How to Improve My ACT Score

You have decided to take the ACT and have the ambition to get into one of the best colleges in the world. This is fantastic to hear! To help you achieve your goals, we have provided some thoughts and resources to help you along the way:

The Reading Section (out of 36 points)

This section is normally the most challenging for students, especially for those whose first language is not English. This section is 35 minutes in total.

  1. Reading Material
  2. There are four reading passages in the ACT Reading Section. These passages are divided into the following topics and are always in the same order:

    1. Prose Fiction
    2. Social Science
    3. Humanities
    4. Natural Science

    The key to improving your score is to focus on reading more on topic areas you are less familiar with and score worse on in the ACT. If you are unsure about which area you may be weaker in, a good trick is to think about which topic you are least interested in. Normally this will be your weakest area, and you should complete more practice in this area.

    There are a myriad of free online reading resources that you can use to improve your reading. We recommend the following:

    1. Good Reads does a very good job listing some of the U.S and World Literature Classics. Of course, you do not need to read all of the suggestions, but reading as much as you can before the ACT will definitely be useful for the Prose Fiction section on the ACT.
    2. Arts & Letters Daily has plenty of reading material that largely covers the Social Sciences. The website is updated on a daily basis.
    3. The Scientific American is a very useful resource with plenty of Science articles to keep you busy.
    4. The Stanford Magazine is the magazine issued by Stanford University. This magazine has plenty of fantastic academic articles that not only cover some of the latest breakthroughs, but also act as very useful reading texts for the ACT.
  3. Vocab, Vocab, Vocab
  4. We cannot stress the importance of learning new vocabulary enough, especially if English is not your native language. Why is it so important? There will always be a handful of questions that you will not be able to answer unless you have an advanced vocabulary. After you finish completing a reading exercise from a source above or complete a practice paper, do your best to write down all the new words you encounter. Always strive to add to this list over time.

    The hardest part is not actually writing the list. The hardest part is motivating yourself to keep reviewing this list and make sure you can recall the meanings of the new words. Try do review the list every time before bed. It might only take five minutes, but will make a huge difference to your vocabulary knowledge.

    The ACT is known to try and trick its candidates with words that have second meanings. For example, we are all familiar with the commonly used word "want". For example:

    "Jeremy's wanting to find the person responsible for damaging his only souvenir from travelling to Germany as a child drove Jeremy crazy."

    In this example, the verb "want" has the meaning we are all used to seeing. Sometimes, however, "want" can mean something completely different:

    "It was clear to Gill that Jeremy was wanting the skills necessary to adequately complete the task at hand."

    Here, "want" takes on its second meaning: to lack, to not have. To summarize, you must be aware that some words have second meanings and make sure you are familiar with them.

    The English Section (out of 36 points)

    The questions in this section of the ACT can be split into two types: those that assess grammar and punctuation, and those that assess expression of ideas.

  5. Grammar and Punctuation
  6. For those who have never studied grammar directly before, these sorts of questions can be quite challenging. You may often get the right answer going by feeling. You won't be able to explain why an answer is correct but it just sounds natural. Does this sound like you? Without truly understanding why a certain answer is correct, you always run the risk of falling short when it comes to the real ACT.

    If you are serious about scoring highly on this section, then it is imperative that you take the time to learn the grammar and punctuation rules that feature in this test.

  7. Expression of Ideas
  8. These sorts of questions require you to use logic to reach the correct solution. They include questions on organization (ordering, adding or deleting sentences), development (picking the best supportive sentence, developing ideas) and effective language use (conciseness or most effective solution).

    When answering these types of questions, it is very important to read what the question is asking carefully. For example, if the question is asking for the most specific piece of evidence to support a point, then you must critically assess which answer choice answers that question. Do not pick the answer that sounds the most 'natural' because this is not answering the question. Another suggestion is to underline keywords in the question to help yourself to understand what the question is asking.

The Math Section (out of 36 points)

The math section is much more predictable than the Reading and English sections, meaning that if you do enough practice and get your head around a sufficient amount of questions, you can be sure that you will do very well in this section.

  1. Topics
  2. The math section syllabus is split into six main areas:

    1. Pre-Algebra (20 – 25%)
    2. Elementary Algebra (15 – 20%)
    3. Intermediate Algebra (15 – 20%)
    4. Coordinate Geometry (15 – 20%)
    5. Plane Geometry (20-25%)
    6. Trigonometry (5-10%)

    You need to make sure that you have studied everything on the syllabus so that you are fully prepared.

    The Science Section (out of 36 points)

    Do not be fooled by the name of this section. Even though it is called the science section, not much scientific knowledge is required to do well on it. The science section mostly tests you on understanding and interpreting texts. Thus, in a way, it is more like an extension of the reading section. There are seven passages in this section that test you on your ability to read and understand scientific texts and interpret scientific data. Yes, having a scientific background is helpful here, but it is mainly due to understanding the scientific method (i.e. data collection, data analysis and evaluation). Therefore, having strong reasoning skills is actually more important than being great at science to do well on this section.

    Practice Paper Resources

    With any test, one of the best ways to get better is to complete as much practice as possible before the real test. The ACT provides four practice papers for you to use to prepare for the ACT in the Official ACT Prep Guide. It goes without saying that if you are serious about improving, you must complete all of these practice papers.

    As well as these, there are many text-books that provide their own practice tests for the ACT.

    Self-Study vs ACT Class vs Tutoring

    ACT classes, especially tutoring, can be very helpful in helping you prepare to score as highly as possible on the ACT: they can provide resources and notes, useful tips and tricks, and explain question types that you are struggling with. Typically, you can choose to self-study, find a tutor, or attend a class.

  3. Self-Study
  4. Self-studying is a flexible way to go: you can study when you like, where you like. On the other hand, it can be challenging to improve all by your self. This is certainly true for the mathematics section. Some of the concepts in the mathematics section can be tricky to master, and studying from a book is not always the most efficient way to refine your math ability. Moreover, many candidates find it difficult to organize their time and really sit down to do the work. Many students will perform better with the guidance and help of a teacher or tutor and learn better that way.

  5. 1-on-1 Tuition
  6. 1-on-1 tuition is the most effective way to study and prepare for the ACT. A tutor can tailor each class to your level and work directly with you to tackle your weaknesses and help you achieve the score you want. The major advantage of 1-on-1 tuition over attending an ACT class is the degree of interaction you will have with the teacher: in 1-on-1 sessions, you will be the only student and will therefore receive the best quality preparation, at your own pace, at your current level. If you would like to enquire about our AEI 1-on-1 ACT teachers, please get in touch with us today.

  7. ACT Classes
  8. The classes can be as small as a handful of students, or much larger with 20 or more students. The main disadvantage of attending class, however, is the lack of efficiency and modifiability of the class. If you are mastering the concepts faster than your classmates, you might be held back by their progress. On the other hand, if the class is moving too fast, then you will find it hard to stay on top of what is being taught to you. At AEI, our class sizes are limited to 8 students, which means that our teachers are better able to adjust lessons plans to meet the levels of our students.

    We hope you are now more clear about what you need to do to improve your ACT score. If you have any questions, please get in touch. We will be happy to provide guidance.










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