General

With the TOPS program being cut, it’s more important than ever to get your composite ACT score up. The higher your ACT score, the more money individual schools will offer you in scholarships, regardless of what the new TOPS requirements are.

If you must make a blind guess because you run out of time, then for the English, Reading, or Science test, the last 10 questions are A or F 26% of the time, B or G 27%, C or H only 20%, and D or J 27%. For the Math test, the last 10 questions are A or F 22% of the time, B or G 10%, C or H 15%, D or J 22%, and E or K 31%.

Never leave any answers blank—NEVER! A 20-25% chance of getting something right is better than a ZERO% chance, which is what you get when you leave something blank.

You don’t have to answer the questions in the order given. Skip harder questions and come back to them later.

 

English

You must answer 75 questions in 45 minutes so you have approximately 36 seconds per question. Most colleges require at least an 18 in English to be accepted. This usually requires you to get at least 43 of the 75 questions correct.

When the ACT gives you a specific question about the passage, be sure to focus on the details of the question. Chances are that grammar is not the issue. If you focus on those valuable phrases, you can select the answer very quickly.

The shortest answer, as long as it is grammatically correct and makes sense in the sentence, is always the best answer. The ACT is always looking for answers that follow the 3 C’s: consistent, clear, and concise!

We tend to overuse commas and the ACT writers know that! Adopt the philosophy “when in doubt, leave it out” when it comes to commas on the ACT.

Know the difference between ITS/IT’S/ITS’. Its (I-T-S) shows possession. It’s (I-T-apostrophe-S) is a contraction for “it is”. And its’ (I-T-S-apostrophe) is not even a real word.

The only time a semi-colon will be used on the ACT is where there are two complete sentences on either side of it.

 

Reading

You have 4 passages with 10 questions each to complete in 35 minutes—that’s 8 minutes 45 seconds per passage. While most colleges don’t require a specific score in Reading to be accepted, the Reading section is still one-fourth of your composite score.

There are two key features of every correct answer on the reading test: 1) the answer must be SUPPORTED directly by the passage and 2) the answer must fit the SCOPE of the passage.

Approximately 6 out of 10 of the questions come directly, word-for-word from the passage so read carefully and look closely for those answers.

To help finish all four reading passages on time, practice skimming through the passages in approximately 3 minutes and using about 5 minutes to answer the ten questions for the passage. If you’re running out of time, it might help to only read the first sentence of each paragraph and try to pick up on the main ideas.

The simplest method of improving your reading speed is to move your index finger or your pencil along the line you are reading at a slightly faster pace than feels comfortable. Your eyes will naturally keep up.

You won’t be directly tested on your vocabulary, although the better your vocabulary is, the better equipped you’ll be to answer questions that involve choosing the most appropriate word. Look carefully at the context clues if you aren’t sure what something means.

 

Math

You must answer 60 questions in 60 minutes so that’s 1 minute per question—however, it might be helpful to spend less than a minute on the easier problems so you can save some time for the more difficult problems. Most colleges require at least a 19 in Math to be accepted. This usually requires you to get at least 30 of the 60 questions correct.

It is easy to make a mistake on an ACT math problem. Each problem takes multiple steps, and many incorrect answer choices are designed to catch your errors. The best way to prevent this from happening is to SHOW YOUR WORK! This sometimes includes drawing pictures if a picture isn’t given.

Images on the math test are almost perfectly drawn to scale, even if the question says that they are not. If you get stuck on a really complex geometry question, try to eliminate answers just by looking at the figures.

Go through the math test and first answer all the questions you know you can quickly work and answer. Then go back through and find the questions you know how to do but require more time. Then if you still have time left, look at the more challenging questions and try to at least eliminate a couple of answers choices to make a better educated guess.

Sometimes you can find the answer faster by plugging in the answer choices until you find the right one. When you do this, begin with the middle answer. If it is too large, then there will only be 2 smaller answers left. If it is too small, there are only 2 larger answers left.

You don’t get a formula sheet so you need to be sure to carefully review the formulas you need to remember. Please keep straight the formulas for the AREA of a circle (pi-r-squared) and the CIRCUMFERENCE of a circle (2-pi-r).

 

Science

You have 6-7 passages with 5-7 questions each to complete in 35 minutes, so you should spend about 5 minutes per passage. While most colleges don’t require a specific score in Science Reasoning to be accepted, the Science Reasoning section is still one-fourth of your composite score.

Each question on the science test will tell you what you need to look for. Usually the question will tell you which table, graph, or figure you need. Other times, the question will tell you which topic or experiment to reference. Regardless, the road signs are in the question. Follow them!

The Science Reasoning test is not directly testing your Science knowledge so you don’t need to actually understand the words/vocabulary to still do very well on that section.

Beware of irrelevant information. There will usually be more information than you need on the Science test. Always focus on the particular chart, graph, figure or other “road signs” that a question refers you to.

Most of the science answers are found directly in the charts and graphs; however, some of the harder passages do have answers hidden in the introductions so you should at least skim through them.

Quite a few questions on the science test will provide several answers that are directly contradicted by the associated passage or figures. Instead of trying to completely understand the question, eliminate any choice that is a contradiction.