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  • Writer's pictureJonathan Tannenbaum

Everything You Need to Know about The ACT

Background on the ACT

The ACT is one of the ultimate examples of a standardized test that requires more than just test-taking tricks and strategies. It’s a test that rewards knowing a lot of math and grammatical rules - especially math.

There are literally hundreds of question types that are fair game for the ACT math section, and many of these questions involve a fact or formula that can’t be logically inferred. No one is going to figure out on their own that the law of cosines, a formula for finding the side or angle of a triangle, is (side c)2 = (side a)2 + (side b)2 - 2(side a)(side b)(Cosine(angleC)) or that the sum of an arithmetic sequence is (the sum of the sequence’s first and last number)(the number of terms in the sequence/2). These are pieces of knowledge that any student aiming for a 34+ score needs to truly learn. Doing so isn’t a matter of test-taking gamesmanship; it’s a matter of memorizing academic content and, through a large amount of targeted practice, mastering how to apply it.

ACT Tips

Doing well on the ACT often also comes down to a student learning how to better manage their pacing on the reading and science sections. For students who don’t qualify for extra time, these sections are especially demanding in terms of pacing. For each of these sections, a student with standard time has 35 minutes to do 40 questions. In regards to the reading section, students need to carry out an approach much different from the "close reading" and analysis expected of them in their English classes at school. As far as the science section, families often come to us after their child has taken a diagnostic ACT exam at school and relate that their child felt uncomfortable on the science section, because they had run out of time. Fortunately, learning how to efficiently attack the ACT science passages is a skill that’s very learnable. Usually, after one or two sessions that include working on the science section, a student sees a marked improvement in terms of how comfortable they feel with the pacing.

Want to schedule an ACT and/or DSAT diagnostic test? Contact us to set up diagnostic testing at your convenience.


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