8 ACT Test-Taking Basics for Success

There are effective ways to always approach every exam, especially the ACT.

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Dodie Carmichael

Published On

May 3, 2021

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There are effective ways to always approach every exam, especially the ACT. Gone are the days when students were thrown into a room without any test preparation and the best they could do was hope for the best. When we are prepared, given opportunities for practice, and know what to expect, our confidence goes up and we perform better. 

The ACT is a multiple-choice, paper and pencil test that covers the areas of math, science, English, reading, and an optional writing section. This test measures skill levels, is required by many colleges and universities and may be used as growth data to analyze a student’s progress over time. This is valuable information in supporting students on their path to college and career readiness as well as supporting students who may not be meeting learning benchmarks, but have still improved.

In order to do well on the ACT, it is important to start with the 8 ACT test-taking basics for success. These strategies will help improve overall performance on the ACT and can be applied to all sections of the exam.

8 ACT Test-Taking Basics for Success  

  1. Know the Exam
    Because these are standardized tests, the format of the test never changes. Go in knowing your time limit, number of questions for each section, the directions for each section and take a deep breath knowing you have prepared for this moment.
  2. Manage your Time
    College exams are three to four hours long, so you will need to build up your endurance. Just like you would for marathon or any sport where you are exerting a lot of energy, you will need to practice and pace yourself. You will want to make the most out of the time given to you. 
  3. Guess Effectively
    You are not penalized for guessing, so you should always guess on any questions you cannot answer with certainty. Go in with some key strategies, such as predicting or process of elimination, to help you make informed decisions.
  4. Write and Bubble Clearly
    Your test is graded by a machine, so be sure to fill in each bubble on your answer sheet completely using a No. 2 pencil. Alway double check to make sure you are on the correct question that corresponds to the answer sheet.
  5. Create a Study Schedule
    You will need to become familiar with your strengths and weaknesses in order to understand what to study. Then you will need to organize how you study to make use of your time so you are prepared for the actual test day. Create a study schedule because practice is essential.
  6. Be Prepared on Test Day
    Review lightly the night before, and most importantly get some sleep. Set your alarm the night before and leave early. If you are late, you cannot take the test. Lay out your clothes, know where you are going, have your admission ticket ready with photo ID, No. 2 pencils, erasers, calculator with new batteries, non-beeping watch, healthy snacks, and water.
  7. During the Test
    Always stay focused and keep your mind on the task at hand. You have prepared for this moment. Remember all the test-taking strategies, and the pacing you have practiced. Never underestimate the power of a positive outlook and confidence. Trust yourself, your abilities, and all the preparation you have put in for this moment.
  8. After the Test
    Give yourself a huge high five! You have just completed an academic marathon. Be sure to take time to relax and unwind with family and friends. You should receive your score report after two weeks of taking the test. Always keep in perspective that scores are great, but colleges will also look at essays, letters of recommendation, high school grades, extracurricular activities and more. You have more to offer than just a test score and you shine in so many other areas.

Remember, these are strategies that have proven to work and are not substitutes for studying the content and developing a deeper understanding of any mistakes made on practice tests. With exposure, strategies, practice, and studying, students can confidently know they were prepared and did their best.

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