The standardized college admissions test can be very overwhelming. After all, it’s all your teachers talk about as soon as you enter high school and it pretty much holds the key to your future; your college admittance, scholarships, placement in high school/college courses, and even your graduation from high school may rely on this single test. For me, this test was the ACT. I took it four times before I reached a composite score of 30, which put me in the 94th percentile of all students who took the test, according to ACT.org. Today, I am going to talk about what I did to achieve that score, as well as what I would have done differently.
(The subscores from each section are my “superscores”–the highest score I ever got from each section–and are not all from the same test where I earned a composite of 30.)
(Just a bit of disclosure: I am not affiliated with the ACT and this is not meant to be taken as professional advice. This is just my experience and I do not guarantee any sort of results from following my advice, and therefore cannot be held liable for it. Simply put, I am just telling my experience.)
The highest score I received on the English section of the test was a 34. This score was achieved through years and years of practice, but not necessarily with practice questions. I have been an avid reader my entire life and for a long time wanted to be a young adult novelist, so over time grammar has become second-nature to me (Although I’m not going to pretend like I’m perfect at it. I know that there are probably some grammatical errors on my blog somewhere).
The reason I received a high Reading score pretty much stems from the same reason I received a high English score: I read and wrote a lot growing up.
However, I also want to expand on how important practice Reading and English questions were for me when I was getting ready for the ACT. The schools I went to really pushed for good standardized test scores, so we would often have “Bell Ringers” at the beginning of every class, which were essentially a reprise of the information we had recently learned or were a preparation for the ACT. Each day in my English class we had to answer a few practice ACT questions over a reading passage. These were helpful because they related to the class, got us in the English mindset, and provided us with a quick study session to help us prepare for the test!
The highest score I ever received on the math test was a 26. While this may sound amazing to some people, I do feel as if I could have done better, but first I’ll explain what I did to achieve that score in the first place.
Beginning in middle school, I began taking advanced math classes, which meant that I took up to AP Calculus AB by my senior year. Taking these advanced classes were extremely important because when I took the ACT, I had been taught more of the material that was included on the math section.
So what would I have done differently? A lot of things. To start, I would have studied for the math section differently. Instead of studying in long, tedious sessions where I easily got distracted or bored (and in the end did not change my math score at all), I would have only done a few questions a day, just like my English class did. If I had done it this way, I would have been more focused, covered more material, and possibly would have earned a better score.
Timing was also a huge issue for me. I think that the timing issue was because I was showing every step of my work when solving a problem, which had become a habit from my math classes. However, doing it this way took up a huge amount of time, and generally left me rushing through part of the test. If I were to re-do it, I would find a way to break the habit of showing all of my work, as well as practice timing myself with practice questions.
The main thing to remember about the science test is that you don’t need to have any scientific know-how to do well on it. The test gives you all the answers in the passages, graphs and charts, and/or other data that they have given you. They are testing if you can find the necessary information and put it together to answer the question that they are asking (so essentially your critical thinking skills).
For me, timing was once again a huge issue on this section of the test. I had a tendency to want to read every detail that was given to me, and that’s just not possible for the science test. When I would do that, I would barely even have time to read the last few passages because I took up so much time thoroughly reading the first few.
So what do I wish I would have done instead? Skim. I would have looked for key words/phrases and underlined them, put a star next to them, made a quick note, or whatever else I felt I needed to do. Then, when I would read the questions and recognize something, I wouldn’t have to search the entire passage again to find the answer because I probably would have already had it underlined.
Although I know I did very well on the ACT and am happy with earning a 30, I do feel as if I could have done better; hopefully these tips will help you learn from my experience. But even though the ACT is important, it is essential to remember that it is just a test. The score does not define you or your potential. As long as you work hard, you’re sure to achieve whatever you set your mind to.
P.S. Do you have any questions or comments? Or maybe you have an tip on how to do well on the ACT as well? Write a letter back (in the comments) and let me know!