ACT Tips from Livius for national college entrance exams

As high school students get ready to apply for college, around 2 million students will take the ACT this year, all trying to achieve target scores. This test can feel daunting to some students, because it requires students to process information quickly and efficiently and apply skills and strategies that take time to learn. Effective ACT test prep and practicing proven methods can make even the highest goals reachable. Below, we offer fundamental ACT tips for each multiple-choice section of the exam, with strategies that save time and can improve their chances at success.

ACT Tips for Science

The science section is an important place to focus on efficiency, as it can be one of the toughest sections to finish in the time limit. Students should develop the ability to quickly analyze and synthesize information from multiple sources.

Familiarity is an important part of ACT test prep in general. Students will have greater success if they are familiar with tools such as graphs and charts. Students should practice interpreting data tables, and comparing and contrasting the information presented. Also, as science is a subject that evolves based on new data, students should learn to recognize how conclusions change as new information is added. We recommend students pay close attention to each table’s x- and y-axes titles, main title, data scale, and key.

Synthesizing data is a natural ability for many students who already do this every day when conducting internet searches. This skill will be even more useful  for the ACT Science Test.

Also, having the ability to identify, compare and contrast opposing views is critical. Students should first identify each perspectives among contrasting viewpoints. For example, two sports fans arguing over which is the best team of all time are both likely to be sports fans, but they have different perspectives. Similarly, two scientists who interpret data differently are most likely drawing conclusions based on past experience and training. One of our most recommended ACT tips for science is that students focus on the perspective grounding the arguments.

How do I prepare for ACT English?

Students can breathe a little easier knowing that the ACT does not test on the rules of grammar. Instead, it focuses on recognizing correct or incorrect usage of grammar. Also, the ACT English section has certain tendencies that can be exploited. For example, the use of commas is commonly tested, but no distinction is made between colons and semicolons.

In English, one of our favorite ACT tips is to use the Two-Step Solution. 1) Students can often distinguish right from wrong by sounding out the answer choices. The correct choice is always provided alongside several incorrect choices. Because of this, a quick read through and elimination of choices that sound obviously incorrect is quite effective. 2) Then, to find the correct answer, students simply compare the remaining choices to identify the specific issue being tested. For example, two remaining choices begin “having been” and “has been.” It is clear that the verb tense is the issue being tested. Armed with that knowledge, a student can quickly determine which form fits the passage.

How do you Master the ACT Reading Section?

The ACT Reading Test is very different from the SAT Critical Reading sections. SAT questions measure a student’s ability to locate, comprehend, analyze and apply. To answer them correctly, students must employ reasoning skills. This means they must be able to read a passage, follow the flow of ideas, then assess and apply that information.

On the ACT, students must locate and comprehend information. However, few questions require synthesis or application. Instead, ACT Reading Test questions focus much more on the author’s craft and the passage structure. “Trigger Phrasing “is one of our favorite ACT Reading tips. Students skim the passage, create a road map to the author’s ideas, and summarize each paragraph with a short phrase. Then they use this phrase to quickly recall the summary.

This method is important for the questions that refer to specific information presented in the passage. It is also important for questions that require information comparison. Trigger Phrasing responds to the nature of these questions perfectly. It gives students a critical edge in a section that only allows nine minutes to read 800 words and answer ten questions.

ACT Tips for Math

The Math section can be quite challenging. However, many students fail to hit their target scores on the ACT Math Test simply because they misread the questions. Careless and unfocused reading skills cause students to needlessly lose points. Students need to understand that the ACT often writes stems (questions) in the negative. Instead of simply saying “solve for x” an ACT question may state: “All are possible answers EXCEPT.” Students should carefully consider all answer choices before making their selection.

It is easy to misread an ACT question. By understanding how to read critically, as well as by knowing the “weasel words” that cause a question to go askew, students can easily increase scores by 10-20%. On the ACT, seeing through the trick questions. In fact, “critical reading” skills play a big role in math questions. The stems on the ACT are much more convoluted than the stems on the SAT.

The ACT demands that figures be perfectly scaled to the proportions mentioned in the question. This means that if it indicates an arc is 36 degrees, it will look like 36 degrees and not like 45 degrees. Knowing this fact will help students increase their scores dramatically. Students can and should “believe their eyes” when evaluating a drawn figure and gauging an answer. Many test prep books do not catch on to ACT’s odd rigidity about scale.

The ACT tricks are in the stems, not in the answer choices. Test writers are given rubrics and guidelines to create questions. Well-conceived math strategies can exploit every eccentricity of these ACT testing rubrics.

All Together: ACT Test Prep

The ACT tips here have helped many students already. With time and practice, you can get where you need to be.

For more information, check out our ACT Test Prep services.