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Give Up (Strategically)! - ACT Prep Strategy

 

ACT Prep Strategy:

I'm pretty sure you haven't heard fhis academic strategy before:

Give up!

Okay, there's a catch. Give up, strategically.

That's actually one of the tips that I've had for my ACT prep students for years, and I've had dozens of students come back to me and tell me that it really works!

Let me explain...

For most students, your target score on the ACT is not a 36, so your version of an "A" does not require tackling all of the questions! Instead, it's best to be strategic and selectively "give up" on certain questions/passages, so that you can bank the time to focus instead on the areas where you are stronger or just give you time to just slow down and have a better chance of getting things right.

This is especially true on the ACT math, which typically is increasing in difficulty as you go through the test. Of the 60 questions, questions around 41-50 are typically more difficult than the first 40 questions, and the last ten questions have some of the hardest...

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Resources for the July ACT

act phase 3 test prep Jun 17, 2022
 

At the time of posting it's June, and just a few weeks away from the July ACT exam date. Is your teen ready for the test?

Even though more schools have become test-optional, that still primarily just applies to admissions. There is a LOT is riding on the ACT or SAT when it comes to scholarships, so you want your teen to be prepared! So to get ready for the July exam I wanted to pull together some resources to help you make sure you can make the most of this test. You can also grab my FREE 10-page ACT Prep Guide here, or check out my online ACT Prep Course here.

 

Does the ACT or SAT Make More Sense for Your Teen?

When it comes to standardized exams, you have options! Should your teen take the ACT or SAT (the two most widely accepted tests)? You may have already decided on an exam, but if you haven't (or if your teen has struggled with the exam they've been working on so far) then you should check out our video and blog article that...

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Getting Accommodations for the ACT for Homeschoolers

 

A lot is riding on the ACT, especially for homeschoolers where the test can often receive more weight than your GPA. Yet for students with special needs, there is an additional challenge of getting accommodations for the ACT without the assistance of a traditional guidance counselor. Here are the steps you need to go through:

 

1. Have the Correct Documentation

You will need a valid, current Individualized Education Program (IEP) or Section 504 Plan (504 Plan), or documentation that specifies a "professionally diagnosed physical or mental impairment that substanially limits one or more major life activities" and "requests allowable accomodations that are appropriate and reasonable for the documented disability" (from ACT guidelines, see here for full text).

If you do NOT have an IEP or 504 you will need to submit the ACT Exceptions Statement Form.

Accommodations are also typically provided if a student has past IEP or Section 504 Plan, even if expired, especially if the...

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How to Register for the ACT®

act phase 3 test prep Nov 18, 2021

Okay, so I know this may sound straightforward, but I frequently have students ask about how to register for the ACT®.

In some cases the ACT® is offered through your school (if you attend a public or private school). In these cases the ACT® date does not correlate with the typical 7 days a year the ACT is offered, and registration is usually completed by your guidance counselor.

If you are homeschooled or planning on taking a regularly scheduled ACT®, here is what you should do:

First off, you should ask the question should I register for this upcoming ACT® test date? I talk about choosing dates for the ACT here, so if you are unsure check out that post! You want to give some evaluation to whether you have time to adequately prepare for this test. I recommend 4+ weeks of active prep before each exam, preferably 8-16 weeks for your first test (check out my FREE 10-page ACT prep guide here or my online ACT prep course here).

Once you have decided that you...

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4 Keys to ACT and SAT Success

act exam prep phase 3 sat Oct 28, 2021
 

The 4 Keys to ACT and SAT Success

I’ve been working to help students prepare for the ACT and SAT for 14 years, and over that time I’ve determined there are four key factors to test prep success:

  1. Content
  2. Strategy
  3. Practice
  4. Review

All four of these elements MUST be in place for you to be successful! You could even consider these to all relate like a math equation:

CONTENT x STRATEGY (PRACTICE + REVIEW) = SUCCESS

OR

C S ( P + R ) = SUCCESS

For you to hit the target score you need for admission to your top choice schools AND to open doors for scholarships that make college affordable you need a plan for each of these four factors, so that’s what we’ll tackle in this post!

1. CONTENT

  •  The first key to ACT/SAT success is CONTENT. There are some things you just need to know. Primarily this is centered around the English and Math tests.
  • Remember that these are standardized exams. That means they don’t test everything, but rather have a limited...
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What books should you buy for ACT prep?

act phase 3 test prep Oct 20, 2021
 

Whenever I travel to speak, I am frequently asked about my recommendations for ACT Prep Books. While I do offer an online ACT Prep Course, I wanted to go through and talk about the print resources I recommend. 

