The ACT is a standardized college entrance exam that measures your knowledge and skills in English, mathematics, reading, and science reasoning, as well as your ability to apply these skills to future academic tasks. The ACT includes four multiple-choice tests that cover each subject. There is also an optional 30-minute Writing test.
The ACT English Test consists of five passages of nonfiction prose. Each passage is followed by 15 questions about how it is written. Some questions ask you to choose the selection that best rephrases an underlined portion of the passage, and others ask about its overall organization.
The ACT Mathematics Test is designed to test your knowledge of the basic facts and skills taught in most high school math programs. The test utilizes various problem types, including some word problems, problems that involve reading and interpreting graphs and charts, geometry problems, trigonometry problems, and a few straightforward arithmetic and algebra problems.
The ACT Reading Test includes four passages. One is a fictional narrative; the others are nonfiction discussions of topics from the natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities. A group of questions designed to test how well you understood the information follows each passage.
The ACT Science Reasoning Test presents you with seven sets of science information, which can be presented in the form of graphs, tables, charts, or diagrams; descriptions of experimental studies and results; and presentations of differing theories or hypotheses about a particular scientific topic. Each passage is followed by several questions that require you to demonstrate your understanding of the subject and interpret the information that was presented.
The optional ACT Writing Test consists of one essay question. The question defines an issue and then presents two points of view. In your essay, you must declare your position and support your opinion with reasons and details. You may choose one of the perspectives presented in the prompt or present a new perspective of your own. You will be graded on your ability to express a position; maintain focus; develop and support your ideas; organize your thoughts logically; and use language clearly and effectively.
Each of the four standard test sections (English, Mathematics, Reading, and Science Reasoning) is scored on a scale of 1-36. You will also receive a composite score, which is the average of your four test scores. If you take the Writing test, you will receive a Writing test subscore (ranging from 2 to 12) and a combined English/Writing score (ranging from 1 to 36), along with comments about your essay.
Need-to-Know Tips & Strategies for the ACT
Prepare with a Practice Test
Practice tests are an ideal way to begin your preparation. They’re affordable and will give you instant results to see how you might score if the test were today. You’ll learn your strengths and weakness, and be able to develop a personalized study plan. Try prepping with Peterson’s practice tests for the ACT.
Relax the night before the test
Don’t cram. You are being tested on knowledge that you have accumulated over the course of the year. Studying at the last minute will only stress you out. Go to a movie or hang out with a friendÃ¢â‚¬â€anything to get your mind off of the test!
When searching for sentence errors, start by reading the sentence or paragraph carefully, listening for it; usually the word or phrase that contains an error will sound wrong. If none are apparent, look for the four most common types of errors: errors in the relationship between the verb and its subject; pronoun errors; sentence structure errors; and awkwardness, verbosity, and incorrect use of idioms.
As soon as you find the right answer, mark it and move on; there are no degrees of rightness to be considered. Marking up diagrams or sketching simple drawings when none are available can help you. The questions generally focus on mathematical reasoning, not your ability to perform calculations; if you find yourself spending too much time doing figuring, then you’ve probably overlooked a simple shortcut.
Use the three-stage method (previewing, reading, and reviewing) to get the most out of each reading passage. Focus on the big ideas in each passage, not the small details. Look for connections among ideas in each passage. To help you find answers quickly, take notes as you read, marking the main ideas or connections with your pencil.
Learn to recognize the key elements of any argument – evidence, conclusion, and assumptions. Remember that when a statement makes the conclusion more likely to be true, then that statement strengthens the argument. When a statement makes the conclusion less likely to be true, the statement weakens the argument. Learn the types of fallacies that appear most often on the exam so you can recognize them when you see them. Forget what you know or think about a given topic; instead, respond to the question in terms of the argument presented.
Use the three-stage method (previewing, reading, reviewing) to get the most out of each science reasoning passage. In data representation passages, focus on what is being measured, relationships among variables, and trends in data. Don’t be confused by irrelevant information or technical terminology, most science reasoning passages have them, and they can almost always be ignored.
Math: Multiple-Choice Questions
As you work through the multiple-choice math questions, you’ll be given reference information (formulas and facts), but you’ll need to know how to use them. You’re allowed to use a calculator, but, again, it won’t help you unless you know how to approach the problems. If you’re stuck, try substituting numbers for variables. You can also try plugging in numbers from the answer choices. Start with the middle number. That way, if it doesn’t work, you can strategically choose one that’s higher or lower.
Essays are scored holistically, which means that the final score is based on an overall impression. One way to create a good impression is to organize your ideas into a standard essay format. A well-organized essay consists of four to five paragraphs, including an introduction, supporting paragraphs, and a conclusion. Aim to have at least two body paragraphs to develop and support your ideas.
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