Ace the ACT With Tailored Test Prep

DeAnna Rivera

To ace the ACT, students should create and commit to a detailed study plan. Choose a structured prep regimen for the time you have available and mark all of your designated study times on a calendar to stay on track.

The first week of any college test study plan should include testing yourself on one timed ACT section per day. Note how far you get before the time is up and then finish the section untimed to see where you need to improve.

You can use the following tips for each test section to tailor your ACT prep for your specific needs.

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English: Apply the rules of standard English to help understand test vocabulary in context as well as punctuation and grammar usage. Rather than using vocabulary flashcards, the best strategy for scoring well is to make sure you understand your answers - both right and wrong.

Noun-pronoun agreement is one common issue that often trips up test-takers. For example, it's incorrect to write "A student has to follow these five tips before they can finish the application process."

In this case, the noun "student" is singular and the pronoun "they" is plural. They should either both be singular or both be plural in order to agree. The corrected sentence would read, "A student has to follow these five tips before she can finish the application process."

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Math: Now is a good time to pull out study flashcards. Memorizing math formulas, including the basics, will save you a lot of time on test day.

You won't want to draw a blank on the FOIL method of solving equations - the sequence of first, outer, inner, last - or the order of operations simply because you were focusing only on complex formulas.

Reading: This section typically follows the same order: prose fiction, social science, humanities and natural science. The exam provides passages and then asks questions to test your comprehension.

When practicing, note which topics you do best on and which ones make you struggle. On test day, skim through the section first before moving through it in the order of your strongest to weakest topics.

To maximize your minutes on each passage, read the questions first and look for terms that can inform you about the passage. Reading the first sentence of the first and last paragraphs will help you get a sense of the reading's subject.

You should also read the first sentence of each paragraph in between and take note of any words that clearly connect to the questions asked about the reading. Pay special attention to these words as you work through the passage.

Finally, read and answer the questions and pay close attention to detail. While most questions are about big-picture concepts, you won't want to miss a question just because you neglected an obvious fact or detail.

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Science: This section tests your ability to interpret scientific findings. Get familiar with various charts and how they work.

Your job is to connect the details in the image to the bigger research questions. You can practice by making your own charts.

For example, ask 10 friends to name their favorite TV show among three given choices and make a chart or graph to depict your findings. Once you have a strong understanding of several chart styles, practice going to the data representation sections first. Try to maximize your time by answering these quick questions and then moving on to the other science questions.

Writing: Designate one day per week to complete a draft essay. Take prompts from study books or ask teachers for suggestions. Brainstorm, make an outline and conform your thoughts to a five-paragraph structure when writing your essay.

Remember, a five-paragraph essay should include an introduction, a point that supports your view, a second point in support of your argument, a contradictory point and rebuttal and finally, a conclusion.

Ask others to assess your work based on a scoring rubric. Review their feedback and evaluate your essay to make improvements.

These ACT study tips require a time commitment, but the sacrifice will be well worth it in the end when you see those college acceptance letters roll in.