NOTE: Grab my FREE 10-page ACT Prep Guide here!

Practice/Review Books vs Strategy/Content Books

First, it's important to differentiate between the differences between the purposes of your books, and for that I want to highlight the four components that are essential for ACT Prep:

  • STRATEGY
  • CONTENT
  • PRACTICE
  • REVIEW

PRACTICE/REVIEW: The ACT is a paper test, so you need to practice it that way-you need paper copies of official exams. Only one free ACT exam is released officially online, so if you don't get any other book, you need to own an Official Guide to the ACT.

Why the Official Guide? The ACT is copyrighted, so while Princeton Review, Barrons, Kaplan and other publishers sell books touting practice questions or practice tests, they are real exams and can actually...

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ACT or SAT - Which Exam is Right for You?

act exam prep phase 3 sat Apr 28, 2021
 

Where Do I Start?

So first off when deciding whether to take the ACT or the SAT, it's important to note that since 2007 every college in the country accepts both the ACT and the SAT exam for admissions.

This means that students no longer have a college-motivated reason to take one exam over the other, but instead should take whichever exam they perform better on.

How do you determine that? Well we'll talk you through that, but first let's take a look at the basic structure of each test:

 

ACT Format

  • LENGTH: 2 hours, 55 minutes (without essay), 3 hours, 40 minutes (with essay)
  • SECTIONS: English, Math, Reading, Science Reasoning, Essay (Optional)
  • MATH: 60 minutes, 25% of your composite score, heavier on geometry than SAT, more math concepts than SAT, requires memorization of formulas, can use calculator on all questions, all questions are multiple choice
  • SCIENCE: Contains a Science Reasoning section
  • TIME PER QUESTION: Less time per question on every section than...
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Should I take Algebra 2 or Geometry first?

 

Math help!

So I've received multiple questions from individuals who are planning out their course load and trying to determine whether to take Geometry or Algebra 2 after completing Algebra 1. It's an understandable question, so in this article I'll take a look at the arguments for both routes, but the short answer is either way is fine. Now let's take a look at the reasons for each route...

 

A Short History (and a little about test preparedness)

Parents, chances are pretty good that you took courses in the order of Algebra 1, Geometry, and then Algebra 2. You probably also only had to take 3 math courses in high school, and there was probably very little integration of geometry into your algebra curriculum. Since students were required to take the ACT or SAT (and usually with little to no prep work), it made more sense for students to take geometry before algebra 2 for test purposes so that they had at least seen some geometry before they took the test.

But things have...

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Update on the SAT: Dropped Essay and Subject Tests

 

College Board made a big announcement in January that they were going to be discontinuing the SAT Subject Tests, discontinuing the optional SAT essay, and also that they were going to continue working towards a digitally delivered version of the SAT. 

What does this mean?

Dropped Subject Tests

The SAT Subject Tests were exams over individual subject areas that were used to supplement the primary SAT in the application process. Unlike the AP or CLEP tests, the SAT Subject Tests did not offer the possibility of earning students college credit.

The reality is fewer colleges have been requiring/recommending the SAT Subject tests anyways, with the ones who have been using the tests primarily being top-tier schools. So for most schools, this part of the announcement will not matter. College Board made this as a business decision, reflecting the fact that the demand for these tests was no longer there (amplified all the more by the COVID challenges to testing availability).

If...

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When Should I Take the ACT? And should I do Test Information Release?

act phase 3 test prep Oct 19, 2020
 

Want my FREE 10-Page ACT Prep Guide? Visit here to download, and you can learn more about my Online ACT Prep Course here (with both 4 and 16 week study plans, and access to both Magoosh and Study.com's ACT Prep Courses!).

One of my ACT students emailed me asking "Should I sign up for Test Information Release (also referred to as TIR)?" so I wanted to address that issue and talk about choosing your test dates.

Test Schedule Overview

The ACT is typically offered 7 times a year: September, October, December, February, April, June and July. 

You can take the ACT multiple times, and should plan on taking the exam 3-4 times to reach your target score (and prepping for each of those dates!). So with that in mind, let's break down some considerations:

When To Take Your First Test

Your first test should typically be during either your Junior year (or your Sophomore year if you are ahead in math). On the ACT, math is the limiting factor (it covers topics from Algebra 1, Algebra...

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