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Preparing for the ACT: What to Know Before You Go
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Preparing for the ACT: What to Know Before You Go


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About This Lesson

Four years of high school add up to far more than one test score. However, a high ACT score can make a great transcript shine brighter plus perk up a record of only average grades. So on test day, take these tips with you into the testing room.

A High Score Is a Lifelong Asset.

The most important thing to know before you go into the ACT is: A high score can only help you land the college, and possibly job, of your dreams. Some employers even hire based on past scores.

What might cost more is the recent pattern for colleges and universities to drop college admissions tests. These test-optional schools include prestigious universities with highly selective enrollments and outstanding outcomes for graduates. Students who apply have no need to study and pay for the ACT.

You have done the smart thing to go for a high ACT score no matter what specific college application requirements are. You have the best chances for a high score while high school education and academics are fresh. Take it now and keep the score for the rest of your life.

Know the Test Inside Out.

The ACT (American College Testing) is proctored at official testing centers and it is timed. It consists of four sections. The number of questions, subjects and their allotted time limits are:

  • 60 Math questions (60 minutes)

  • 75 English questions (45 minutes)

  • 40 Reading questions (35 minutes)

  • 40 Science questions (35 minutes)

You need an official ID to enter the exam room and you may not leave during testing. The center provides the exam, pencils and scratch paper. Common items are prohibited from the testing room.


  • Cell phones

  • Watches

  • Calculators

  • Notebooks

  • Rulers

Invest in Test Prep.

You can only win when you invest in an ACT prep course. A diagnostic will reveal your strengths and weaknesses to address most. Then you learn the most common vocabulary words, grammar rules, math equations and science material you could face on test day.

Test prep also drills in powerful skills like:

  • Process of elimination

  • Time-saving techniques

  • Critical thinking skills

  • Strategic educated guessing

Get Rest and Brain Food.

You will only wear yourself out if you stay up with flashcards and practice tests. An all-nighter is unlikely to cram too much more information in. Get into bed earlier than usual, since you may need extra time to fall asleep due to normal test anxiety.

Test day is worth the wait for mom's scrambled eggs, toast and orange juice instead of coffee with a bagel on the run. You need a real meal before you go into the test, period.

Do not load up on coffee and sugar. These give you temporary energy before a crash. You can, however, fuel up with a piece of fruit or energy bar just before check-in.

Retake Wisely.

Retaking the ACT is costly in more ways than one. The option to retake single sections but not the whole exam is too new to know if it helps in the long run. Some colleges also super score all tests and request every exam you have ever taken, to draw their own conclusions on your abilities.

Aim for your first take a few months before final application deadlines. The first test can help you get over the pressure for a stronger second test. Take your best score of the two and then redirect your time to enjoying life.

Jitters on test day are normal and can help. If you have done well in high school and test prep, you likely just have nervous energy. Your brain is eager to get started and show the test how much you know.



Preparing for the ACT_ What to Know Before You Go.pdf

Lesson Plan
February 19, 2020
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