How We Increase ACT Scores

How We Increase ACT Scores

Every student wants to score as well as possible on standardized tests. Each point can make a huge difference in college admissions, so the more improvement shown, the better. So how do we go about helping students get that score to rise?

  1. Content Review: The ACT is fundamentally a test of content knowledge, and any successful course of ACT prep begins with thorough content review. What do we mean by content knowledge? All of the information, processes, or rules a student would need to “know” to perform well on the test— this includes anything from grammar rules and math formulae to knowledge of core scientific principles, even how to summarize a paragraph effectively. With each student, we identify which areas of the test contain content knowledge that the student has forgotten, feels rusty towards, or never learned in the first place, and then we re-teach the material until the student knows it inside and out. Before we can focus on test-taking strategies, timing, or any higher-level concepts with a student, we must make sure the student knows the fundamental content knowledge on the ACT.

  2. Volume and Repetition: The most effective methods to ensure content mastery and lock in score gains on the ACT rely on frequent practice. We utilize two primary approaches in our practice assignments— block practice and interleaved practice—to help students retain what they’ve learned. Block practice consists of targeted work on a very specific process or skill— such as factoring equations, for instance— while interleaved practice involves mixing problem types in assignments. Blocked practice (such as a review packet) helps students master content; interleaved practice (such as a practice test or section) helps students retain what they’ve learned and stay sharp on material that hasn’t been covered for awhile. We utilize both approaches to make sure our score gains “stick.” Because the ACT is quite straightforward and often repetitive, there is no substitute for a student’s diligence and willingness to do a large volume of practice.

  3. Cognitive Strengths and Weaknesses: Performing well on a test doesn’t solely involve knowing the material, as any student can tell you. The same goes for the ACT. Content mastery is important, of course, but so are problem solving and reasoning abilities such as reading for detail, sequencing ability, novel problem solving, and many others. While it may be hard for the student to spot these traits in themselves, our tutors are trained to recognize and improve upon students’ cognitive processes. We believe this adds an important dimension to our ACT tutoring and allows us to realize maximum gains.

  4. Tutor Match and Expertise: Successful test preparation tutors are more than just sources of information or presenters of lessons; they are mentors, guides, and even friends. A strong relationship between a student and tutor leads to a greater sense of accountability and motivation to improve on the student’s part. Our tutors make sure that students not only learn how to maximize their ACT scores, but also find the process as painless as possible (dare I say, even… fun?). Furthermore, the teaching style of the tutor and learning style of the student need to be good fits with one another. By pairing students with tutors who understand their unique learning styles and how best to teach them, we ensure our lessons are presented in the most effective manner possible.

  5. Timing: The ACT requires that students manage their time well. Effective preparation always keeps this is mind. We work on timing throughout the process, including practice with timing on individual passages, complete sections, and entire tests. We provide TestingTimers watches to each of our students, and focus proactively on helping students speed up while maintaining accuracy.

I hope our thoughts have provided some insight into what effective ACT preparation looks like. We believe that with diligent practice and the guidance of an expert tutor, any student can improve his or her scores and admissions chances.