Here’s an answer sheet from one of my students, Elise. I chose Elise’s answer sheet because these are the kinds of issues I see most commonly on the ACT. This sheet could have come from any number of students of mine! Elise got a composite score of 26, but I think if she takes my advice below, she could get a 30+. Is this you? Keep reading!
Here’s exactly what I said to Elise about each section:
English: Mostly, you know your grammar rules. There’s a little blip around Q22-24. Maybe something distracted you while you were filling in the answer sheet? I’d look at those questions individually – maybe something confused you in the passage (sometimes questions are close together, which makes it hard to read any part correctly). You also seem to have a weakness in rhetoric. Questions 14,15, 29, 30, 44, 45 etc (all the ones at the end of the passages) are almost always rhetoric, and you got most of them wrong. We should look at that more closely.
Math: There’s some work to do here as well. You clearly know the basics, but you struggle when the questions get harder. Let’s take practice tests and work through questions 45-60 together. We also need to work on those small errors at the beginning – it costs the same number of marks to get Q13 wrong as it does to get Q60 wrong, but it’s much easier to get Q13 right! Let’s look at why you got Q13 wrong and take careful note not to do that again! You also ran out of time, I think. Once we’ve practiced those problem areas, we’ll focus on timing.
Reading: This is interesting. You did very well on the middle two passages – I’ve actually scored them separately on the left of your sheet. You got 8 and 9 out of 10 there. That shows me that you can do well on the test. I think you ran out of time on the last passage, so we need to get quicker there. It also looks like you don’t get along with Prose Fiction too well!! Let’s look at your specific issues with questions there. It may be that that is costing you too much time, and so you run out later. A short term strategy for improvement is to do Prose Fiction last, and only spend about 5 minutes on it – this assumes that you’re not going to do well on it anyway. A long term strategy is to focus specifically on that passage and how you can improve. This will save you time as well as improving your score on that passage.
Scientific Reasoning: You have some good section scores in here. Again, I’ve tallied them up by passage on the left. You did well on the 7 question opinion passage, which is sometimes a weakness for students. Again, it looks like you ran out of time (I know this because the last passage is one of your worst). It also looks like you had a problem with Passage 5. We’ll look at why this was and try to work on answering questions when you don’t understand the passage.
In summary, it looks like you don’t have quite enough practice under your belt to write the test for real yet. This isn’t anything to do with your score, it’s because I think you have room for improvement. A couple of months of timing practice, as well as math and reading work should get you prepared.