ACT English Practice: 10 Tips to Get Higher Score

The ACT is one of the two key college readiness tests. Like they do with the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT), admissions offices use your ACT score to help decide if you’re a good fit for their college or university.

Both tests are broadly used, but recently, the ACT has become more accepted than the SAT. Over two million students attempt the ACT every year, whereas about 1.7 million take the SAT. It’s simple to believe like all standardized tests are the same, but these tests measure two different things.

The SAT determines your ability to learn, and the ACT determiners what you’ve already learned.

Quick facts on the ACT:

Eligibility requirements: none

Length: three hours and 30 minutes

Sections: four necessary (English Grammar, math, reading, science), one optional (writing)

Number of questions: 215 (plus an essay prompt)

Types of questions: multiple choices, essay (writing section only)

Score range: 1–36

Cost: $46 without the writing section, $62.50 with the writing section

What does ACT stand for? ACT technically stands for American College Testing, but the test is administered by an organization of the same name, and they basically refer to it as the ACT.

What does the ACT tests you on?

The ACT tests you based on things you should be taught by the end of your senior year of high school. We’ll give you some great tips, but first, here’s a tip that applies to all multiple choice section:

Never leave a question blank. You aren’t penalized for incorrect answers, so even if you have completely no hint what the answer is, take a guess!

The English section of the ACT will determine your mastery of the nuts and bolts of prose. Rather than asking you to repossess information or think critically about a passage, you’ll scan individual phrases, sentences, or paragraphs.

English section of the test was designed to “determine one’s awareness of language (word choice, style, and tone), understanding of the conventions of regular English (punctuation, usage, and sentence structure), and production of writing (topic development, organization, unity, and cohesion).”

There are a number of varieties of multiple choice questions, but they’re all based on passages. If a passage has underlined sections, some of the questions will request you to improve those parts with one of the options provided. If none of the recommended changes improves the passage, you can choose “no change” (this is pretty common).

You may be asked to change a passage to create a particular effect, like building a stronger transition between two thoughts or rearranging sentences to form a more logical sequence. You’ll also be asked about how particular changes may affect the passage, or what information a specific section provides.

Should I take the ACT Writing Test?

It absolutely won’t count against you if you don’t take the optional section of the ACT. So if you’re an awful writer, that’s most likely a good choice. However, in view of the fact that it doesn’t count towards your composite score, and it can provide the admissions office with a more personal representation of your academic qualities, it’s a good idea to take it.

A big shiny ACT score can, without doubt, make your college applications stand out, but people can only learn so much regarding you from a number. There’s no assurance a college will use your ACT essay, but if you’re a good writer, this is a constructive differentiator that not every applicant is going to have.

Personally, I’d recommend it.

What’s a good ACT score?

Despite the fact that a perfect SAT score is 2,400, a perfect ACT score is just 36. But less than .1% of all ACT test-takers get a faultless score. So what’s a good ACT score?

The average ACT score is 21. Except, sitting smack dab in the middle isn’t going to make your application stand out. And for schools that want to develop their reputation for excellence, an average score may not be good enough (unless you have an extraordinary portfolio or something else to show off).

A good score is different for every school

Unless a school explicitly states the lowest ACT score you need to be admitted, you have to look at the students who are actually accepted to dedicate a “good score.” No matter what schools you’re looking at, you can see the range of standardized test scores for students they’ve admitted. You can even evaluate the bottom 25% of accepted students and the top 75%. If the other pieces of your application are strong, you can most likely get by with a lower score.

What do you indicate by “A good score”?

Of course, good is a relative term. Maybe by “good”, you stand for scoring in the top 90%? So keep in mind in that case, you’re shooting for a 28 or higher. And yes, four points can make that huge difference. At times getting a single point higher on your composite score can make a difference of 7%.

Whereas a score around 24 should get you into most schools, scoring 28 or higher will have some schools throwing money at you, begging you to be one of their students.

Now that you know additional about what to aim for, let’s talk about what to do with a bad score.

What happens if you get a bad score on the ACT?

It doesn’t matter how much you study, there are plenty of factors that can add up to a bad test day. Lack of sleep, poor diet, not exercising regularly, health issues, stress, and distractions make it difficult to perform your best under pressure. But thankfully, you can retake the ACT as many times as you want. And ACT.org says that 57% of students who retake the ACT improve their score.

While it comes time to submit your ACT score to a school, you can prefer to submit your highest composite score. So no one even has to know if you have a bad test day. This doesn’t indicate you can pick and choose your best results from each section, though. If you did really well on different sections on different days, you might want to share both scores—but you can’t mix together them into a new composite score like some kind of ACT Frankenstein.

