ACT® Parent's Guide
Ways to Help Your Child Prepare For The ACT
When Should Your Kid Start Preparing for the ACT?
Students need time to prepare with ACT practice tests. This will familiarize them with the test formats and help gauge their strengths and weaknesses. Preparing early also provides a buffer for poor performance because students can retest before colleges’ early or regular decision deadlines. Retaking the ACT also provides the advantage of “superscoring”, in which a student’s composite score is generated by averaging their best score in each section. An ACT prep schedule that includes one retake should look like this:
|Fall (September - November)||
Take a diagnostic test
Create ACT study plan
Start ACT prep
|End of fall through winter||6-month prep time|
|Spring (March - May)||Take the ACT for the first time|
|End of spring through summer||ACT prep for retake|
|Fall of Senior year||Retake the ACT|
Encourage your child to take diagnostic practice tests throughout their studies. These assessments help students feel more comfortable with the test format, identify weak content areas, and improve their time management. If your child is more than 10 points below their target score, begin studying at least six months ahead of their expected test date. However, if your child consistently scores at or above their target score during full-length, timed practice tests, consider having them test sooner.
How Parents Can Help Their Child for the ACT Test?
- Understand the ACT
- Start preparing early
- Make sure your child follows a study plan
- Find quality test prep resources
- Focus on tracking performance
Understand the ACT
By better understanding the ACT, you can not only help your child study for the test more effectively but also limit stress and misconceptions about the test. Even though the ACT has been given for many years, its content, format, and scoring periodically change, so parents may not be familiar with the current version.
Each section of the test is graded on a 36-point scale, and a student’s “Composite Score” is the average scores on all four sections. Students are awarded points for correct answers but do not lose points for wrong answers, and scores from any given administration of the test are equated. This means that the number of correct responses required for a given score varies from test to test (on some tests, a student who missed one question in each section could still get a 36, while on others, they might get a 32).
The ACT is administered multiple times throughout the year, generally on a Saturday in mid-February, -April, -June, -July, -September, -October, and -December. The registration deadline is usually about five weeks before the test date (late registration is available up to three weeks before a test), and scores are typically given out about two weeks after the test.
Start preparing early
Make sure your child follows a study plan
Creating an effective study plan for the ACT test is critical. Following a study plan will ensure enough time is dedicated to each subject. Here are a few tips to get started:
- Discuss with your child how much time they can devote to prepare for each subject on the ACT in a week.
- Help your child set realistic goals. Develop a study plan based on the available time and your child’s learning capacity.
- Check that your child is strictly following the study plan so as to avoid any last-minute hustle before test day.
Find quality test prep resources
Even with a schedule firmly established, your child may feel lost at first. The number of test-prep resources makes choosing difficult. Focus on finding resources that fit your student’s needs without breaking your budget. The most valuable resources will be those that provide many exam-like questions and provide quality information to fill any knowledge gaps your child may have. Practicing questions not only actively engages students in learning far more effectively than reading or watching videos, but also makes them feel more at ease on test day, as they will have already seen hundreds of similar questions.
Focus on tracking performance
Be your child’s cheerleader
How Do I Motivate My Teen to Prepare for the ACT?
If your student does not feel naturally motivated to prepare for the test, make sure you're on the same page regarding the benefits of performing well on the ACT. Students who recognize that preparation directly affects their chances of accomplishing their dreams will be more motivated.
Explore colleges with your teen, and when you’ve settled on a few, look up average ACT scores. With these target scores in mind, help your child free up four hours on a weekend to take a practice test and have them grade it. Any discrepancy between their practice score and their goal score should help them understand the value of preparing for the test.
Tips for Parents on ACT Test Day
The last thing you want on the ACT test day is for your kid to feel unnecessarily stressed. Review the instructions on your child’s ACT admission ticket regarding what’s required and prohibited. Encourage your child to get organized the night before so they can focus on the test itself that morning.
Similarly, encourage your child to rest well the night before their test day. If they’ve been following a study plan, there is little that can be gained from cramming the night before. Instead, focus on a good night’s sleep and a healthy breakfast.