Teachers share their strategies for the ACT
By: Danielle Hamilton and Aubrey Ford
If you’re like most high school students, the ACT can seem overwhelming. The school year is tough enough as it is and throwing in another test – one as big as this – can be difficult to maneuver.
To help with that, members of The Nahuatl staff have gathered insight from four high school teachers to help you prepare for the ACT.
Know What to Expect
Before going into the ACT, it’s important to know what you’re being tested on. The test is divided into five sections: English, Math, Reading, Science, and Writing (the writing portion is usually optional, but required when students take the test in school during their 11th grade year). Along with that it’s important to note that the ACT is a timed test.
When asked about ACT preparation, Mr. Davenport, a math teacher at Snow Canyon High School, stated the following: “[Students] don’t want to get bogged down on a question which takes up all their time. So, they have to get prepared for the material part of it, but also for the timing of it.” And no matter what you do, DO NOT CRAM. “I would say that the best advice for students is to not cram,” Davenport added. “I think the natural tendency for students is to do things at the last minute, but the ACT isn’t one of those things that you can just cram at the last minute and do.”
Practice Makes Perfect
The best way to ensure you’ll get a satisfying score on the ACT is to study for it. And yes, that includes outside of class. Just like everything in life, practicing is the best way to ensure growth and higher results.
“The ACT is like sports, and like anything we do in sports, school, or life,” said Mr. Rarick, a Language Arts teacher at SCHS (and advisor of The Nahuatl), “the best performers are the ones who put in the work outside of regularly scheduled practice time.” Though some of your teachers will prepare you in class, relying on them as your only source may not be the best decision. Heidi Gilmore, math teacher at Pine View High School added, “there is not enough time to do it all in school and those that practice on their own seem to do better on the test.”
If you’re looking for a place to start, Gale and Schmoop are wonderful resources. And the best part? They’re free. Even though the ACT is months away for next year’s Junior Class, many students will choose to take the ACT on any of the various dates the test is offered through the year, also it’s never too early to get familiar with the test.
Take it Seriously
If you’re considering getting a higher form of education, your ACT score will become an important factor. Depending on your score, you can be eligible for scholarships and grants that will help you in the long run. “Take the ACT seriously,” Rarick continued, “because I – this is from personal experience – at the university I first attended, I qualified, based on my ACT score, for a $2,000 per year scholarship for a total of three years. So that’s a $6,000 scholarship. But, if I would have scored one point higher on the ACT, I would have qualified for a $5,000 scholarship for four years. So, that would have been $20,000 total. I lost $14,000 by scoring one point lower – and I didn’t know that was the cost until it was too late.”
Though the school will cover the cost for one attempt on the ACT in the middle of your junior year, you should still give it your best shot. Your first attempt on the ACT will teach you what to work on, and if you choose to retake it, you will know what to study.
Feeling nervous? You’re not alone. Every high schooler is, though our levels of stress may vary, nervous on test day. “How students feel is highly variable,” explained Mr. Quilter a biology teacher from Desert Hills High School. “There’s always some anxiety with high stakes testing,” he continues, “I think the students that understand what to expect feel a lot better about things than those who just ‘show up,’ fear of the unknown is huge.”
No matter how you feel, how prepared you are, or all of the above, just know this test isn’t the end of the world, though it may feel like it in the moment. If you do wish to improve your score, the ACT is offered seven times a year at a variety of locations. Whatever ends up happening, relax, do your best, and the rest will come to you!