How do you prepare for the ACT?

Similar to all standardized tests, the best way to get ready for the ACT is to take practice tests. You should undoubtedly study the terms and concepts you’ll need to be familiar with (especially for the math and science sections), but when it comes down to it, practice is the best path to a high score.

The greatest practice tests will give you explanations for why one answer is right, and the others are wrong. To make sure you’re getting the most appropriate practice, be sure to check out the materials provided by ACT.org, the makers of the test.

However, here are some tips to get a high score

Build Your Vocabulary

Vocabulary is the main key success factor for both the SAT and ACT. Even though the tests do not directly test vocabulary, familiarity with a large number of English words that frequently appear on the ACT can help you score well on the reading comprehension, sentence structure analysis, and writing sections.

There is a wide range of vocabulary-building tools including word lists and flashcards. Explore some of the options and decide the right program for you. Most importantly, set a sensible goal and achieve it, whether it’s ten words each week, or fifty!

Refresh Your Grammar

Numerous students complain that they were not taught proper grammar, or that they forgot what they learned. With proper study, students can master what they need to know for entrance tests.

Check your writing for grammar and punctuation with GrammarLookup.com The best free online grammar checker!!!

Study Etymology

While you study etymology, you learn about the origin of words and how related words allocate a common root. Ability to identify a word’s root, or roots, can help you understand its meaning. Etymology can not only help you grow your vocabulary but will improve your skill to eliminate wrong answers and make “educated guesses” on the ACT.

Take Practice Tests

Though taking a practice test may not be your perfect way to spend a Saturday morning, but it can help boost up your scores. The ACT is timed tests, and taking practice tests in test-like conditions not only helps you prepare but boost your confidence. Practicing for the test beforehand can be hard work, but is critical to help you score higher. If you go in blind without practicing, I guarantee you will get surprised by the unexpected. Find yourself a good ACT test prep book and take the practice tests to see how you do on each of the four sections.

Do Not Cram! 

Don’t try to cram your review of the test prep book and your practice test taking into days. Spread it out over at least a month or even two and spend one to three hours per day on your test preparation. By giving yourself sufficient time, you’ll absorb everything better and will be able to get help on any subjects you may need.

Practice makes perfect!

When you take the practice tests, make sure you only allow yourself the number of hours you will actually have during the real test for each section. Use a stopwatch or alarm clock to make sure you stop right after the allotted time. If you have difficulty finishing in time, you should take a different practice test forcing yourself to do one of two things; moreover mentally focus on speeding up answering each question, or set the timer for less time than the actual test will let so you know you must answer questions quicker.

Finish before Checking!

Answer all the questions of the practice test before you look at the answers at the end of the book. You must practice depending on your own knowledge. The answers at the back of the book are there just to check your answers and to show you mistakes or sections you need to improve more. The ACT rewards you for right answers and essentially doesn’t punish you for wrong answers, so if you don’t know the answer for sure, make a sophisticated guess. Don’t leave any question unanswered except you completely run out of time.

Read it as if you wrote it!

For the reading section, you must read the questions first and then read the text you are believed to answer the questions about. This will help many students tie in the questions to the context of the reading passages. Read the passage as if you are the author and you are reading what you just wrote. What would you have been imagining about if you just wrote the passage? What would you have been willing to say? What details were you presenting? Then, take the practice test for that passage. Moreover, extra you read challenging material, the faster you’ll read, and the better you will grasp.  Magazines, like The Economist, National Geographic, The New Yorker and Foreign Affairs, are written at a higher level of difficulty than most periodicals, will develop your vocabulary and improve your critical reading skills.  The New York Times and Wall Street Journal also offer a challenging reading.

Get help!

If you discover a number of questions you can’t answer correctly, or perhaps one of the four sections that give you a significant signal, get some help from a qualified tutor who offers ACT test prep assistance. Don’t presume that the actual test will be any easier than your practice tests. It won’t be. Get help before you take the real ACT test.

R and R (Rest and Relax)

A day before the real test, get plenty of rest and good night sleep. Have something healthy light in breakfast and head off to the test well prepared. Make sure you have everything you require for the test including a calculator, pencils and your admissions ticket. Expect to be a little nervous. It’s natural. Expect to find at least a few questions that pitch you a little. For those questions, take a decent guess by eliminating any answer that you think can’t logically be accurate and. Don’t panic, With all your preparation, you will score healthier than you would have before the preparation even, that outstanding 36. And, even if you don’t like your score, keep in mind you can take the test again and keep the best score. Good luck and here’s to you scoring your greatest on the ACT.

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