In a few weeks, Nebraska high school juniors will take the ACT, many for the first time. The ACT is a test that isn’t like anything you have experienced and that can create some anxiety. Keep reading this blog to get a better feel for what to expect along with some tips to help you perform to the best of your ability.
Manage your time
The first thing to be aware of is the length of the exam. I would be surprised if this test wasn’t the longest one you have experienced. You’ll need to plan to spend 3.5 hours to take all five sections. You’ll be tested on your skills in English, math, reading, science, and writing. Each section has a time limit, so it’s important to be aware of the time. If you take a practice exam, look at a clock after 10 questions and note the time. This will give you a better idea of how long it will take you to complete the full exam. Students who excel on the ACT have learned to manage their time well.
Retake the exam
Many students get a better score on subsequent tests and that has a lot to do with them being more familiar with the test and their abilities. With it taking hours to complete though I suggest you set a goal for a score. If you are an average student with no AP or CP/Dual-Enrollment classes then you should set a goal of 21. If you have taken some college-level classes then a 25 is a good goal to set. For those who consider themselves to be high-achieving academically, set a goal of 31 or 33. Know that most scholarships and colleges take your highest score, so don’t fret if you fall short of your goal on your first attempt.
Eliminate wrong answers
The majority of the test is multiple choice. With tests like this, you should be able to identify one answer that is certainly not an option.
Solve the equation: X +2 = 4
In this example, you should be able to eliminate ‘e’ right away. Cross it out when you know it is wrong. Then, ask yourself if you can answer the question in 30 seconds. If it will take you longer to find the answer, move on and come back to it. The reason to eliminate answers first is that you are not penalized for incorrect answers. If you find yourself needing to guess you don’t want to have to narrow your choices at that time. This gives you slightly more than the 30-second average you need to answer each question in a section.
Use breaks to your advantage
You’ll get a break during the exam so be prepared to take advantage of this time. If you have test anxiety, I suggest you calm your nerves with some meditation during the breaks. If you are not worried, great! Take the break to get something to drink or prepare for the next segment. A friend of mine used the time to recite in his head what adverbs, adjectives, and superlatives were. English wasn’t his strong subject and he ended up with a 35, so I say it worked.
Get ready for the exam
Make sure you get a good night’s sleep before the exam and eat a solid breakfast. Take a break from social media a couple of days before the test. I know it sounds like torture, but trust me you don’t want your brain wondering during the test.