Chyten’s Mastering the ACT Book Review

“Chyten’s materials outpace the others I’ve examined, especially in the quality of the practice questions. They are qualitatively and quantitatively identical to those on an actual ACT test. This is an extremely difficult feat as ACT tests are much harder to come by than SATs. The ACT corp. has released a mere 3 for practice, as opposed to the dozens released by the College Board. This makes mimicking the ACT very difficult.

But Chyten has achieved the arduous and built a bank of high-quality ACT practice questions. This book prepares students for the Reading and Math tests in extraordinary ways and with efficacious tactics and strategies. The essay section is quite mind-blowing and highly recommended, even to those students not taking the ACT but in need of help with their writing.  Chyten’s prep system is a good, solid system that can benefit students who are looking to raise their scores on the ACT.

The extent of grammar instruction, and the content of that instruction, is perfectly suited for preparation for the ACT….

The most common types of grammar questions are properly emphasized. The use of practice sentences is absolutely perfect. The most important aspect of the ACT English Test is practice and study. There really are no “tricks. The only true trick for this section is to know exactly what to expect and how to respond. Period.  The practice questions are an excellent duplication of the actual test. I found them to be very well-written.

ACT Math Test

It is vital for students to understand that the ACT writes stems (the actual question) in the negative. In other words, instead of simply saying “solve for x”, like the SAT, they will say, “All are possible answers EXCEPT”. These are the questions that catch students if they are not looking at all of the answer choices. It is amazing how easily a student can destroy their math score because they have misread the question. Lazy and unfocused reading skills cause the greatest mistakes on the ACT.

Chyten, rightly, spends several pages on critical reading skills for math questions. It may seem odd to focus on reading in math, but the stems on the ACT are much more convoluted than the stems on the SAT. By explaining how to read the questions critically, as well as providing a list of the weasel words that cause the question to go askew in a tricky way, Chyten easily increases a student’s score by 10-20%. It is so easy to misread an ACT question. On the SAT, it’s the answers that trick students. On the ACT, it’s the questions. Chyten has grasped this essential point and has responded appropriately in its instruction.

Chyten has also caught the fact that the ACT demands perfect scale. In math, the ACT wants geometric figures to actual be scaled to the proportions mentioned in the question. In other words, if an arc is measured 36, it will look like 36 and not 45. This is a rule on the ACT and, if exploited, will help students increase their scores dramatically. Chyten rightly tells students to trust their eyes when gauging an answer. This is absolutely true. Many test prep books do not catch on to ACT’s odd rigidity about scale.

Chyten also has caught on to the ACT’s demand that test writers make math questions obviously wrong without tricks. Again, the ACT tricks in the stem, not the answer choices. Chyten’s 8 math strategies exploit every eccentricity of ACT testing rubrics. Test writers are given rubrics and guidelines to create questions. Chyten has intuitively apprehended their foibles and created a tactic to address and exploit every one of them. I am extremely impressed by the math section.

ACT Reading Test

The ACT Reading Test is very unlike the SAT Critical Reading sections. The SAT questions are meant to determine a student’s ability to: locate, comprehend, analyze, apply. The SAT employs reasoning skills. A student must be able to read a passage, follow the flow of ideas, and assess information. The student is then asked to analyze information and apply it to another situation. On the ACT, the student is also asked to locate and comprehend. But the questions do not reach the cognitive level of “application”. The most difficult questions ask students to analyze. In the ACT, the Depth of Knowledge never exceeds a 2 (a two-step thinking process without synthesis or application).

Chyten’s strategy of “Survey, Trigger Phrasing, and Mapping” is perfectly suited to this test. While SAT Critical Reading required the Zig-Zag method because reference back to the passage was a constant necessity, the ACT questions focus much more on the author’s craft and the structure of the essay.  By skimming the passage and employing Trigger Phrasing, the student nails down the author’s ideas in each part of the passage. This is vitally important because only 2 or 3 questions of the ten will ask questions specific to the information presented in the passage. The rest will ask general questions about the entire piece OR questions about how one paragraph relates to the others. Chyten’s strategy responds to the nature of the questions perfectly, giving students an edge in a section that allows them a mere nine minutes to read 800 words and answer 10 questions.

I was truly impressed by the simplicity and effectiveness of these three strategic steps because, in three sweeps of the passage, any student can correctly answer all ten questions in the time allotted with little difficulty. Chyten’s materials also emphasize the need to look at every word in an answer choice. This skill cannot be accentuated enough. Many a student could have achieved a score in the 30s but for a single word.

ACT Essay

The essay often frightens students because many teens are self-conscious about their writing skills. They feel that any critique of their personal writing is a critique of their personhood and ideas. Because of this, many of them have not done much creative writing for fear of the judgment against them that will ensue. I believe Chyten’s essay section takes the entire process of creative writing and demystifies it for students. The simple techniques and exercises show the student that creative writing is about technique and power, not about their personality.

Chyten’s Essay section is tremendously well-done. I love the break-down of the ACT’s own instructions as well as the question-response practice prompts. I also applaud the fact that Chyten offer’s vocabulary options for students to memorize and use in their writing. Essay readers are always gladdened by a power word, emotional hue, or active voice. So many essays are written in the passive voice because students lack confidence in their own literary voices. So they write in an unoffensive way—the passive voice—where nothing is ever anyone’s fault.

But Chyten eases students into the goal of active writing—making accusations of real activity. It’s an excellent section, fraught with fantastic ideas that could be expanded into its own class. Kudos.”

The Rake Group, Inc.