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Preparing for the ACT

Traditionally favored by schools in the south and the midwest, the ACT Assessment tests are now accepted by virtually all colleges and universities in the United States, including all the Ivy League schools.

When you are ready to start your test preparation:
1) Familiarize yourself with the content of the ACT tests.
2) Take the Preliminary ACT (P-ACT) during your sophomore year.
3) Refresh your knowledge and skills in the content areas. Review your high school text books.
4) Identify the content areas you have not studied.

It is recommended that you take the ACT in your junior year. Since you have probably learned all the relevant curricula, you will have sufficient knowledge and you will be left with ample time to retake the test if you want to improve your score.

How you prepare for the ACT will depend on how much time you have before test day. If you have a few months, take a few days to read and understand the contents of all sections of the test. Then put the rest of your time on the extensive practice of all question types. Once you have a feel for the types of questions being asked and how to approach them, you can focus on your weak points.

If you a month or less to prepare, you won't be able to put in the same extensive practice. However, that doesn't mean there's nothing you can do! It is worthwhile to spend some time doing practice tests, either online or from one of the many books available. Once you have an idea of what your weaknesses are, you'll want to do some reading in those content areas and focus your test practice on those types of questions. You may want to talk to your high school teachers about some extra work to learn the subject better.

Test prep strategies:
1) Learn to read effectively to help you figure out what the author means as well as what the author says.
2) Improve your vocabulary to give you tools to figure out new words from the context in which they are used.
3) Develop your problem-solving abilities. This ability will help you figure out what to do and how to do it, and help you start on challenging problems when you think you're stumped.

Test prep goals:
1) Learn when and how to guess.
2) Know how to identify the easiest questions.
3) Learn specific approaches for each of the six types of questions.
4) Know which question types are your weak points and improve your ability to solve them.

Test-taking Strategies
Like the SAT, students who score the highest on the ACT are the ones who know test-taking basics. Here are a few things for you to remember when you're writing the exam.

Know what to expect
Your test preparation should include finding out as much about the test as you can, including the types of questions, how many questions there are and in what order they appear.

Know the test directions
Read the instructions on the cover of the test booklet and the directions for each subject test carefully. The English, Reading, and Science Reasoning Tests ask for the best answer. Read and consider all of the answer choices before you choose the one that best responds to the question.
The Mathematics Test asks for the correct answer. Read each question carefully to make sure you understand the type of answer required.

Pace yourself
Each subject test has a time limit. Although many students find they have enough time for each section, it is important that you don't spend too much time on a single passage or on any one question. The test supervisor will announce when five minutes remain for each test.

Think strategically
Read each question carefully and answer the easy questions first. After you answer all of the easy questions, go back and answer the more difficult ones.

Answer every question
Your ACT scores are based on the number of questions you answer correctly. There is no penalty for guessing, so it is to your advantage to answer every question during the time allowed for that test.

Use logic to answer difficult questions
When you return to the more difficult questions, use logic to eliminate incorrect answers. Eliminate as many incorrect answers as you can, then make an educated guess among those remaining.

Review your work
If you finish a test before time is up, go back and check your work in that test before time is called.

Be careful with the answer sheet
Mark your answers neatly. Do not mark any ovals on a test for which time has been called. To do so will disqualify you from the examination. If you erase an answer, erase completely.

The night before
Have everything you need for test day ready the night before. Don't forget your ID, calculator, No. 2 pencils and your admission ticket. It is also a good idea to bring a snack, since you will be in the test center for over three hours.

The fateful day
Eat a good breakfast before you leave. An empty stomach will only be a distraction.
It is also a good idea to dress in layers. Often test centers are colder or warmer on weekends than they are during the week.

Report to your assigned test center by the time listed on your admission ticket. Students who register to take the test on national test dates are normally instructed to arrive at the test center by 8:00 A.M. on the test date for which they are registered. Students who arrive late will not be admitted. If you become ill or do not complete the test for any reason, tell your test supervisor or proctor-before you leave the test center-whether or not your answer sheet should be scored.

Once you're in the exam room, stay focused. Don't look around to see if you're keeping up with other students, or look too far ahead on the test. Just concentrate on each question in front of you, taking it one at a time.

And finally...
Keep the test in perspective. It's important, but it is not the only admissions criteria for college.


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