math, I didn’t remember a lot of the questions with concepts from geometry because I took that a while ago and I didn’t look over questions close enough. For science time was a big issue and I was very stressed during it.

Yeah I just started a private tutor today and I’m doing it twice a week.

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Your sub scores are in alignment. This makes me think that, primarily, you are not managing your time correctly. You need to refresh your memory on the basics of punctuation and grammar used in English. In reading, you need to read the passage in as little time as possible. Remember that questions most often direct you to where you need to look in the passage. So don’t waste time reading slowly and carefully. Just get thought it and think of the overall main idea. Read the pinned post I mentioned.

is it your first practice ACT test? Don’t stress about it! My son BOMMED his first 3 or 4 practice tests, and then went on to get a perfect 36. We didn’t hire a tutor (he didn’t want one) but focused on learning from his mistakes, used all the resources on the internet and maybe opened the Barons ACT book I bought him.
My point is, even the ones who get a high score didn’t necessarily start there. Stay focused and don’t worry!
Good luck!

Ok thanks. I was just a little embarrassed about it because the lowest score somebody got in my math class was a 28. If I have three months how much do you think I’ll realistically be able to raise it?

I can’t really answer that because my experience is limited to one person, but i know in 3 months he raised his significantly. But I’ll tell you the same thing I told him, don’t focus on an actual number or score, focus on preparing the best you can so there is a better reflection of your potential and what you think you’re capable of.

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Some people are better suited to the SAT, some to the ACT. Do a practice SAT, too. See which one you do better on, then focus on preparing. You’ve got time! You can do this!

My son did okay on the PSAT, but not anywhere NEAR what he needed. At another parent’s recommendation, I had him do a practice ACT. He scored in the low 30’s right off the bat, without any prep, so we knew that this was the one to focus on. He didn’t need any prep for English - just the fact that he reads a fair bit, and that we speak standard, grammatically correct English in the house was enough. For the science, understand that it has nothing to do with science. It’s about interpreting information in graphs and charts - that gets better with practice. For the math, get the Best ACT Mathbooks Ever (1 and 2). Do the sections that relate to what you got wrong on the practice test. You can LEGALLY find many retired ACT test on the internet (google is your friend). You can also but a set of 5 from the ACT corporation in a book form - get the previous year’s for cheap, used, over the internet. These are the prep books recommended by a pro tutor:

English: Erica Meltzer’s Complete Guide to ACT English
Math: Brooke Hanson’s Best ACT Math Books Ever (1 and 2)
Reading: Erica Meltzer’s Complete Guide to ACT Reading
Science: Hugh Hung Vo’s Master Key to ACT Science
Practice Tests: Google (see above)

If you want to see his entire review of that Official ACT Prep Book, it has a LOT of useful information. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B086WQX2H1/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1#customerReviews

You have plenty of time to get ready for this. If the SAT is more for you, look at the recommendations on CC for how to best prepare for it. If the ACT is more for you, read that review and follow the instructions. My kid got a 36 the only time he took it, after having done about 40-60 hrs of self prep.

Both my kids said that time spent on standardized test prep yielded the most bang for the buck. You cannot go back and improve your grades from earlier on. But you can greatly improve your standardized test score, with a little work.


You can definitely raise your score. One test is one picture of one person one one day. I always say if you can schedule yourself for 2 test as close together as you can. Keep studying after the first and be warmed up and ready to go when you show up for the test.

Ok update guys. So I read through a packet of all the English act punctuation rules and then took another practice test today. I only did the English and Math section because it was online on the act website and it was a pain to do the reading and science on a screen. This time I got a 29 on English and 28 on math. I really don’t know why this is such a big change when all I did was look at a packet once. Did I just have a hard test before or something?

Studying and practice will increase your scores. Just make sure when you are doing practice tests that you are militant on not allowing yourself to go over time.

ACT questions are generally easier than SAT, but the pace is faster than SAT (ACT has less time per question)…so I concur with the posters who have suggested trying an SAT test to see if that one is more suited to you.

As your sub scores were all similar, I don’t necessarily think the whole test was hard. Perhaps you were more stressed than you realized. Perhaps you just need to practice more. You need to practice using official tests, IMO. I only use real tests with my students. They are a far better resource than PR test, etc…

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Yeah my tutor gave me a whole stack of tests from previous years. I took the April 2017 for math and English on the online website. It matches the paper copy she just gave me so it was a real one. Yeah I though it might have been bs since that high of a jump is a little suspicious.

Others report the same kind of a jump. A little bit of prep goes a long way in your situation. It’s harder to budge a 33 to a 36, than to goose a 22 to a 29 (assuming you are reasonably well-educated to begin with). There’s a thread on CC about how much prep did you do, how much did it raise your scores. Some people reported big jumps (from low 20’s to high 20’s) with a little bit of prep.

Your best bet is to do just what you’re doing. Take a section of two under timed conditions of the old tests as often as you can. Grade them, learn from your mistakes. Vince Kotchian, a pro tutor, wrote a review of the ACT Guide, and it has very valuable information.

hi parents (and ambitious students!),

I’ve been an SAT / ACT tutor since 2008, so I write this review from that perspective.

There’s nothing wrong with this book. If it dropped out of the sky onto your front lawn, I’d say to pick it up, dust it off, and give it to your kid if she’s preparing for the ACT. It’s super important to practice with official ACT practice tests (ones written by third-party companies like The Princeton Review and Kaplan are unrealistic and not good practice).

However, I wouldn’t BUY this book, since all 5 tests in it are already online for free as PDFs as part of the ACT’s TIR (test information release). You may have to google a bit to find them (but there are dozens of old, official ACT tests online now that are great practice).

Now of course, if you don’t feel like printing a bunch of tests, you might feel the book’s price is justified. I think it’s interesting that as of the time I’m writing this review (April 14th, 2020) that we’re thinking the ACT might be offered online soon because, you know, COVID-19. So practicing online might be a good idea.

The limited value, then, imo, of buying this book is to access the tests’ answer explanations. However, I don’t think those answer explanations are particularly good. They’re pretty cursory and technical. 3 out of 5 stars for the explanations.

If you’re interested in what I DO recommend for ACT prep, here are the books I like best for each section of the test:

English: Erica Meltzer’s Complete Guide to ACT English
Math: Brooke Hanson’s Best ACT Math Books Ever (1 and 2)
Reading: Erica Meltzer’s Complete Guide to ACT Reading
Science: Hugh Hung Vo’s Master Key to ACT Science
Practice Tests: Google (see above)

All these books were written by veteran tutors, and are dripping with insight compared to the official ACT prep guide. Just like you hire a CPA to give you tax advice instead of getting tax tips from the IRS website, it’s a good idea to seek out tutors’ advice for tests like the ACT (ok, I’m biased, but still).

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Nice Job! Some test might suit you better than others.
2 sections at a time for practice is a good way to not get so burnt out.

Be sure to do a couple whole test before you sit for the real one.
Find some ways to clear your mind and let the stress go in between sections while simulating a real test day environment.