Parts of the Exam
The ACT exam is composed of four different sections, as well as one optional writing section. Some schools recommend taking this optional writing section, while others do not. Whether you should or not depends on the school you are applying to and what kind of programs you are applying for. It is essential to research the schools you are interested in and understand the requirements before signing up for the ACT. When in doubt, however, it might be best just to take the writing portion of the exam, as it only adds 30 minutes to the clock.
Unlike the SAT exam, the ACT has a science section, which requires additional preparation, of course. That being said, however, all the information provided in the questions is sufficient and drawing on outside knowledge is by no means necessary.
Let’s look at a basic breakdown of the ACT according to the section, number of questions and time allotted.
With the exception of the Mathematics section, which offers a five-choice multiple-choice structure, the other sections are all four-choice multiple choice. The writing section is an essay prompt, and therefore does not include multiple choice style answers.
The ACT required skills vary according to section.
This section primarily tests grammar & usage, punctuation, sentence structure, strategy, organization, and style.
Some subjects reviewed in this section include pre-algebra, elementary algebra, intermediate algebra, coordinate geometry, plane geometry, and trigonometry.
This section of the exam challenges reading comprehension based on question content. Just as with the other sections of the exam, you must deduce based on the information provided.
The science portion of the test challenges interpretation, analysis, evaluation, reasoning, and problem solving.
The writing section tests just that: writing skills. It will test your ability to create and defend an argument in a clear and concise manner.
Preparing for Success
There are two components necessary for a p1ositive outcome on the ACT exam: consistency and practice. Cramming is simply not the route to take here. Let’s examine these two ingredients more closely:
A little goes a long way when preparing for this type of an exam. While it can be exhausting both physically and mentally, just like training for a race, it is necessary to be consistent and build up your stamina. For example, studying and doing practice exams for an hour each day, rather than spending five hours in one day, is much preferred. This way, you will become more familiar with the test and the more comfortable you feel with the exam, the better.
The expression “practice makes perfect” definitely applies here. While your exam grades may not be exactly perfect, what is most essential is improvement. Mimicking exam conditions is advisable. Since you will be taking the exam in silence, don’t practice with music. Drink and eat what you would on exam day, and complete each section in one sitting. Before you know it, you will be able to sit for nearly four hours straight with ease! Timing yourself is also crucial, especially if you have difficulty finishing a section. Give yourself a time limit for each question, and if you have time at the end to go back, do. This way you don’t waste time on questions you don’t know. Time is precious on this test, so make sure not to waste it!