10 Mistakes Standing Between You and a 30 on the ACT
The number 30 has an almost magical connotation when it comes to any discussion of the ACT Test. If only you could get your score to that benchmark, then the scholarship money would pour in and you could attend the next four years of your life without any kind of worry about student loans overtaking you upon graduation. There is a lot of truth to the financial assistance part of this daydream, and it’s not quite as hard to get there if you know what you’re doing. All you really need to do is eliminate these 10 mistakes from your preparation time.
1. You don’t play to your strengths.
No matter where you’re coming from, you do have strengths. They may not be as strong as someone else in your grade, but stop thinking about it like that! You’re not in competition with everyone else; you’re in competition with the last score that you achieved. That means in the beginning you’ll want to see how you perform from a “resting position.” You can and should study for that first time to take the ACT, but it’s what you do after the test has been taken and the scores are in that makes the most difference. You’re going to see that some sections come more easily for you than others. Make note of those sections, and structure your next study session accordingly. You wouldn’t want to spend all your time on something that you scored a 36 on when there is another section where you only scored a 24. You would want to spend more time on the 24. That way, even if the 36 comes down a point or two the next time you take the test, you’ll be moving that lower number in the right direction.
2. You don’t plan your study time.
If you’re not going to study, then taking the ACT and scoring a 30 becomes sort of like winning the lottery: it may happen, but your chances stink. Study time is essential to getting you to the magic 3-0, but only if it is used wisely. That means you need to start with enough time between you and the test date that you can actually explore and investigate the areas where you’re lacking while reinforcing your strengths. With everything else going on in your high school life, you can’t afford to ignore planning. It’s the only way to hold yourself accountable and create a plan that gets results.
3. You don’t explore all resources.
If you were like High School Me, then you may have borrowed an ACT study guide from a friend and then promptly forgot about it until a day or two before the test. Big mistake! If 30 is your goal — and coincidentally yours truly never got there until I started doing this — then you need to take advantage of the book as well as any tutoring classes at your disposal.
4. You just assume you’ll get better every time you take it.
I had a friend in high school who was a naturally gifted guy, and he figured that the ACT wasn’t really something he had to plan for. When his first score came back as a 25, and he was only a sophomore, he figured the world was at his feet. The next two years he would take it seven more times, refusing to study each and every time. He hit 27 once, but every other time, he scored the same thing: 25. It really is simple to elevate your score through proper planning. Don’t get cocky about your natural abilities or else you will never get there.
5. You goof off in class.
Tests may be easy. Homework may be filler and never truly evaluated on merit. But class time is usually a great chance to learn the concepts and information that will serve you well on the ACT. By taking schoolwork seriously, you stand a much better chance of hitting 30 without having to do a lot of extra studying on your own.
6. You don’t evolve the study plan to fill in ‘gaps.’
We’ve alluded to it already, but it’s worth its own item here. You have gaps in your head regarding what you know and what you don’t know. Each time you take the ACT, you will get a sense of your strengths and your weaknesses. It does you little good to study equally for every subject if you only have one or two sections that give you trouble. Apportion your study time unevenly to where your weaker subjects get the most time. That way test day won’t sneak up on you.
7. You don’t take practice tests in a simulated environment.
Don’t just treat those practice tests like they’re an open book homework assignment. Get yourself to a quiet room with timer in hand. Set it to match the time allotments for each ACT test section, then take the tests under the same rules and regulations. Simulation — regardless of how you do — will help you to not freak out on test day.
8. You don’t take enough practice tests.
Repetition is the only way to build a true level of comfort. Take a practice test every weekday in those last two weeks leading up to the big event.
9. You cram.
Cramming works on pop quizzes if just getting an A is your objective. In terms of forever learning difficult concepts and materials … think again. You can’t be certain what’s on the ACT to begin with, so don’t for a moment think that the rules of cramming apply here.
10. You fail to show up physically/mentally/emotionally prepared for test day.
You would be surprised what a little planning and a nice hot shower can do for your performance simply by boosting your comfort level and outlook. If you have an outfit you like the way you look in, or one that makes you feel comfortable in your skin, wear it. Brush those teeth. Eat a good breakfast. Show up in enough time so you don’t have to rush around to get where you’re going. Controlling the conditions for the test as much as you can will help get the best performance out of your brain.
Before you take the ACT, make sure that you resolve to avoid the 10 mistakes listed above. If you do, then it’s absolutely possible to make a 30 on the ACT. Good luck!