ACT Test Tips and Techniques

Test Tactics and Sectional Strategies for the ACT
A Study Guide for College Bound Students

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The information offered in this Tactics and Strategies Report is intended for general educational purposes only. No warranty is either expressed or implied about the benefits to be obtained from using this information as a study aid for the ACT.
These tips should only be used as an adjunct mechanism for preparing to take the ACT and obtain the best possible score. Students should also study vocabulary words, as well as the fundamentals of arithmetic, algebra and geometry.

OVERALL TEST TACTICS:

  1. Learn the section directions now. Use the time saved during the test to work on questions.
  2. Answer easy questions first. Mark skipped questions in your exam book so you can quickly return to them later.
  3. Guess...if you can eliminate at least one choice.
  4. You can write in the test book: cross out wrong answers; do scratch work.
  5. Avoid stray marks on the answer sheet. A machine scores your test and can't distinguish between a correct answer and a careless doodle.
  6. Easy questions usually precede hard ones.
  7. Mark only one answer per question.
  8. Skip any question if you haven't the faintest idea about the answer. You don't lose points.
  9. Understand the scoring! You get a point for a right answer. There is no deduction for omitted answers or for wrong answers. However, filling in each question with even a guess is better than leaving the answer grid blank.
  10. Keep checking that you are placing your answer in the correct section and number on the answer sheet.
  11. Don't spend too much time on any one question. You should spend only seconds on the easiest questions, and hesitate to spend more than 1-2 minutes on even the hardest ones.
  12. Practice, practice, practice!
  13. Remember that the ACT consists of a series of small, timed, mini-tests. Keep track of the time you're allotted for each one and how much time remains.
  14. Bring a watch to the test center. You can't be guaranteed that there'll be a working clock there.
  15. Don't change an answer unless you're sure you made an error.
  16. Read the words in the question carefully. Be sure to answer the question asked and not the question you recall from a practice test.
  17. Know the Question Types to Expect on the ACT * 19 analogies * 19 sentence completion * 40 reading comprehension * 35 math multiple-choices * 15 quantitative comparisons * 10 student-produced responses
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SPECIFIC SECTIONAL STRATEGIES

English, Reading, and Science Reasoning Sections:

  1. Review English grammar and usage, as well as punctuation, parts of speech, sentence structure, and word parts.
  2. Don't rush your selection. Consider all the answers to make the best choice.
  3. Use the context of nearby words to figure out unknown words.
  4. Pace yourself. You have roughly (actually slightly less than) 1/2 minute for each question.
  5. Examine each underlined portion with care. 
    It will suggest what is being sought from you by its context in the passage that the question refers to.
  6. Choose the best answer possible, using the process of elimination to narrow your choices.
  7. After you've made your choice, mentally substitute your answer into the underlined portion to see if it seems correct.
  8. If you don't know the meaning a word, try to recall if you've ever heard it in an expression. 
    The context of the expression may suggest the meaning of the word.
  9. Beware of obvious answers! They may be there only to mislead you.
  10. You should base your answers to the questions solely on what is stated or implied in the passages.
  11. Carefully read any introductory text.
  12. Skip questions you don't know. Return to them after answering other easier questions.
  13. First and last sentences of each paragraph are critical.
  14. Read the passages before reading the questions.
  15. Don't waste time memorizing details.
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MATH Section - STANDARD MULTIPLE CHOICE:

  1. Read the question well. Be sure to select the best answer for the variable, value, or expression that is requested!
  2. Learn in advance all of the critical definitions, formulas, and concepts that appear in common questions.
  3. Remember to use the test booklet for scratch work, as well as for marking up any diagrams/graphs.
  4. Early questions in this section are easier. Spend less time on them.
  5. Don't get carried away with detailed calculations. Look for a trick or a shortcut if the question seems time consuming.
  6. When a question contains a weird symbol, just substitute the accompanying definition when figuring out the best answer choice.

MATH Section - QUANTITATIVE COMPARISONS:

  1. Don't ever guess at Choice E. There are only four choices!
  2. Always consider values that are fractional (between 0 and 1), zero, negative, or non-integer.
  3. Factor out, then cancel, any common expressions or quantities in both Columns A and B. Remember that you are just trying to make relative comparisons.
  4. Questions are simpler and should take less time than the Standard Multiple Choice. Look closely. The answer is often apparent without any calculations.
  5. Write on any diagrams to help clarify any values, angles, sides, etc.
  6. Compare; don't solve!
  7. Simplify one or both sides whenever possible before comparing.

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