If you’re looking for my tips for improving or getting a perfect score on the ACT, please scroll below.
My personal story
On Wednesday, after preparing and taking my Microeconomics exam, I went to eat lunch and arrived outside of my next classroom. I browsed through Twitter and saw that ACT scores were out. I didn’t expect this, so I went to check on the website. I was hoping for a 35. Please don’t be a 34. Please be a 35. Or if I’m really lucky, maybe a 36.
I typed in my username and password haphazardly, clicked a few buttons, and saw that my composite was a 36.
But not just my composite was a 36. All of my sections were a 36.
I was overjoyed. I was almost hysterical. The euphoria I experienced was unimaginable. I became forever finished with SATs and ACTs. (Except for maybe the SAT Subject Test, but that’s not really as important as the SAT or the ACT.)
Never did I expect this. In January, I took the new SAT for the first time and I felt terrible afterwards. The new SAT’s format frustrated me and I was sick of it. Just in case, though, I registered for the February ACT. I also took some ACT classes and a practice test at KD College Prep. On that test, I got a 32 composite. Not bad for my first time ever. I bought the Official ACT prep book and took the first practice test, which was apparently the best one in the book. I analyzed my mistakes after getting a 34 composite; I would need to improve on the hardest math questions, my speed of reading, and I needed to reduce mistakes on the science test.
On the night before the test, I took a nice ol’ nap, flipped through my practice book to review where I screwed up, and I was basically done after that.
The next morning, I woke up at 6:20 (which was too early for me but whatever) and ate a good breakfast. I was picked up by my friend and we drove to the test center. We went in, socialized, and I gave a pep talk that would resemble something given by a tiger mom, but deep inside, I was just hoping to get a 35.
So I went in and took the test. It was easy.
After the test, I felt great. It seemed quite easy and I was expecting some hopefully good scores. I was depending on the ACT because I know that I didn’t do so hot on my SAT.
Now that I have received this score, I no longer have to worry about taking the test again. I can concentrate on college applications and use this ACT score to get in. I won’t have a fear of being rejected because my test scores were too low; in fact, even if colleges reject me, I will have some closure as to why. It can’t be my 36; it’d have to be because my essays didn’t demonstrate that I belong in their community, and that’s fine. I just can’t bear the thought of being rejected because my test score was too low.
Update (February 28, 2017): My writing scores are now out; 11/12! Here’s my full score report:
How to improve or perfect your ACT scores
So I’m in no way an ACT guru, but my 36 came as a result of a few strategies I employed. I have a few tips for each section. That being said, please take this with a grain of salt, as there are many factors that go into play when someone takes a test.
- English – The ACT English section is harder than the SAT Writing section. I like how the ACT has a harder grammar section and an easier reading comprehension section because 1. ain’t nobody got time for BS analysis and 2. grammar just makes sense to me. If you are a grammar Nazi, I highly suggest you take the ACT. If grammar is very hard for you, you may want to consider taking the SAT. There are 75 questions in the ACT English section, done in 45 minutes. The timing is very quick. Be sure you are innately familiar with English grammar.
- Mathematics – If you can do SAT Math, you’re good with geometry, and you’re good with trigonometry, then the ACT Math section is very straightforward and easy. As you may know, CAS (computer algebra system) calculators like the TI-Nspire CX CAS are unfortunately banned from the ACT. I used somebody’s TI-Nspire CX instead. You should use whatever graphing calculator you are most comfortable with using. Honestly, for those who take calculator courses where tests are non-calculator, this shouldn’t be too difficult for you. Also NO GRID INS BLESS. Be sure to work easy problems quickly. If you are finding yourself running out of time in the end, it is better for you to quickly do easy problems than to spend time on them, ensuring they are right, because they probably are. Instead, you should be done with 45 questions within 35 or 40 minutes. Use the remaining 20 to 25 minutes to work on the remaining 15 or even 10 or 5. The last questions are always the hardest and you should spend the most time on each of them relative to the other easier questions.
- Reading – Unlike SAT Reading, the ACT Reading section actually makes sense. (What do I mean? There’s not much “inferencing” to be done.) Read the text, find the keywords in the question, circle, and move on. There’s not much thinking to be done. But you do need to understand the passage well. Be sure to keep on your toes! 40 questions in 35 minutes is difficult but doable.
- Science – Also known as the “logic” test, or to those who think it’s a joke, the “free” section. But no, it’s not really a free section. Basically, you will be analyzing data presented within “experiments” or passages. Sometimes, you can simply look at the question, glance at the data, extract the relevant number, circle the answer, and move on. Other times, you will have to think or deduce based on the information given. The only scientific knowledge you may have to know: how to calculate percentage error or the planets, etc. Personally, I found the Science section to be the most challenging because there was no SAT equivalent.
Some general tips:
- If you’re confused about a question, just reread or come back to it later. If you’re feeling like you’re running out of time, then circle the answer choice that makes most sense to you and move on.
- Make sure you don’t miss a question by misreading it. Always double check and ensure that your answer choice makes sense by coming back to it a second time and analyzing how it correlates to the passage vs. what’s being asked.
- Get faster by cutting down on reading and answering questions faster.
- Do practice tests and analyze where you messed up. After my scores came out, I found out that reddit.com/r/ACT has great resources, including links to old released tests.
Here are the steps I took to get a 36, with some plausible alternatives:
- I took the ACT Bonus Pack lessons from KD College Prep. In retrospect, their ACT lessons are actually really good because 1. I understood them and learned very quickly from them and 2. more people get perfect ACT scores at KD. (Alternatively, get an ACT prep book that’s not the official one or take lessons from Princeton Review or Kaplan.)
- I took a practice ACT at KD. (Alternatively, take a practice test in an ACT prep book or Princeton Review, Kaplan, etc.)
- I bought the official ACT prep book and took a practice test in there. (January 2017) Then I went over my mistakes. (January 2017 and night before ACT.) If you do any more prep, make sure this is the last thing, as you need to get into the mindset of how actual ACT questions are written. Princeton Review, Barron’s, KD are great resources but they are not the real thing and that will never change, which is why you need real practice questions. (Alternatively, you may use the practice test located within the free ACT Student Guide, available on the ACT website through a quick Google search.)
- Took the ACT. (February 2017)
At the end of the day, just try your best and don’t tell yourself you have to get a 36 because then you’ll get a 35 or lower.
Feel free to contact me for any more advice. I can add more advice to this page if you ask for it.