ACT Action Plan: Two Months To 24-Plus
The ACT test dates for 2015 and 2016 have been released, and the nearest one to this post is September 12, 2015. That means you have until August 7 to beat the late fee and until August 21 to get registered for the test itself. Total amount of study time: 82 days if you start today and go right up to September 11. That means it’s time to put your ACT action plan in motion today. We’ve got some tips to help you out.
The First 16 Days: Laying The Groundwork, and Learning What You Already Know
With 82 days to go and four test sections to prepare for, we recommend breaking it all down into five 16-day chunks. Why five? Well, that means one chunk for each section and one chunk that allows you to take practice exams, come back to particularly troubling sections, and yes, take a little break here and there as needed. This is a good template to use. From there, it’s up to you to prioritize and move around based on what you know about your strengths and weaknesses. A good place to start: your interests, your grades, and especially your past test scores if this isn’t your first time to take the ACT. In my case, I scored 36 on the English part of the test, but a dismal 15 on science reasoning.
(Go ahead. Laugh.)
That means I needed the least amount of help on English, so I felt more comfortable placing it further away from the actual test date. I found the closer I was able to comprehend tougher subjects to the date of the actual test, the better my scores were on subsequent attempts.
The Second 16 Days: Ear To The Ground
The more that you study, the easier it will be to keep your ear to the ground and figure out where to make adjustments. Let’s say the 16 days for English is excessive since you didn’t miss a single question the last time you took it. You may want to spend just a few days brushing up on it before taking the rest of the time and distributing it to the other sections. Moving into the second 16-day chunk, you’ll have a better idea of how many actual days each section gets moving forward. We recommend making chunk number two your next strongest subject. That way if you feel yourself getting ahead again, you can readjust the remaining time and distribute it to the next two sections the way you did with section one. It’s worth noting, though, that if you struggle with each area, then you may want to go ahead and take the full 16 days to focus and study equally.
The Third 16 Days: Making Good Time
At this point, it’s around July 23, and you have 51 days remaining until it’s time to take the test. If you’re following our guidelines, you should also know that this will be one of the tougher sections for you since it was likely your second lowest score the last time you took the test. No worries. The concept is basically the same. Figure out which questions you’re struggling with the most and tip the focus more intensely on those individual skills. Hopefully you’ll have some idea of where you have the most trouble. If not, you’ll probably learn it the more tests that you take, or you will be able to make connections between the most hair-pulling test questions and the areas where you struggle the most in your classes. If you haven’t done so, we highly recommend you take our practice ACT test and invest in some training materials to review the types of questions that are being asked within each section.
The Fourth 16 Days: Home Stretch
It’s August 7. The first registration deadline is here. By now, you should already be signed up. If you’ve let time get away from you, don’t worry. You still have two weeks, though you’ll have to pay a bit more. We recommend registering as soon as you decide you’re going to take it so you don’t have to interrupt yourself from studies. Oh yeah, and you’re coming up on a new school year, so routines will be very important as your time is no longer your own. Don’t blow it! This will, by our method, be your most challenging section to prep for, and you may have 16 days (or more). We recommend taking your study materials with you on vacation if there is a family trip planned. Even if you just get a little bit done, it will keep you from breaking the study chain. Once you break that chain, it’s a lot more difficult to motivate yourself to get back on the horse, so to speak. Now, you can still take breaks or the occasional day off through any of these sections, but we wouldn’t recommend two consecutive days off because it can so easily become three and four and five.
The Fifth 16 Days: or, Really, The Last 18 Days
This is where we recommend processing everything that you’ve learned and focusing on the one key way to prove you’ve made progress — practice tests. Yes, during this stage, we would be taking at least one practice test per day and also making notes about which areas are still giving us the most trouble. Hopefully you are as well because this is a great opportunity to revisit problem elements while they’re still fresh on your mind. You’ve also got to consider the fact that you’ll probably be starting back to school during this section, so there will be tons of distractions with classes, extracurricular activities, reconnecting with old friends, etc. It’s at this point that focus becomes essential. If you do get pulled away from your studies, don’t be too freaked out. That’s why you started today, developed a game plan and tried sticking with it as much as possible while making adjustments where they best suited you. But you do want to try and stay focused on the goal. Seriously, 18 days, 18 practice tests. If your work/school/family obligations become too pressing on a day here and there, make sure that you make up for it.
One Final Word
Don’t worry about how other people are performing on the ACT. Worry about you. And if others are able to get a 30 and then brag that they didn’t study at all, don’t listen to them. If that’s the sort of thing that bothers you, then you’re clearly not that type of person. It doesn’t make you dumb. It just means you may have to put in a little more effort than the rest. Whether you’re a genius or you have to scratch and claw for every point, studying is always a good idea. Don’t be ashamed of it. Good luck, and let your ACT Action Plan begin!