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Beline Obeid

Student tips for taking the ACT

Ask the Experts


August 02, 2012
Q. What can we do as parents to help and support our children preparing to take the ACT this coming fall?

A. For those tackling the ACT for the first time, it can be daunting, but not only can students take the test more than once, it is highly recommended they do so. In fact, on average, students will do better the second time they take it, once they are familiar with the process and past those first time jitters. With so much on the line and their scores so important for college entrance and financial aid, who wouldn't be jittery?

The ACT, unlike the SAT, focuses on what was learned and the school's curriculum. It is not an aptitude test. Per ACT Senior Vice President for Educational Services Jon Erickson, "The best way to prepare for the ACT is to take the rigorous classes offered by your school. Because the ACT tests the knowledge and skills students learn in school, it is very similar to the types of tests students are used to taking in their classes." The ACT includes tests in English, math, reading, and science, as well as an optional writing test.

Students are not penalized for wrong answers so make an educated guess. Because the ACT is a timed test, it is suggested students take practice tests that will allow you to get comfortable with the test structure and to develop time management skills. The ACT has a total of 75 English, 60 mathematics, 40 reading and 40 science reasoning questions over two hours and 55 minutes. That averages a little under one minute per question. You should plan on a pace of almost two questions per minute for the English section and about one a minute for the other sections.

Another tip: If you get stuck on a question for more than two minutes, guess an answer, trying to eliminate one or more of the answer choices as definitely incorrect. Then put a "tick mark" by that question so that you can return to it, if there is time.

Another key strategy: It's important not to rush. It is better to have to guess on one or two questions at the very end than rush through and make careless errors all the way through.

There are many resources available for families and students online, some free and some not. For good information, check out the ACT website: actstudent.org and act.org/path/parent/

index.html. Many students will do well on their own taking advantage of online help. Others benefit from an ACT Prep course (Princeton, Kaplan etc.), or a more personalized approach of one on one coaching.

For more information on ACT Prep, contact Michael Richman at Tutor Doctor of Metro Detroit at (313) 899-0937.

The Family Center, a 501(c) (3), non-profit organization, serves as the community's centralized hub for information, resources and referral for families and professionals.

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