Knowing that it’s a requirement for most college applications, you’ve signed up to take the ACT. In the weeks before test day, you’ve reviewed practice questions and focused on your high school coursework that corresponds to what will be on the exam. Finally, it’s time to put your knowledge to the test. You give it your all…only to score a few points lower than you expected.
It’s a common scenario, and many students take the ACT again to try to boost their scores. Other students realize from taking practice tests that they have subject areas in which they need to improve. Here’s how you can raise your score by up to 3 points in as little as a month.
1. Set a Realistic Goal
A score report from a previous test or the results of a practice exam will give you a baseline score. Use that number to set a new target score that is reasonably attainable. Consider not only your composite score, but the individual scores for each section. For instance, if you scored a 24 in math, it’s unlikely that you will be able to raise your score in that subject to a 36 in one month. Increasing it by 2-3 points, however, is within your reach.
Also, look at admission guidelines and score ranges for the schools you want to attend. If the colleges you’re interested in do not require an ACT essay score, you don’t have to worry about taking that portion of the test. Although most colleges won’t give you a specific number when you ask what score you need to get in, they do publish average scores for incoming freshmen. This gives you an idea of what score to shoot for.
2. Gather Resources
Locate study resources, such as practice tests. Since the ACT covers what you’ve been learning in high school, course materials that correspond to what’s on the test are an excellent resource. Ask your teachers or guidance counselor for additional help or suggestions on how to prepare. You can also find test-prep resources online such as the following free practice questions and test.
3. Establish a Study Schedule
Commit a certain number of hours per week to studying and taking ACT practice tests. Be realistic; don’t try to take on more than you can fit into your schedule. Reward yourself occasionally for sticking to your routine.
Let your family and friends know what you’re doing, so they can support you and not create additional distractions. For instance, if your parents know you’re devoting an hour a day to practice tests, they can keep younger siblings or pets out of your way while you work.
4. Focus on What You Can Accomplish Quickly
When you have only a short time to work on a goal, concentrate on “high-yield concepts”; that is, focus on areas where you can make the greatest strides quickly. When developing a strategy for studying the English and reading sections, keep in mind that it takes longer to boost your overall reading ability than it does to master grammar rules, so you may want to allocate more time for reading.
Concentrate on what you’re good at rather than trying to be perfect at everything (certain concepts may be easier for you to apply than others, so get those down first). Don’t neglect the subjects you’re weakest in, but don’t bite off more than you can chew when it comes to mastering specific skills.
To establish which skills to work on, review your scores from a practice test to figure out which questions you missed. Simply taking tests over and over without reviewing them will not help you identify which subjects or skill sets to zero in on.
5. Tie It All Together
Keep focusing on the areas you need to improve on and take practice tests under conditions that simulate the actual testing experience. Work on each section according to the actual time limits. Don’t try to look up answers to questions you don’t know as you work your way through each section. Instead, make an educated guess, just as you would if taking the exam at school or at a testing center.
As you get ready to give the ACT another try, relax. Having taken the exam once puts you at an advantage because you are already familiar with its format and subject matter. You will be more comfortable working within the time constraints on each section. Knowing the mechanics of the ACT will make it easier to do your best the next time around.
Whether you’re re-taking the ACT to raise your score or taking the test for the first time, UWorld provides in-depth test-prep tools to help you achieve your target score. Check our site to learn more.