5 Steps to Success on the ACT English Exam
The English portion of the ACT exam comes easy for some and is very difficult for others. If you don’t like to read or write, then chances are you’ll fall in to the latter camp. Don’t worry. You can still perform above the average (currently 20.6). And the good news is that “college readiness” levels are factored in at 18.
While these scores may change from year to year, the movement up or down is minimal. What that means for you is that you don’t have to knock it out of the park in order to gain acceptance at most colleges and universities. But if you’re a competitive sort, who always wants to do the very best you can do, then you’ll want to follow these 5 steps to success on the ACT English Exam.
1) Reading and Skimming
Of course, you must be performing satisfactorily in your classes at school. If the material isn’t soaking in or you’re earning a D or F on your progress reports, then you’ll need to acquaint yourself with the material that this exam covers. The test has 75 multiple choice questions that cover language usage and mechanics (think comma use, apostrophes, colons, run-ons, fragments, etc.) and rhetorical skills (think organization, transitions and writing strategies).
The test challenges you to answer these 75 questions in a 45-minute time limit, and each is based off a total of five reading passages. Scores are consistently higher when a student reads or skims over the passage first rather than jumping right in to the questions. If you are concerned about the time factor, realize that you don’t have to read every “a,” “an,” or “the.” Instead you should learn to recognize word groupings. Don’t go one syllable at a time or you’ll never finish.
Luckily, there are smartphone applications that can help improve your reading time. The QuickReader app on the iPhone has a free version that allows you to copy and paste walls of text into the display screen and set the length of time you’d like to “read” the material in. Once you’ve adjusted the settings, the app highlights word groupings at the interval of time you’ve chosen (300 words per minute for instance). Work with this application for a few days, and you’ll find yourself falling into the habit of skimming text more effectively. This will help out tremendously on the day of your exam.
2) Answer in Sequence
Okay, so you’ve skimmed over the passage. Now what? Now you can get to the questions themselves. Notice how much more smoothly the answers come when you’ve lain the groundwork and have a basic understanding of what the passage is about. Questions tend to start with the easiest first allowing you to build your confidence and reaffirm comprehension of the passage as you go.
Don’t mess with this learning mojo. Go in the sequence that they are presented. Don’t skip ahead unless you are certain you don’t know the answer. Should that occur, guess or mark the question in your test booklet and move on with full intention of coming back to it for a more educated try before the time limit expires. Remember you only have 45 minutes. Don’t get too hung up on one question.
3) Process of Elimination
While agonizing over the questions themselves, use the process of elimination to your advantage. Standardized testing exams tend to give two options that are easy to spot as red herrings. In other words, they are pretty obviously wrong. Mark those answer choices off in your test booklet as you encounter them. Drowning out the extra noise will allow you to hone in on the viable options, which in turn gives you a better shot at choosing the best one.
Sometimes the answer choices can be confusing, particularly when an “All of the above” or “None of the above” is involved. Don’t let these options usurp your own understanding of the material. If you’re quite certain about something then have enough faith in your own understanding to go with the answer you have deduced. Again, there are no punishments for wrong answers, so you might as well bet on yourself.
4) Be Sure of your Answers
One helpful tip, though: if you do get an “All of the above” option, give the other answers a quick review. If you find two options that accurately answer the question and there are two others you’re not sure about, then chances are very good it’s safe to go with the “All” option. But don’t choose it just because it’s there.
5) Guess for the Best
One more time: there are no punishments for wrong answers. If you find yourself with a shortage of time at the end of the exam, go back to the beginning and count the questions you’ve left blank. If there are a ton, you will want to go crazy with the random guesses. If there are only a few then start with the one that you know the most about and work from the most knowledge to the least being aware of your time and ready to darken those bubbles.