Last-Minute ACT Advice – September 2016 Edition
There’s an ACT date on Saturday. If you’re taking it, you’re probably wondering what you can do to improve your score this late in the game. While I hope you’ve been preparing for some time, the following advice should help you, even if you’re a master procrastinator and you’re just starting your exam prep right now. I’ll break the advice down by test below.
Know that the right choice for a question involving an underlined phrase is the shortest phrase that means the same as the underlined phrase, or the phrase that means what the question asks us, in the case of questions such as “Suppose the writer is trying to explain [whatever]. Which phrase best expresses that?” Even when it appears that a phrase may be repetitive for style, please know that the ACT English Test writers probably would completely miss the humor in the old joke/saying “The three most important things in real estate are: location, location, and location,” and make the correct answer to a question based on it “location, appearance of the property, and tax rates,” or “Change to ‘The most important thing in real estate is location.’”
Know the difference between “its” and “it’s,” as well as “there,” “their,” and “they’re.” Look for misplaced modifiers such as “Crossing the street, a car ran a red light and hit the old lady.” Was the car crossing the street? Of course, not, the old lady was, so a better choice would be “The car ran a red light and hit an old lady who was crossing the street.”
Think about the passage as a whole. Does something seem to be missing? Does a sentence seem to refer to something or someone you haven’t read about earlier in the passage? That’s a clue that you will see a question such as “The writer is considering adding the sentence “[something that explains the thing being referenced in the sentence you read].” The new sentence should go in before the sentence that seems to be missing something. On the other hand, if the sentence doesn’t make sense in the context, then don’t insert the sentence there, or don’t insert the sentence at all, if it doesn’t make sense.
Know all the things from the SAT “Math Facts” box that’s at the beginning of each math section, if you have an SAT review book. All right, the equations for the volumes of a sphere, cone and square-based pyramid are likely to be given to you in any ACT problem where you need them, but you won’t be given the basic formulas, such as the areas of circles, squares, rectangles, triangles, and the volume of a cube and right circular cylinder. You also won’t be given the ratios for trigonometry using the sides of a right triangle – you can use “SOH-CAH-TOA” or write “sin,” “cos,” and “tan” in one column, and then start a second column with “Oscar/Has” “A/Headache” “Over/Algebra” to get the same “sin = o/h, cos = a/h, and tan = o/a” formulas.
It’s also good to know the formula for the period and amplitude of a trig function’s graph. See, for example http://www.purplemath.com/modules/grphtrig.htm for details.
Know the difference of squares, (a+b)(a-b) = a2-b2. Know the values of i (the square root of negative 1, also known as “the imaginary unit.”), to the first through 5th powers, and see how the exponents repeat – the ACT and SAT may both ask questions such as “What is i to the 78th power?” See http://www.regentsprep.org/regents/math/algtrig/ato6/powerlesson.htm for details. Know that a^2+1 has two imaginary roots – (a+i) and (a-i).
Know the quadratic formula. You can find it, and an explanation of how to use it, at http://www.purplemath.com/modules/quadform.htm . See, for example, Know the discriminant b^2-4ac and what it means if it’s positive (two real roots), zero (only one root, since the two roots are identical), and negative (the two roots are imaginary and also each other’s complex conjugates). For an explanation, see http://www.purplemath.com/modules/quadform3.htm Know that if the solutions all contain radicals (e.g., √3), you’ll need to use the quadratic formula instead of factoring or “completing the square” to solve the equation.
Preview the sections and answer the ones on subjects you know well before trying the ones you don’t. You might want to use one section as a “sacrificial” section where you just pick your favorite letter and answer it for all the questions, then go back and check the answers, changing them if necessary, if you have time.
Read the questions before the passage. While I don’t like this tactic much, the ACT is a speed test, and you’ll have to try this to save time.
Definitely read the questions before the passage; it will almost always save you valuable time. Most of the answers are in the charts, tables, and graphs, not the description of the experiment, and it should be obvious when you need to refer to the passage for a description of an experiment’s setup, the definition of a term, or something similar.
Also, some of the problems really DO call for a knowledge of science that isn’t explained in the passage, so using your scientific knowledge not only will save you time, it may save you a futile search for information that isn’t there. A couple of things practice ACT questions I’ve done assume the student knows include the charge of a proton, and what friction is. They’re fairly normal things for a test maker to assume you know, especially if you’re a high school student who plans to attend college, but those examples show that people who tell you “You don’t need to know the science they talk about in the passages to get the right answers” aren’t completely correct.
Writing Test (Essay):
Many people don’t like essay questions because they can’t give you any hints as to the right answer. They’re missing the point; there IS NO “RIGHT” ANSWER to an essay question. Essays give you a chance to explain what you DO know, while a multiple-choice question about something you don’t know is most likely going to show that you don’t understand it, assuming you don’t randomly guess the right answer.
So, first of all, read the prompt (the statement about the issue- the Internet, community service, whatever). Then read the three perspectives. Take some notes and think of examples showing why you agree or disagree with each perspective. Then think of your own perspective – do you agree completely with one of the perspectives? If yes, explain why – you can do that in the paragraph where you discuss that perspective. If you don’t agree completely with one perspective, or you agree with more than one, or you partially agree and disagree with all three perspectives, you’ll have to write a separate paragraph to explain YOUR perspective.
When writing on the sheet that will be graded, leave some space for your introduction, but DO NOT write it. Start with your ideas on the first perspective (state your opinion and give one or more example(s) explaining your position). Repeat that for the other two perspectives. Then write your perspective and give supporting examples.
Then, and only then, should you write the introduction at the beginning, and a conclusion at the end. In the introduction, you should rephrase the statement of the issue given you in the prompt, so the reader knows you understand it well enough to restate it in different words. Then summarize your opinion of each perspective, and state your perspective. Keep it to one sentence per perspective, since you already explained them in detail in the body paragraphs you wrote. Then rephrase your introduction at the end, while citing to your examples. That will be your conclusion.
Keep an eye on the clock (bringing a wristwatch or small timer is a good idea – you won’t get to use your cell phone) -you don’t want to run out of time while writing the essay. That’s all for now- good luck!
Author: John Linneball Who did you think? ;-)
I'm the proprietor and only tutor for this business; that's why I named it after me.