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April 14th, 2011

Meet the ACT, Part II

Test Preps is on a mission to spread the ACT news across Western New York and beyond: The ACT is a great test, well worth taking.  To help convince you, our last “Meet the ACT” covered the ABCs of the ACT, today’s entry will each section in depth, and a last entry will compare the ACT with the SAT.

While the SAT boasts its well known 1600 perfect score, the ACT tempts test-takers with hopes of scoring a perfect 36.  The average ACT score is 21, but those seeking Ivy League admission need a score in the top 90th percentile which most years translates to a score of 28 or higher.

Scoring the ACT is straight forward. The scores of all four tested categories (English, math, reading, science) are averaged.   All of the categories are scored on a scale of 1 – 36, and in the event the average score is not a whole number, the ACT rounds the average score to the nearest whole number.

Of the four sections, English is first and easiest to manage time-wise despite the 75 questions.  This section makes one the editor requiring grammatical and rhetorical fixes to five passages.  The grammatical knowledge required is fairly simple and can be easily reviewed if a refresher is needed.  There are fewer rhetorical questions, but they are more complex and require a bit more time to answer. They often involve shifting sentences and paragraphs around a passage or deciding whether sentences should be added to the passage.

Most of the math on the ACT resembles what students see everyday in high school: straight forward calculations and word problems.  The bulk of the 60 problems requires knowledge of algebra and geometry with just four problems covering trigonometry.

The reading section consists of four passages, each with ten questions.  When students struggle on this part it’s because the pacing is very quick, not because the questions are extremely difficult or inferential.  Finding answers quickly is a key to scoring well on this section.

And those who fear science need not tremble before the ACT science section.  No background knowledge is required to answer any of the 40 questions.  The section tests how quickly and accurately one can read graphs and charts.  Like the reading, many mistakes on the science section are due to the quick pace and not to the difficulty level of the questions.

An optional writing section closes out the test.  Note, however, that many schools will not accept an ACT score unless a student has sat for the essay though it is not counted for admission purposes.  Schools seem to think students are taking the easy route if they don’t opt for the essay.  If registering for the ACT, make sure to register for the “ACT Plus Writing!”

Convinced yet?  Stay tuned.

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