For about a year now, I’ve been interested in taking the ACT test early, mainly so I can hopefully get a good score and avoid taking the test with everyone else I go to school with. This gives me a chance to start out early on taking the test multiple times in the event I’m unhappy with my score. Many students don’t know that the ACTs aren’t offered just to juniors and seniors, or a single time in your junior year. In fact, you can take the ACTs anytime from middle school to your senior year!
1. Know When the Test Happens
There are 6 test dates throughout the year, in February, April, June, September, October, and December. With these 6 test dates, you have ample opportunities to strengthen yourself, and you can retake if you get sick or feel like you can improve your test score. You can find out what you need and how to improve, and you have time to take as many practice tests using your ACT study guide as you need. Different states will have different times, regulations, and costs for testing, so make sure to find your state on this (http://www.act.org/) website. You can test up to 12 times, and one time is free (in your junior year). Taking the ACT test any time before your junior year is considered a PSAT, but you can take it at any time. This is beneficial, because you get many times to retake and know exactly when other tests are happening.
2. Study for the Test
For scoring purposes, at least 10 hours of studying is recommended, which is sufficient for some test takers, while 100 hours of studying can have a better outcome. Taking the ACT test early gives you time to get the score you’d like, as well as stress a little less over college deadlines. If you want to coordinate your score, or have a slight advantage over some applicants, you can Google your choice schools and the average ACT admissions scores and use that as a goal. One of the best things you can do is take the practice tests that come with your ACT Prep Book and score yourself. If you don’t buy the prep book, here are free printable tests. By studying now, you get practice and experience with ACT material,
3. Find Out if Your Choice College “Superscores”
A superscore is when you are rewarded the highest score per section (out of all of the tests you take) and the individual score is used, rather than your composite. Here is a list of schools that, as of August 2015, superscore. Lots of colleges take your highest score per section, so it’s beneficial to take multiple tests if you’re unhappy with your score. Don’t treat any test like a throwaway test just because you have a high score in a certain area, because there’s always room for improvement. You can plan ahead and map out colleges if superscores are really important to you. My top 2 choices don’t superscore, which means I have to try my hardest to get the highest score of my ability. In fact, most colleges in my state don’t superscore, but I’ll still be attending college in-state so I can get money based on my grades and AP test scores.
4. Don’t Overwork Yourself
You can only take the test 12 times in total, and 6 is the recommended number. This is a blog post with national statistics of state participation. If you’re dissatisfied with your scores after 3 tests, it’s time to rethink studying and test taking strategies, and take a break between tests. Give yourself some breathing room, and relax a little bit. Study, but don’t cram. Don’t psych yourself out and obsess over needing all of the information. As long as you’re studying and retaining information you aren’t 100% sure of, there’s a good chance you’ll remember it if you don’t over-stress.
5. How to Prepare the Night Before Your Test
The day before the ACT test, take it easy. Don’t go out with friends and do super intense things if you can help it. Study for around 2 hours, and don’t stress yourself out. Look at flashcards, and skim your vocabulary. Listen to calming music (think video game soundtracks, like the Legend of Zelda. They’re meant to help you concentrate and keep your focus, as well as calm you down), or try a focus oriented app that converts outside noises into mush, so you’re not bothered. Get at least 7 hours of sleep, but no more than 9, so you don’t wake up too late or get too much sleep. Set MULTPLE alarms to wake up at least 2 hours before you need to leave, so you have time to wake up completely before your test.
Pack a bag with your entry ticket, multiple pencils and erasers, a form of identification, your calculator, extra batteries, a watch, a drink or two (water), and an easy snack that won’t weigh you down or make a mess. This way, you can’t be caught off guard or in a panic when you’re reaching for something you need and can’t find it.
6. How to Prepare the Day of Your Test
Eat breakfast. Don’t eat a sugary, sweet breakfast, especially if you aren’t used to it. I don’t believe in breakfast and usually don’t eat it, but eat a balanced meal of carbs and protein before the test! Treat it like you would a big game. Don’t drink coffee or an energy drink if you normally don’t, because you’ll throw yourself off. You don’t know how your body will react to new things, so try to lay down a routine about a week prior.
Don’t dress to the nines, because the only people you’re really trying to impress is a college admissions board. A good outfit is a pair of comfortable jeans/leggings/sweat pants, a t-shirt, comfortable shoes, and a sweatshirt. This being said, dress in layers. You will not be able to concentrate if you’re too hot or too cold.
Know where your test center is ahead of time, and get there early. Get a seat where you feel most comfortable in your assigned section (you’re placed by left or right handed writing), or find your assigned seat, and be prepared for the test to start. If you show up after 8am, you won’t be allowed inside the test center!
7. How to Save Money
Find out if your local or school library has an ACT prep book (linked above), study guide, book of tips, book of vocabulary, or ACT for Dummies that you can check out if you don’t buy it. Check on Craigslist (maybe link Ben’s Craigslist post here?), eBay, Amazon, and look for local posts on Facebook for people selling graphing calculators. Some schools may rent calculators out, which is great to look into! Make sure you have practice with using them, and that they have new batteries. Graphing calculators can run around $100, which is a little pricey if you aren’t using it all the time for homework.
8. The Cost of Taking the ACT Test
There is a free test given to you during your junior year, but every other test requires payment. The ACT without writing is roughly $45. With writing, it’s close to $60. If you order and Information Release, which includes the questions, your answers, an answer key, as well as prompt, scoring guide, and scores if you took writing, it is $20 extra. Be sure to register in the registration dates, or it’s an extra $30!
9. When Will I Receive my Scores?
ACT test scores are posted 10 days after the test, and stay up on the website for a little over a month. If you don’t order your scores, make sure you check your email in the following weeks!