The Ins and Outs of the ACT

Many students are taking the ACT on December 8th (if your child is NOT taking the ACT next Saturday please save this newsletter for a later time).

I know most of you are like me – back THEN we only took the SAT! Therefore, the ACT may seem foreign to you and therefore overwhelming. The purpose of this newsletter is to provide you with a break-down of the test and to share some test taking strategies we are teaching your child.
Also, I am including the link to an interesting article about the ACT vs. SAT. This article was published in The New York Times on Nov. 4, 2007, but it is still relevant today!

• Score is out of 36. Each section receives a score out of 36.
• 4 Sections – English, Math, Reading, Science
• Section scores are averaged – most colleges look at composite, not individual section scores
• Score Choice – most colleges don’t see every test!
• Shorter than the SAT: 3.5 hours
• 30 minute optional essay comes last (although we recommend all students take)
• No experimental section
• No penalty for incorrect answers – LEAVE NO BLANKS!

SECTION 1 English:
Tests – Punctuation, Basic Grammar, Sentence Structure, Organization, Style
• 5 passages with 75 questions total
• 45 minutes to complete
• Not in order of difficulty
• Complete grammar questions first. Save structure and organizational questions to end of passage. Reread for unity – answer saved questions.
• Know punctuation inside and out – especially comma rules!
• SAT grammar keys apply to the ACT
• Run out of time – pick Choice A/F
• Answer choice of OMIT and shortest answers often correct
• Separate transition words into “continuers” vs. “thought-reversers”

Tests – Pre-Algebra, Elementary Algebra, Intermediate Algebra, Coordinate Geometry, Plane Geometry, Trigonometry
• 60 questions, 60 minutes
• You have 1 minute per question!
• Timing is a BIG issue in this section
• Questions are in order of difficulty
• For questions 20-30 and above: when you see variables in the answers, pick numbers
• For questions 20-30 and above: if the question asks you how much, how many, or what is the value of, plug in the answers
• Use visual organizer for ratio and average questions
• Seek out the trigonometry questions; they tend to be easy
• Seek out the coordinate geometry questions; remember to draw a picture
• KNOW your formulas!

SECTION 3 Reading:
Type – Prose, Social Science, Humanities, Natural Science
• 4 passages, 40 questions, 35 minutes
• You have 8.5 minutes per passage!
• Lots of detail oriented questions
• Questions out of order
• Timing is a BIG issue in this section
• Need to strategize this section
• Questions not in order of difficulty
• Chart your answers. Get to know your strengths/weaknesses
• You are in control! You choose what passage to focus on first. Do not do in order!
• Prose passage – must read entire passage and then answer questions
• Science passage – hunt method: read paragraph, find question
• Circle names, dates, places, family members, terms and thought-reversers while reading. This strategy helps you find the answer in the passage because the questions are not in order!
• Do line references first
• Leave EXCEPT and Roman Numeral questions for the end of the passage

SECTION 4 Science:
Type – Data representation, research summaries, conflicting viewpoints
• 7 passages, 40 questions, 35 minutes
• Approximately 5 minutes per passage!
• “Bad” curve on this section, need to practice
• Science section pulls ACT score down
• Order of difficulty – easy to hard
• Learn how to read charts and graphs fast
• Read the passage and circle key terms
• Never put your pen down! Mark down what you need and what you have.
• Translate all questions into, “What are they asking?”
• Most mistakes result from carelessness
• More than any other section, the science section requires practice, practice, and more practice

SECTION 5 The Not – Optional Essay:
Many colleges will not accept ACT scores without the essay. At the end of the test, your child will be given 30 minutes to write a persuasive essay in response to a school-related issue. Should there be uniforms? Should homework be assigned daily? You must pick a side and stick to it on this essay, citing examples that prove your stance. You must also knock down the opposing side at the end of the essay.

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