As college testing season continues, so do our tips for rocking the test of your choice! Last week, we gave you our tips for rocking the SAT and this week, we’re discussing 7 proven strategies to rock the ACT!

Winning the college game can happen in a lot of different ways! There are tons of methods out there, books to read, prep courses to take, but which ones really matter? A lot of organizations and companies seem to have a “magic formula” but, what methods really make the difference?

The truth is, there isn’t a magical “one size fits all” formula or a perfect way to study for the SAT/ACT, but there are some simple and important steps you can take to ensure you design a strategy that ensure you get the best possible score.

Before tackling the best prep strategies, it’s essential for you to answer a crucial question: Is the ACT the right test for me?  Remember there is an alternative. Since colleges and universities have no bias for either test, it only makes sense to pick the best test for you. If you haven’t already, we would highly encourage you to think through this important question. To help you work through this, we have an entire post comparing the two tests and to help you find the best test match. You can read that here.

Once you’ve decided on the right test, and if it happens to be the ACT, then here’s some tips to set you up for success!

Start Early

As is the theme of a lot of things you read around here, planning ahead and starting early is a key ingredient of success when taking the ACT. Here’s our test timeline recommendation:

Determine which test to take by the end of sophomore year

Create a test prep game plan complete with strategies and 3 – 4 convenient test dates

Begin prep and plan to take the ACT once early in your Junior year

Continue preparation & take the ACT 1-2 times during the Spring of your Junior year

Leave the option open to take it again at the beginning of your senior year if necessary.

It’s crucial to plan ahead to be able to determine the right test for you, register for those tests and to have enough time to take them multiple times. You should also keep in mind some of your ideal college choices and what their ACT ranges / policies look like so you have a realistic target.

Start with the End in Mind

Using your baseline score, identify a realistic goal. A reasonable improvement range 3 to 5 composite points for the ACT, assuming you are just getting started. If you have already done a considerable amount of prep and taken the test 3 or more times, additional improvements can vary significantly based the method, manner, time and individual.

Identify How You Learn Best

If you want to maximize your results, we strongly encourage you to identify and consider your primary learning modalities (Visual, Auditory, Kinesthetic) when creating your plan. While we are capable of learning through all 3 modalities, most of us tend to learn most efficiently through our primary modality. Identifying your primary and secondary modalities preferences can make the learning process significantly more enjoyable and successful. Here’s a great article on Learning Modalities and Why They are Important.

Choose the Best Prep Strategy for You

There are three main strategies when preparing for the SAT: Self-Study, Group Prep, and Private Tutoring. Within each of these types are multiple options. Self-study could include using books, flash cards, apps, websites or other resources on you own. Group Prep can vary based upon size, timing, location, and the information taught. Private Tutoring is most commonly provided one-on-one in a manner customized to meet the unique needs of an individual.

While all strategies require time and effort, financial investment and return on investment can vary significantly. When choosing the best strategies for you, it’s essential to consider how you learn best, level of commitment, and financial resources. When choosing a strategy, we often remind students and families to avoid the old adage of being “penny wise and pound foolish.” While private tutoring often requires greater financial investment, its common to see significantly better outcomes than other methods or strategies and an exponentially better return on your investment of both time and money. For example, if a student needs 4 – 5 points to qualify for in-state tuition, generally valued at between $15,000 – $25,000 annually, private tutoring, would yield an average return on investment of over 13,000% annually. How many times would you like to invest $1500 at that whopping rate of return?

Mock Tests

These are not to be confused with the abbreviated versions or hybrid tests. To really practice and prepare for the real thing, you need to do the real thing! That means possibly getting a proctor and sticking to the actual time that you’ll be required to abide by when taking the real test. The most important factor is to create a real test environment to practice in. This is even more crucial when taking the ACT. Make sure to complete plenty of timed drills when practicing for the ACT. Taking the ACT untimed is not good practice strategy and often leads to test day frustration.

Just like anything, you have to be careful with the source of the information you’re getting and the same is true with the type of practice tests you obtain. We recommend only using authentic past ACT tests. These can be found through the ACT website.

Practice, Practice, Practice

There’s nothing wrong with taking multiple mock tests. Assuming you have invested the time necessary to learn and master the foundational information and concepts, taking several full length standardized ACT tests is the most predictable way to grow your test taking muscle.  Keep in mind, emulating test conditions is key here, especially when it comes to time constraints.

Fail Forward to Success

Like so many things in life, our greatest opportunity for learning and growth comes from making mistakes. Perspective and awareness is key. Rather than trying to perfect every topic or section, focus on the areas where you can improve your score the most. Invest the time to both the what AND the why you missed questions so that you may learn and avoid repeating similar mistakes again. Remember failure is not permanent, it’s an invitation to grow and expand!

The ACT can seem daunting, but with right preparation and practice, you’ll rock it!