My ACT Adventure (Part 2): Scores and Advice

Scores are in, and I'm relieved. I did the test option without writing, so my scores came in a little sooner; I don't know if your juniors who took the writing have their scores back yet. (If you want to read my previous blog post about the test, click here or scroll down.)

Composite: 32
English: 35
Math: 26
Reading: 36
Science: 30

My reactions to this score were, in order...
  • Composite: Rats! Where was this score when I needed it 9 years ago? :(
  • English: Rats! What ONE question did I miss?!
  • Math: No surprise. Math has always been my personal weakness. 
  • Reading: Yay/phew. I was going to BUM out if this one didn't go well.
  • Science: I am most excited to analyze this one and see which questions I missed.
I ordered a copy of the test booklet (and it hasn't come in yet), so for now, I can only speculate as to why I got certain scores.

If you teach high school English, here's what I would tell your juniors:
  1. Annotate and skim. Even the mega test prep companies who used to advocate for heavy margin notes are starting to admit that skimming is necessary. Now their advice is to read topic sentences and then skim the rest of the paragraph to see if there's actually anything important/new, or if it's just supporting details. I'm a pretty fast reader, and I still occasionally had to do this, using Jedi-level annotation skills to boot. (Folks, the struggle to finish the reading and science sections on time are real. Believe your students when they say it's tough.) 
  2. Be ready for more compare/contrast questions. Not only is there still the "conflicting viewpoints" page in the Science test that we all know and love, but I saw a general increase in compare/contrast across other sections where I'm not always used to seeing it. These can take up time if you're not prepared to deal with them quickly.
  3. Skip questions early and often. Time management is the biggest complaint among my tutoring students, and I used every strategy in my toolbelt at least once. Skipping hard questions - sometimes in more than one "lap" - was the biggest reason I finished all the sections.
  4. Get even more picky. There are tricks in the answer choices, my friends. The English section had some sneaky grammar that even I had to double-check, mainly things like dangling and misplaced modifiers, the hardest levels of subject/verb agreement, a subjunctive mood verb question, and a few others that your average student might not remember if they never mastered it or hadn't touched the topic in a year. There were also a lot of extreme word choices in the answers that would make a seemingly-correct answer wrong, and they were subtle!
  5. Stay dependent on the texts. I was suspicious of some of the reading and science questions because they felt TOO easy, and I kept wondering if there was a trick to the question that I was missing. But generally, my answer was right because I could point to the right answer in the text without over-thinking it. 
  6. When running out of time, watch the outliers. My favorite "two-minutes-left" strategy is to look at the remaining questions and, instead of fully "doing" them, have a goal to eliminate at least two bad/outlier/extreme answer choices before making my educated guess. (If they're all only worth one point each, I'd rather increase my ODDS of getting more of them right then spend my last two minutes on ONE question that I may or may not finish.)
To celebrate my reading score, I'm putting my ACT Writing Prep lessons on sale. Check it out now to get it at 50% off! (And yes, I will update this product again in the fall to reflect the changes that will be made to the test, so this will "stay" useful.)
ACT Writing Prep Bundle


  1. Sara,
    I'm definitely going to share your post with my juniors and seniors - everything you said is what I have told them for years about ACT! BTW: It is so cool that you took the text again! And congrats on being in the newsletter today!
    - Julie

  2. Thank you Julie! I totally believe that everything said here is what good high school teachers have been doing already, but hopefully this will help the rumor mill of the test "getting harder" (only somewhat). I appreciate you sharing this info with your kids!


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