Here's a little quick and dirty advice for the ACT that's coming up on Saturday.
First, make sure you know the basic formulas for the area of a circle, rectangle, triangle, and square. Know the formulas for the volume of a rectangular prism (a box) and a right circular cylinder. Bonus points if you can remember the formula for the volumes of a cone, a sphere, and a pyramid with a square base, but the ACT people will probably give you the formulas for those in any problem where you need to have them.
What you WILL need to know is the general formula for a circle drawn on Cartesian coordinates (you know, X-axis and Y-axis) with a center at (h.k), which can be found here: http://www.regentsprep.org/regents/math/algtrig/atc1/circlelesson.htm . From what I've seen of old ACTs and practice ACTs based on them, they won't give that formula to you, but there will be at least one problem where you'll need to know that formula.
Also, you should know the Pythagorean Theorem, your special right triangles (30-60-90, and 45-45-90) and the relationships between the sides (1, square root of 3, 2, for the 30-60-90- the short leg is 1, the hypotenuse is 2, the longer leg is square root of 3), (1,1,square root of 2 for the 45-45-90 triangle - the hypotenuse is 2). You should also recognize that the diagonal of a square is just the hypotenuse of a 45-45-90 triangle, so if you know the length of the diagonal, all you have to do is divide by the square root of 2 to get the side length, and that the area of the square is the length of the diagonal squared, divided by 2 - or (d^2)/2 ).
For the reading portion, make sure you understand the main point of the passage. Since the ACT is all about jamming you on the time, I suggest you either skim the passage first, then look at the questions, then go back and check for the answers, or just look at the questions first, then read the passage to find the questions. Watch out for "sucker punch" answers that use a word you've seen in the passage, but then add something to make it the wrong answer. Let's say the passage read, "The sun was hot and bright, but not yellow." The sucker-punch wrong answer could read "The sun was hot, bright, and yellow." If you're answering the question in a hurry, you could easily choose that answer and be happy that you figured it out so quickly. Be especially wary if the "easy" choice is the first choice.
For the English test, just be careful about the grammar, since they have weird choices like ending a sentence with a comma. If your eyesight's not great, make sure you have your glasses so you can see the little punctuation marks. If you are asked a question about the order of paragraphs or sentences in a passage, pick the answer that puts them in the order that makes the most sense to you. You've been reading long enough to tell an introduction from a conclusion, and you should be able to tell that a paragraph giving a general description of something usually should come before a paragraph describing it in detail. Just use your common sense.
Similarly, if you have a question that asks you to choose which of several sentences or phrases would be best, make sure you read the part of the question that explains what the author is trying to do (e.g., tell the story of how the typewriter was developed, make a joke, or warn the reader of danger), so you can pick the right one. If you don't, you'll be faced with four choices that are all grammatically correct and not otherwise obviously wrong.
For the essay portion, just focus on my advice on how to write a good ACT essay I've given in previous blogs. Follow the instructions.
Finally, don't spend too much time on any one question. If it takes you longer than a minute, and you still have no idea how to solve it, just guess and move on, Mark the question in your test booklet so you can go back to try some more if you still have time after you've worked on all the other questions (not very likely, but you might). Remember, THERE IS NO PENALTY FOR GUESSING, SO GUESS! There's no guessing penalty on the SAT anymore, either, but that's not important right now, other than it's nice that SAT prep and ACT prep are almost identical these days, since the tests are almost identical these days.
And, as I've noted before, if you're taking the ACT or SAT this time of year, you're probably not applying to college until late this year, so you'll have other opportunities to take these tests (and to learn or review the things you need to know) if you don't do well enough this time. So don't panic! You'll do much better if you come in to the test relaxed, and there's no reason you shouldn't. 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.