Scoring a 36 on the ACT is a goal many students aspire to—but few accomplish. Fewer than one-tenth of the top 1% of test-takers ever see that number when they receive their score reports. While achieving this goal usually isn’t easy, it’s not impossible, either. If you’re up to the challenge, consider these tips for getting a perfect ACT score.
Ask Yourself If It’s Realistic
First, think about whether it’s really worth shooting for a perfect score on the ACT. If you’ve taken the exam before and received a low score, or didn’t get the best results when you took a practice test, trying to get a top score may not be practical. If, on the other hand, you’ve done well on the test (or a practice version), scoring a 36 is not necessarily out of your reach.
Others who are likely to get top ACT scores are students whose transcripts include several Advanced Placement, international baccalaureate, or dual-enrollment courses. Having a solid academic background and good test-taking skills can put you on track for a perfect score.
Simply taking an ACT practice test or two isn’t enough to boost your score significantly. Just as you would when building your skills, you need to not only practice occasionally, but to repeat your efforts many times. It can also help to develop a strategy to tackle the ACT. When you take sample tests, find out which questions you’re missing and why. Then, devote more time to raising your score in those areas. If geometry questions on the math section are giving you trouble, for example, go back and review those formulas and theorems. That way, you won’t waste time reviewing what you already have a good grasp of. Focus on your weakest subjects; it may not be practical to try to be perfect in everything.
Many students struggle to complete each section within the time limits. Since some questions are easier than others, you will not have to spend the same amount of time on each one. Reviewing practice tests helps you become more familiar with the skills and subjects covered on the ACT. As you become better acquainted with the format, you will be able to work through easier questions in a particular section more quickly, increasing the likelihood that you can devote more time to the tougher ones and complete that section before you run out of time.
Maintaining a positive mindset can go a long way toward improving your score. Henry Ford once said, “If you think you can do a thing or think you can’t do a thing, you’re right.” In other words, the results of your endeavors will likely reflect your attitude. Remind yourself about what you are good at, and don’t get bogged down with questions or subjects that pose more of a challenge.
Managing stress is an important part of keeping up your morale as you prepare to excel on the ACT. Relax. Push yourself to work on the subjects that give you difficulty, but keep your progress in perspective. While top colleges seek applicants with top ACT scores, you don’t necessarily need a 36 to be accepted. Most schools publish average ACT scores among incoming freshmen.
Don’t Skip Questions
Since no points are deducted for incorrect answers on the ACT, it’s in your best interest not to leave any items blank. When you encounter a difficult question, it’s better to make an educated guess. For example, if a question has four possible answers and you guess randomly, you have a 25% chance of selecting the correct one. If you can rule out two of the responses as incorrect or illogical, you now have a 50% chance of answering correctly.
If you do skip a question, make a note of it in your ACT test booklet so that you can easily come back to it after you’ve tackled the other questions. Similarly, review your answer sheet carefully to make sure you account for the skipped question when filling it out.
Simulate the Real Thing
Taking practice exams under the actual test conditions will give you the most accurate reflection of how well you will perform when you sit for the ACT. Set a timer to help you stay within the time limits for each section. Don’t Google answers you’re not sure of when you’re in the middle of a practice test. Approach practice questions as though you were taking the real test.
UWorld provides flexible, online test prep so you can get ready for the ACT in a way that fits your schedule. Sample test questions come with in-depth explanations of the answers so you can unlock the keys to getting top ACT scores. Check out our site to learn more.