Many of the kids with whom we work through the college process come to us right around the time of the ACT in their sophomore or junior years. We take systematic preparation for this test seriously because it is a critical variable in most admissions’ committees decisions about your candidacy. For an overview of our thoughts on the college process in general, please visit the college coaching page of this site. Below, you’ll find a summary of the ACT process specifically, which can help you gain some familiarity with it, as you set your sights on vanquishing this important test. Remember that we are available to you to help situate the ACT within the college process and to craft the right ACT process for you. Feel free to contact us about any question, no matter how big or small.
Determine when you need to take the test and plan your preparation schedule
The ACT is administered six times annually and most students take the exam during their sophomore, junior or senior years. We advise our clients to get a jump on this test and start studying in the summer before their junior years; many of our students aim for an ACT date in the winters of their junior years, thereby freeing them to concentrate on academics in the all-important final semester of junior year. Achieving your best score on the ACT takes time and it's nice to have the test out of the way by the time your college application process is in full swing. In addition, while the vast majority of our students are satisfied with their scores after taking the test for the first time, it is good to give yourself another opportunity in case you are unhappy with your first score.
Accordingly, starting your preparation earlier is obviously better. The ACT is highly coachable, patterned, and predictable. It is a well-known fact that familiarity through repetition leads to dramatically superior outcomes on the ACT. We recommend a minimum of 16 sessions to cover the entirety of the test. Most of our students space these sessions out over the course of three to six months during a Comprehensive Package.
Students who have more time or feel that they would benefit from additional preparation often choose the Planning Ahead Package, which includes 20 sessions. The Planning Ahead Package allows for additional focus on two or three sections and more extended coaching on practice exams.
Familiarize yourself with the format of the exam
ACT Inc., the company that administers the test, provides this summary of the ACT format. In addition to familiarizing yourself with the content and timing requirements, we recommend that you complete the sample questions provided on the ACT website.
Establish a baseline on a practice test
Establishing a baseline score is an important first step in the process of studying for the ACT. We highly recommend taking a full-length official practice exam as your diagnostic. ACT Inc. offers several free practice tests in PDF format. We strongly advise you to look at only one of the tests before you begin working with a tutor. We will use the remaining tests periodically to assess your progress and identify areas for improvement.
Take your diagnostic exam under timed conditions and complete it in one sitting. Sustained focus over a long stretch of time can be one of the primary challenges of the ACT. Give yourself about three hours to complete the test (3 hours and 30 minutes if you sit for the Writing section), including a 5-minute break. Follow the scoring instructions described in the PDF to see how you did.
Your score on this diagnostic exam is not particularly important. Your correct and incorrect answers serve as a starting point for your tutor, allowing us to build a syllabus aimed at addressing your weaknesses.
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Once you have a score from your diagnostic exam, we can advise you on what kind of preparation program makes sense. The more information you provide the better. If possible, please summarize your performance on each section of the exam, your goals, your schedule, and any specific concerns you have about your preparation. One of our tutors would be happy to discuss a preparation schedule and budget that suits your needs.
Tutoring & Practice Testing
Once we've matched you with tutor, the real work begins! You’ll meet with your tutor regularly (ideally, at least once or twice per week), complete homework in between sessions, and take practice tests. Practice tests are the best way to measure how well you’re applying the methods you’re learning in tutoring sessions, and to gauge the progress of your score. Based on the results of your practice tests, your tutor will adjust his or her approach, and make sure you are getting as much out of the process as possible.