Getting a leg up on the ACT subject tests requires hard work, preparation, and, of course, a little bit of strategy. After all, each one requires a slightly different approach, so what should you know for each test?
Before you read this post, please understand this is will not substitute for significant preparation for the test. These tips are extremely general and things to keep in mind when you are preparing. Also, these tips are coming from myself, and my own experience, and our partner tutoring companies who recommend these concepts to their own students.
Do Not Feel Obligated to Answer The Questions In Order: This idea is really hard to wrap your head around. It drives students nuts to move on without bubbling in an answer. However, the ACT English section will intentionally ask questions out of order.
(Check this out: When Is the Best Time to Prepare for the SAT or ACT)
Question 6, for example, might have you change the introductory, transition sentence. Your answer to question 5, however, did not take into account this change. Know that you can always come back to a specific question, but I definitely do NOT recommend moving onto the next passage before you have answered all 15 questions.
Know Your Timing Strategy Before Taking the Test: Most math questions go from easy to hard. Build your strategy around that idea. If you are 30 minutes into the test and are on question 30, you are probably not on pace to finish the test. If you know you want to spend more time on the harder questions at the end, set personal benchmarks throughout the test (ex. aim to get to question 40 by the 30 minute mark). However, do not go too fast! Every question counts the same, so making unnecessary errors early on can be detrimental to your overall score.
Take Brief Margin Notes: Most students struggle to finish the ACT reading test. The questions reflect key points and concepts from the passage above. Take quick notes to organize your thoughts and what you just read so you can quickly find what you need to answer the question. If you don’t, you will waste precious time scanning the passage, looking for the specific ideas or quotes.
Be Extra Cautious of the Numbers: The science test is tough because it’s at the end of the ACT. It’s hard to keep focus, but you have to! The answers come directly from the numbers in the passage being given to you. You do not have a calculator, so if you find yourself doing a crazy math problem, stop and look at the numbers and the text. Stay calm and focused.
Take Time to Plan: The biggest mistake a student can make is to think, “Wow, I only have 30 minutes to write a full essay?” If you immediately jump into writing, after reading the prompt, your essay is going to be extremely disorganized. I promise 25 minutes of writing, after clearly drafting and brainstorming your ideas for 5 minutes, is going to be much better than 30 minutes of writing with no draft or game plan.
I hope that these help and wish you the best of success!