Mastering the ACT – Tips and Strategies from Chyten

About the ACT

ACT Advice From Chyten 

To master the ACT, students must be able to process information quickly and efficiently. They must apply skills and strategies concurrently. They must make choices, calculations and even guesses with toughness, tenacity and fortitude. There is much students need to know to truly master the ACT. As they will find when taking the ACT, time can be the cruelest adversary of all, so strategies that save time will play a crucial role in their success.

Tips for ACT Science

ACT Science Test Advice From Chyten

Of all the individual tests that compose the ACT, The Science Test is the toughest one to finish within the very limited window of time given. Tip: To succeed on the ACT Science Test, students must develop the ability to quickly analyze and synthesize information from multiple sources.

Practicing and becoming familiar with sources such as graphs and charts is an important aspect of the preparation process. Students should also practice interpreting multiple tables, then comparing and contrasting the information presented. Further, students should develop skill in recognizing how conclusions change as new information is added. Tip: Pay close attention to each table’s x- and y-axes titles, main title, data scale and key.

The process of acquiring information, drawing a conclusion, then assimilating new information and drawing a new conclusion is a natural ability for many. Many students do this virtually every day when conducting internet searches. However, it is a skill that can be and must be fine tuned for the ACT Science Test.

Further, having the ability to identify, compare and contrast opposing views is critical. Tip: To understand contrasting viewpoints, students should first identify the perspectives of those viewpoints. For example, two sports fans arguing over which is the best team of all time are both likely to be sports fans, but with different perspectives. Perhaps they grew up as fans of different teams. Similarly, two scientists who interpret data differently are most likely drawing conclusions based on past experience.

Tips for ACT English

ACT English Test Advice From Chyten

The ACT does not test students on the rules of grammar, but rather on recognizing correct or incorrect usage of grammar. Further, the ACT 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.

Tip: Use The Two-Step Solution: 1) Students can often distinguish right from wrong by sounding out the answer choices. Since the correct choice is always provided alongside several incorrect choices, a quick read through and elimination of choices that sound obviously incorrect is quite effective. 2) Once this initial procedure is completed, finding the correct answer is merely a matter of comparing the remaining choices to identify the specific issue being tested. For example, if two remaining choices begin “having been” and “has been,” it should be clear that verb tense is the issue being tested. Armed with that knowledge, a student can quickly determine which form fits the passage.

Tips for ACT Reading

ACT Reading Test Advice From Chyten

The ACT Reading Test is quite 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. They must be able to read a passage, follow the flow of ideas, then assess and apply that information.

On the ACT, students are also asked to locate and comprehend. However, the questions do not reach the cognitive level of “application.” Few questions reach beyond “Level Two” (defined as a two-step thinking process without synthesis or application). Instead, ACT Reading Test questions focus much more on the author’s craft and the structure of the passage. Tip: Skim the passage and create a road map to the author’s ideas contained in each part of the passage. Do so by summarizing each paragraph with a short phrase. This is referred to as Trigger Phrasing(SM).

This is vitally important both for the two or three questions that refer to specific information presented in the passage and for those that require comparisons of information. Trigger Phrasing responds to the nature of these questions perfectly, giving students a critical edge in a section that allows them a mere nine minutes to read 800 words and answer ten questions.

Tips for ACT Math

ACT Math Test Advice From Chyten

Many students fail to hit their target scores on the ACT Math Test because they misread the questions. Careless and unfocused reading skills cause students to needlessly lose points, sometimes on very easy questions! Tip: It is vital for students to understand that the ACT often writes stems (the actual questions) in the negative. In other words, instead of simply saying “solve for x” an ACT question may state: “All are possible answers EXCEPT.” They should carefully consider all answer choices before making their selection.

It is so easy to misread an ACT question. By understanding how to read the questions 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 SAT, it’s the answers that trick students. On the ACT, it’s the questions. Tip: ACT test takers should spend time fine tuning their “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.

The ACT demands that figures be perfectly scaled to the proportions mentioned in the question. In other words, if it is indicated that an arc is 36 degrees, it will look like 36 degrees and not like 45 degrees. If exploited, this fact will help students increase their scores dramatically. Tip: 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 demands that its question writers make math questions obviously wrong without tricks. Again, the ACT tricks are in the stems, not in the answer choices. Test writers are given rubrics and guidelines to create questions. As with the SAT, well conceived math strategies can exploit every eccentricity of these ACT testing rubrics.