The ACT is a test designed to evaluate college readiness in high school students. The ACT contains 4 required sections and 1 optional essay section. The 4 required sections are English, Math, Reading, and Science. Through our Austin ACT Prep, high school students discover crucial study skills and strategies for the ACT. Our private ACT tutors educate students about the main sections of the ACT, passage types, question types, and fundamental concepts that arise on the ACT.
The ACT English section contains 75 multiple choice questions that students must finish in 45 minutes. These questions are split up into 5 passages with 15 questions per passage. The ACT English section measures students' understanding of grammar and rhetoric. ACT English will assess students' comprehension of and competency in punctuation, pronouns, verb tense, subject/verb agreement, word choice, transition words, paragraph structure, and more.
One of the best strategies strategies for ACT English section is to choose the shortest answer. In other words, choose the answer choice with the least amount of words. This is an extremely powerful strategy for the GRAMMAR questions, but not the Rhetoric questions. Two of the primary goals of English is to be precise and concise...clear and to the point. ACT English questions expect you to understand this idea that less is more. This strategy of "when in doubt, choose the shortest answer" will not work 100% of the time, but it will work a lot of the time!
The ACT Math section contains 60 multiple choice questions that students must complete in 60 minutes. Unlike the SAT which has 2 separate math sections (one with a calculator and one without), students will have access to a calculator for the entire duration of the ACT Math section. The questions in the ACT Math section will evaluate students' comprehension of and competency with concepts taught in primarily Algebra 1, Geometry, and Algebra 2. Unlike the SAT, students will NOT have access to a formula chart that contains some key equations such as Area of a Triangle, Volume of a Rectangular Prism, etc. Students will be expected to have those formulas memorized.
One of the most powerful strategies for the ACT Math section is to understand that the section proceeds in the order that students learned math. In other words, problems get increasingly harder as students progress. The first 25 questions are the most basic in nature, the next 20-25 problems are intermediate in difficulty, and the last 10 questions are the most challenging. This is useful to understand because it can help students understand how to pace themselves. The first half of the ACT Math section should take less time than the second half (because problems get increasingly more advanced/difficult).
The ACT Reading section contains 40 multiple choice questions that students must complete in 35 minutes. These questions are split up into 4 passages with 10 questions per passage. The four passage types are Literature, Social Science, Humanities, and Natural Science. The questions in this section center on main ideas, passage details, words in context, purpose, and inference.
One of the most powerful strategies on the Reading section is to ANNOTATE the passage. Next to each paragraph, students should try to write 1-5 words that capture the main idea of that paragraph. Approximately HALF (20 of the 40 ACT Reading questions) are Detail questions. Detail questions ask about a specific detail or piece of information in the passage. Annotations are important because they help create a road map of the passage. In other words, annotations should make it easier for students to recall where certain details were discussed in the passage. Without annotations, students often waste time combing back through the passage trying to find the information the question is asking for.
The ACT Science section contains 40 multiple choice questions that students must complete in 35 minutes. These questions are split up into 6 passages that contain 5-7 questions per passage. The questions in the ACT Science section primarily assess students' comprehension of and competency in the interpretation of data and trends, research summaries, and conflicting viewpoints.
One of the most powerful strategies for the ACT Science section is to look for key phrases in the questions. Approximately 25 out of the 40 questions on the ACT Science section assess students' ability to draw accurate conclusions from data presented in graphs and tables. Virtually all of these questions also feature key phrases that tell students where they can find the answer to the question. These phrases could be "according to figure 1", "based on table 2", "according to the passage", "based on study 1", etc. These phrases are crucial because they literally tell students where to go to get the answer.
ACT Essay (Optional)
The ACT Essay section is optional, but some universities do require students to do it, so be sure to verify admission requirements! The time limit for the ACT Essay section is 40 minutes. The prompt will present a brief overview of a controversial issue and then 3 different perspectives about that issue. Students will be required to read this information, develop their own perspective, and argue for it (defend it) in an essay. Students may choose to defend one of the 3 perspectives partially or fully or develop their own unique perspective. The ACT Essay section was designed to assess students' skill in the art of writing and persuasion.
One of the best strategies for the ACT Essay section is to create an outline. Most students do not take a few minutes to create a brief outline. An outline helps organize one's thoughts and ensure a polished essay and smooth flow of ideas. At a minimum, the student should decide on their thesis (statement of their viewpoint that previews 2 reasons for why that viewpoint is best). The introduction and conclusion paragraphs should be brief, while the body paragraphs (typically 2-3 of those) should be longer. In an outline, students should write down the thesis (viewpoint) and the 2 reasons for why. The body paragraphs should center on those "whys".
A perfect score on the ACT is a 36. Each of the 4 sections of the ACT are worth 36 points. A student's score will be the average of those 4 separate scores.
The optional essay section is scored separately. Students will be evaluated by 2 graders on a scale from 1-6 in the areas of Ideas and Analysis, Organization, Development and Support, along with Language Use and Conventions. So, a perfect score for the ACT Essay is a 12.
ACT Prep Sessions
ACT Prep sessions can play an influential role on students' scores on these exams. Just like the SAT, in order to improve one's score, students ought to strive to develop a familiarity with the ACT exam as a whole and its multitude of question types and concepts. In ACT tutoring sessions, our experienced ACT tutors teach high school students about format, time limits and pacing, passage types, key concepts, and general strategies for the ACT.
We typically advise 1.5 or 2 hour duration for ACT tutoring sessions. This ensures that our professional ACT tutors have sufficient time to present strategies, complete practice questions with students, and review results of homework assignments. We highly advise that high school students do at least 4-8 ACT tutoring sessions prior to taking their ACT (1-2 sessions per section of the ACT). Remember that many students will have to take the ACT a couple times in order to secure their ideal score.
Through ACT Prep sessions, tutors will obtain a clearer picture of the particular sections and concepts their students struggle with. Then, our ACT tutors can gradually develop a more personalized ACT study plan for each unique student.