Taking a Practice ACT: the following are instructions for students considering taking the ACT for college admissions.
You might be here to determine whether to take the ACT or SAT, establish a baseline ACT score, or work on improving your ACT score. If any of these describe your situation, please read the following instructions. They will help you avoid the most common mistake in taking a practice ACT.
Basic Instructions For Taking A Practice ACT
First, make sure your practice ACT is REAL. For the ACT, that would be either from this link: First Practice ACT or The Official ACT Prep Guide. You want an accurate measure of your score, not an underestimate as usually is the case with other test prep books.
Second, take the test in the morning after a good night’s sleep and a good breakfast. You want to replicate test conditions as much as possible. This means you will want to seek seclusion in a room where you will be undisturbed for the duration of the test.
Third, be sure to time yourself. Each section of the test will show you the time allotted for that section. Use only that time. If you have an IEP or other accommodation for extra time on the ACT, you can use it.
Lastly, for the ACT, you will be allowed a break after the first two sections. If you happen to take the test with essay (with writing, for the ACT), then you are allowed another break before composing your essay.
Other Aspects Of Taking A Practice ACT
You are allowed water and snacks, but not to be consumed in the test room. Bring your supplies in a bag or backpack. Technically, you are not allowed food or drink in the testing room. Be smart about this.
Be sure to make the snack a power bar of some type. A student once brought chips, the sight and sounds of which brought hungry stares from other students, the crumbs of which brought contemptuous looks from the proctors. So, be sure your water and snack(s) are inconspicuous.
Don’t worry about fluctuating scores on your first few tests. This is normal. Over time you will most likely notice a general upward score trend. You are looking for progress, not perfection.
Doodle. Be sure to make diagrams and drawings when they help you. The more work you can do on paper and on calculator, the better. Accuracy and clear thinking are helped by doodling with a pencil and calculating with a calculator. Even writing a word or two in the margins as you read can help you. Please mark up your test to help yourself. There is no crime marking up your test.
Use your calculator as if you are paid to do so. You cannot guess how many times students have made mistakes doing single digit multiplication in their heads. Also, use parentheses as you would a seat belt when driving. For clarification on this point, ask me during our next session.
Use triage marking: when you encounter a difficult question or one you guessed on, please mark it so we can review it at your next session.
If a question is taking up too much time, let it go.
On the ACT, answer every question. There is no penalty for an incorrect answer.
Your Practice ACT Score V Your Practice SAT Score
Below is the concordance table for the ACT v SAT score. It is useful in determining what your ACT score is compared to an SAT and vice-versa. Also, if you are taking a REAL practice test of each, this table will help you determine which score is better.
To help make sense of the table: If Jenny scores a 21 on her ACT, but a 980 on her SAT, she is likely better off focusing on the ACT. Her 21 ACT corresponds to a 1080 SAT, while her 980 SAT corresponds to about an 18 ACT.
In another example: Jimmy scores a 20 on his ACT and a 1200 on his SAT. For Jimmy, his SAT score is higher. His 20 ACT corresponds to a 1040 SAT, while his 1200 SAT is about a 25 ACT.
Important note: please be sure to compare REAL practice or ACTUAL scores for tests you took within about a week or so of each other. Comparing an SAT you took last week to an ACT you took over a month ago is not an accurate comparison.
Determining ACT Or SAT For You
In the majority of cases, students score relatively the same on both tests. If it is almost the same, you can decide which test format you prefer or which test dates work better for you. You might prefer the style of the ACT over the SAT or vice-versa. This could also include which test you believe you can improve your score more easily.
For example, you score about the same on both test and have no preference for either format. Then, if you believe you can improve your score on the ACT math and science tests more easily than the sections on the SAT, by all means choose the ACT. All schools requiring standardized tests for admission will take an ACT in lieu of an SAT. Yes, even the Ivies.
In other cases, if you do score better on your practice SAT than your practice ACT, then go with the SAT. It’s only when it’s close that it’s difficult to decide. Again, some outside factors such as test dates, test availability in your area, or the need to take SAT Subject Tests could play a factor. So, please take these into consideration.
Final Comments In Taking A Practice ACT
The most important aspect of taking practice tests is to take them. And take them in realistic conditions. You want an accurate gauge of how you’d do. So don’t take a practice test when you’re tired, can’t focus, or are stressed. Also, don’t allow yourself extra time per section. These are the most common errors I’ve seen students make. Be honest with yourself and replicate test conditions as well as you can.
Also, by taking practice tests, you’ll improve. If not immediately, you should see your score improve in about 3-4 practice tests. By taking practice tests, you’ll start to take the fear and fear-mongering away from the test. Many students taking practice tests have said they still dislike taking the ACT, whether actual on a test day or a REAL practice test. It’s just that the test has morphed from scary to just annoying. Like a little brother. I should know. I’m the little brother.