Why ACT Prep Matters. For Life.
With high pressure to
score well on the ACT coming from parents, guidance
counselors, well-meaning relatives, and college admissions officials, it's no wonder you believe the ACT is a big deal.
Well, it is and it isn’t. Here’s why:
ACT scores are used as one measure among dozens by college admissions officials looking for students who can succeed at their university. However, the ACT is one of three measures looked at most closely. So a good score is helpful.
Your ACT score is a two digit number. It is only one of two major criteria for college enrollment—your GPA is the other—that can be boiled down to a simple number. Therefore, college admissions officials only need a second to see your ACT score. They need a few seconds to look over your extra-curricular activities and at least a few minutes to examine your college essay. It only follows naturally that a good ACT score makes you look good “at a glance.”
A strong ACT score gives you options. That’s the best reason to try and improve your score. In the end, your ACT score does matter. It certainly isn’t the single determinant of your future or even of the college you attend, but it does influence both.
If a good ACT score is important, what should you know about it to get started preparing to take it? Below we’ve laid out what the ACT is and what it is designed to test. Read these next few points carefully. Knowing what the test is meant to do will help you get a better score.
What is the ACT?
The ACT is a college entrance exam. We bring up this obvious fact because you want to take the ACT with the mindset that other people will be looking at your performance carefully. If you take the test seriously, you’re more likely to get a seriously good score.
The ACT is an academic test. The ACT tests how much you remember of the academic content you learned during your K-11 experience. That’s all. Studying for the ACT is just an elaborate way to jog your memory.
The ACT is a timed test. If you’ve been even half-awake during high school, you know about timed tests, so the timed nature of the ACT shouldn’t come as a shock. What you may not know is that the vast majority of students have some problems with time on the ACT. If you have trouble with timed tests, no problem. You can still get a great score as we’ll discuss later.
So, should you be scared?
That’s easy to answer. No way. There is no reason to be intimidated by the ACT. Why? For so many reasons that we had to create a separate list. Here goes:
The ACT is NOT an intelligence test. There are tests that can tell you, more or less, how smart you are. The ACT can’t. If the ACT was an intelligence test, you wouldn’t have any reason to read this because there would be no way to improve your score. Intelligence is static; it doesn’t change. Your academic skills-- the concepts tested on the ACT-- do.
Think about it this way: your IQ score, no matter how many times you take it and whether you take it in as a kindergartener or as a doddering retiree, won’t change by more than two percent.
However, the older a student is, the better they tend to do on the ACT. We have personally seen students increase their ACT scores by over 60%! Why? Simple. The ACT tests a series of academic skills that any student can master with enough practice.
The ACT is NOT a comprehensive academic test. The ACT tests just a few dozen academic subjects among hundreds that you have mastered during your educational career.
Here are a few examples of what the ACT does not test:
American History World History Economics
Creative Writing Poetry Technical Writing Musical talent Psychology Calculus Break dancing
Advanced Trig American Literature Business
Philosophy Sociology Art History
Wood working World Languages Religion
Computer Science Free throws The 800m Dash
American Literature World Literature Brick-laying
Engineering Robotics European History
The ACT can’t tell you how well you are going to do in college. In fact, a recent study found that the Reading and Science portions of the test are almost irrelevant to your college success. The remaining sections, English and Math, are decent predictors of college success in a population of ACT test takers, but can’t tell us anything about a given individual like you. So your ACT score, whether high or low, can’t tell you what your grades will be like in college or whether you’ll graduate. That’s up to you.
So your ACT score can’t tell you all that much. It won’t tell you how smart you are, your overall academic performance or how well you’ll do in college. All your ACT score can really tell you is whether or not you’ve met the baseline ACT score for whatever colleges you’re applying to.
So relax. But not too much! If you’re reading this, that means you want to improve your score. To do that you’ll have to prep.
But first, what are we even talking about? What number is a good number overall?
What is a “good” score on the ACT?
It probably depends on what you mean by “good.” That said, a score in the 90th percentile certainly can’t be looked at as “bad” and a score in the 25th percentile can’t be looked at as “good.”
Here is how the scores break down:
13 Obtained by simply choosing the same letter choice for the entire test
19-21 Minimum scores for many technical colleges
21 50th percentile
25-29 Minimum scores for many state colleges
25 75th percentile
28 90th percentile
28-32 Minimum scores for many elite private colleges
32-36 99th percentile
Was that intimidating? We hope not. If you’re reading this, you have the wherewithal to do well, whatever that means to you. Remember, the 90th percentile is called that for a reason: very few students reach it. You can score outside of the 90th percentile and still get into a great school. More importantly, you’re probably going to surprise yourself.
You can do well on the ACT
It is just that simple. You’ve got what it takes. We will help remind you of that fact by capitalizing on your academic strengths and shoring up any weaknesses. Let’s go!