Achieving success on the ACT

By Conner Rohwer, Mustang High School Published: May 11, 2009
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Don’t panic, it’s just a test. At least that’s what almost anyone will tell you; it’s easy for them to say since most of them aren’t the ones taking the ACT. The fact of the matter is that the ACT is more than just a test. It decides what colleges you are accepted to, helps determine the scholarships you receive, and a good enough score can get you a full ride to the school of your choice. Let’s face it; the ACT is way more than just a test.

So how does one do their best on such an important test? Allyson Lederer, a Mustang High School student who has taken the ACT 6 times, says that taking as many practice tests as possible as well as attending ACT preparatory classes will help you get better at the ACT.

One of the key elements in excelling on the ACT is understanding the test itself. The ACT is comprised of 4 different tests: English coming first with 75 questions, followed by Mathematics with 60 questions, Reading with 40 questions, finishing off with the dreaded Science section with 40 questions.

Another Important thing to keep in mind is time. If you are given 45 minutes to do 75 questions on the English section, which contains five passages with 15 questions each. That means you should spend roughly nine minutes on each passage. Math contains 60 questions with 60 minutes to them, giving you 1 minute per question. Reading contains four passages and 40 minutes to do 40 questions, allotting 10 minutes per passage. Science contains seven passages totaling in 40 questions with 35 minutes to do them, meaning you should spend 5 minutes on each section.

Some ways to save/keep track of time include: reading the directions on a practice test so you can immediately start the test, bringing a calculator, and taking as many practice tests (timed) as possible to be more aware of how long to spend on each section. “There is no magic number of practice tests one should take… the more you take, the better your chances are at getting a higher score,” says Elayne Bowman, a Mustang High School ACT prep and Calculus teacher.

For the Reading and English section, Allyson suggests that anyone who is a slow reader practice speed reading. Staying focused on these sections may seem hard since the passages, many think, are rather dull but it is important to comprehend what you are reading. Taking a practice test for the Reading section can help you find the way of doing that fits you best since some people prefer reading the questions before reading the passage and others prefer doing the opposite.

One important thing to remember on the Math section is to bring a scientific calculator.

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