Tuesday, January 12, 2016

ACT Test Taking Tips

With March fast approaching and the statewide ACT assessment coming up, I thought I would share strategies for taking the ACT.  Sometimes its not just what you know on the ACT, but how to take the assessment in collaboration with what you know.  Here are some tips for each section that I have collected and provided to students.

ENGLISH Section Tips and Strategies
75 Questions (Containing 5 passages that cover a variety of writing styles) – 45 Minutes

·         You should allot 1.5-2 minutes to skim the entire passage and 30 seconds to answer each question.
·         Be aware of the writing style (5 types) used in the passages.  Consider the style when selecting a response.
·         BE AWARE of questions with NO underlined portion: In responding to questions cued by a number or numbers in a box, carefully consider the writing decision described.  Best to answer these questions when skimming the passage as a whole.
·         For underlined portion questions
o   First check to see if stated question precedes answer choices.  If so, carefully consider the writing decision described.
o   Determine what aspects of writing are included in the underlined portion of the passage.
o   Read the text before and after the underlined portion to get a sense of the writer’s intent and the passage’s organization at that point.
o   Do no select a response that corrects one error but causes a different error.
o   If you are unsure of a response, reread the section of the passage, substituting the answer choices for the underlined portion.
o   Do not be afraid to choose “No Change.”


READING Section Tips and Strategies
40 Questions (4 Passages) – 35 Minutes

·         Do the easy passages first – If one interests you or something you know well, do it first.
·         Concentrate on paragraph opening and closing. 
·         The topic sentence is often located near the beginning of the paragraph. Sometimes, too, the final sentence of the paragraph suggests the main point of the paragraph. 
·         You should allow yourself 3 minutes to read each passage and 30 seconds per question to answer.
·         The 4 passages are separated into four categories: Social Studies, Natural Sciences, Prose Fiction (passages from Short Stories/novels), and Humanities
·         Carefully read the passage before attempting the questions.  It is important to read every sentence than skim the text.
·         Be conscious of relationships between or among ideas.
·         Underline or make notes about major ideas in the passage as you read.
·         Answers to some questions will be found by referring to content explicitly state in the text
·         Some questions will require you to determine implicit means (What does the author  strongly suggest the existence or truth of)
o   You should refer back to the passage before you answer any question.
·         Jump around within a set of questions in a passage to the ones you can answer easily.  DO NOT LEAVE A PASSAGE UNTIL YOU ARE SURE YOU HAVE ANSWERED ALL THE QUESTIONS

MATH Section Tips and Strategies
60 Questions – 60 Minutes

·         Answer all the questions that are easy for you and then go back to the hard ones.  The ACT DOES NOT go from easy questions at the beginning to hard questions at the end.
·         Pace yourself.  Do not spend too much time on any one question.  60 Minutes for 60 questions doesn’t mean a minute per question
·         Come up with your own answer choice first with the information provided in the question.
o   This will help avoid being influenced by the answer choices.
·         If the above does not work, eliminate wrong answers and plug in answer choices to the equation when applicable.
·         Watch out for the answer choice "cannot be determined." It is rare and when you see it, it's very likely wrong. It's almost always wrong in a question that comes with a diagram or for which you can draw one.
·         Don’t be afraid to use the areas to the right of the problem to complete figuring and draw diagrams.
·         Avoid Partial Answers – often answers to the first part of the equation are given as an option.  Mark those out if it is an answer for one step of the problem.
·         A calculator isn't required for any of the questions, so if your solution absolutely depends on one, you are probably headed down a time-consuming and incorrect path.
·         Have a good understanding of MATH Rules and Basics

SCIENCE REASONING Section Tips and Strategies
40  Questions (7 Passages) – 35 Minutes

·         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 passages have them and can ALMOST ALWAYS be ignored
o   Once you get past the language, the questions on this test tend to be fairly straightforward and simple to answer.
·         Read the passage or look at the data presentation quickly.  Do not stop to study in detail any part that you do not understand.
o   Look at the provided charts to see which factors or variables are represented. 
·         Answer the first question in the group.  The first question in each group will probably be a simple test of understanding. 
·         Skip the hard questions.   Do not initially spend more than 30 seconds or so on any question.
·         If the answers are numerical, use estimation; Calculation takes time. 
·         A few key questions you should ask yourself when reading a science passage are:
o   What is being tested?
o   Why is it being tested?
o   What are the variables?
o   What are the factors that stay the same?
·         Base your answers only on the contents of the passage.  All of the information you need to know is in the passage.  External knowledge can harm you.