December 2010 ACT

I took the ACT for a second time yesterday with an eye toward improving my scores 😉 and, as always, learning more about the test so that I can pass on thoughts and advice to those of you for whom the test really matters. The last time I took it, I had little idea as to what to expect, so this time I was more prepared and the experience was quite different. Allow me to share in the hopes that you’ll learn a few things to help you.

Seeing as how I’m not looking to get into college (and that I took the “plus writing” version last time), I took the without writing version this time. One thing interesting about the ACT is that the essay is optional – most colleges want it; however, it’s worth checking with those colleges you’re interested in to see what their requirements are.

(If you’re not a good essay writer, the ACT may be the test for you, given that (a) it’s optional, and (b) it’s not factored into the Composite Score that colleges generally focus on.)

English Test

Pretty much the same as last time – 45 minutes editing five or so written passages. I like this stuff. As with all sections of the ACT, time is a factor; you need to get started and keep moving. I think I finished with about 3-4 minutes remaining.

Math Test

Easier this time, though I’m sure I missed a couple. I’ve just finished taking a college math course that reviewed some trig, so I’m sure that helped. (Remember, the math on the ACT includes four trigonometry questions.)

Reading Test

I struggled last time on the first passage – Prose Fiction. Since the reading passages are always in the same order, I decided to start with passage two and come back to the Prose Fiction passage at the end. This strategy worked well for me. I got through passages two, three, and four fairly quickly and was therefore more relaxed when I went back and read passage one.

Science Test

The need for speed on this section REALLY caught me by surprise last time. (If I recall correctly, I was on passage V, out of VII, when I realized I had about 7-8 minutes left.) What I learned was that there’s no time for thoroughly reading and understanding each passage; get a quick idea of what’s going on and then move to the questions. This worked GREAT for me! I spent very little time focusing on all the details and instead looked for what I needed to know to answer the question.

Overall, I’m becoming a fan of the ACT. It just seems to suit me better: the format, the types of questions, etc. I like its predictability, the fact that each section is tested all at once, and its more straight-forward nature. I can’t stress enough the importance of focusing on the test (ACT or SAT) that is the best for YOU, that best shows colleges what you can do.

Other Tidbits:

1) The admission ticket said arrive by 8:00 and the proctor said she couldn’t “start” until 8:30 (and we didn’t start actually doing the test until 9:00). If you ask me, that’s a lot of time wasted.

2) There was no pencil sharpener in the room. Always arrive with 2-3 sharpened pencils.

3) There was one, 10-minute break between the Math Test and the Reading Test. A few students chose to just stay in their seats – DON’T let that be you. Get up, move around, eat something. Your brain needs the extra oxygen that movement provides to perform at its best.

4) The student next to me left A LOT of questions blank! This is a big no-no on the ACT as there’s no penalty for incorrect responses.

5) The proctor’s timing was off. I, of course, used my digital watch, and according to it she gave us about one extra minute on the English, Math, and Reading Tests, and about two-and-a-half extra minutes on the Science Test.

I took the test on this date because I wanted to order the Test Information Release (TIR) service to see what this includes. I’ll post information on that when it arrives, as well as my scores.

Hope this helps. Don’t forget… Plan, Practice, Perform. 🙂

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