Should I take the Writing portion of the ACT?
In short, the answer is yes. The idea of adding another 40 minutes to an already lengthy test isn’t ideal, but we have a few reasons why you should always take the Writing portion of the ACT.
Let’s go over what the Writing portion covers. The Writing prompt provides you with some options, or perspectives on a question. The task is to analyze the perspectives and provide your own point of view based on the three presented to you. The prompts are geared more towards broader social issues, such as taxing or not taxing unhealthy foods, or the usage of intelligent machines replacing a human’s job or not.
The Writing portion is 40 minutes long, giving you time to read, analyze, and incorporate the perspectives into your essay plan. This portion is based out of 12 points that is not rolled into your overall composite score.
Now that we understand what the Writing portion entails and what is expected, next we will give you a few reasons why it’s important to always take the Writing portion.
Many colleges and universities require this section of the ACT. This section is optional, but a student can’t go back and only take the Writing portion of the test, they would have to retake the entire test and include this portion as well. So, an extra 40 minutes tacked on to the end of the test is much more appealing than retaking the entire test! Take a look at your college list and see if they require this section or not.
Every essay is unique. Everyone has a different point of view and a different take on the essay. Voice your opinion! Keep in mind, you will still need to develop a position, include appropriate examples, organize points, and manage your time carefully. Make sure to indent your paragraphs, keep your writing neat, and minimize your spelling and grammatical errors.
It’s just another essay. Don’t work yourself up too much about it. Think through a strategy to prepare for test day. You’ll want to incorporate some specific perspectives and analyze the quality of the argument. When you are prepared and ready, you will most likely feel more confident and that will reflect in your essay.
If you simply don’t feel prepared and ready to take this section of the ACT, we can help. Our Standard and Advanced Courses as well as Private Tutoring cover the Writing Portion of the test. Our tutors are invested in each student and want you to get the score you need for the school you want.
When is the best time to take the ACT?
When is the best time to take the ACT? That depends. What do you have going on? The answer is going to be different for everyone. However, we are going to break down every ACT test date to see which one best suits students’ schedules.
Honestly, most of our tutors at Get Smarter Prep like the July test date best. Test prep generally begins towards the end of May, which means school is out. Students don’t have to worry about finals, graduation parties for their friends, or the chaos that comes with the end of the school year. However, if your family tends to vacation before the middle of July, then we have problem. It’s best to take a look at your schedule and plan accordingly. If you don’t take a vacation or plan for a holiday later in the summer, then the July ACT is a great fit!
Maybe you’re traveling all summer and the June or July ACT isn’t a fit for you. Now we are getting into the September ACT, which begins test prep at the end of July. The next available test date is October. This test date is great for several reasons. Students are already back into the swing of school, which means they are getting used to a schedule and back to studying. Adding on test prep for the ACT would be like adding in extra class. However, depending on which sports and extra-curricular activities students are involved in could be too much for a number of students. Keep in mind, our courses are 8-10 weeks long. Private tutoring is anywhere between 3-15 hours depending on the students’ goals and availability.
What about the December test? Another great option for students who want to complete the ACT before finals begin. Also, it’s cold outside. What else is there to do? Plus, students can go into Winter Break knowing they’ve completed the ACT. It’s a win win situation.
If not the December test, then perhaps the February ACT? Prep for the February test generally begins at the end of December. Why not get a jump start on studying while still on Winter Break? This test date is a great test for Juniors to take! By this point in your high school career you’ve most likely taken Algebra, Geometry, Biology, and Chemistry, which is the bulk of the Math section. Plus, there is still time to prep and take an additional test if need be.
April showers bring May flowers…so they say. But, it’s a test date worth looking into. Test prep for the April test begins at the end of February. If you want to be completely finished with ACT test prep before thinking about finals, then this is the test date for you! Also, if you take the test in April and do well, then you don’t have to think about it while on summer vacation or while completing college applications.
June promises summer and test prep? At least at the beginning of June. The June ACT is great for students who don’t mind doubling down on finals as well as ACT prep. Test prep begins mid-April right up to the week leading up to the test. Students will have about 2-3 weeks after school is out to prep for the June test. If students can manage finals with the promise of summer vacation surrounding this test date, then it’s a date worth considering.
Regardless of which test date you choose, Get Smarter Prep will help you every step of the way. From July to June, we will help you pick the best test date for you and help you prepare for the score you need for the school you want.
At Get Smarter Prep, we’ve received a few questions lately about watches designed specifically for use on the ACT and other standardized tests. At first glance, these devices might seem useful. They’re intended to help you track how many minutes you have left in a section and which question or passage you should be on. They come pre-programmed with the number of minutes and questions for each section. As a bonus, they’re silent, and therefore “ACT-approved.”
As great as they seem on the surface, though, we can’t recommend them, for several reasons.
Accuracy over Speed
Accuracy is more important than speed on the ACT. Getting to your goal score is about much more than rushing to make your way to the end of a particular section within the allotted time. Nearly every student struggles with time on the ACT, and nearly every student can reach their goal without completing every question.
An important part of your preparation for the ACT should be working out which questions deserve your time and attention and which ones do not. There might be one Reading passage that consistently gives you trouble, and perhaps skipping it boosts your Reading score. There might be one type of English question that you find especially tricky or time-consuming, and perhaps skipping those types of questions and saving them for the end is your best approach. Most students benefit from cutting loose the last 10 (or 15, or 20) Math questions in favor of spending more time on the earlier questions.
These watches assume you’re going straight through the section, at a rapid, constant pace, and this simply isn’t the best approach for most students.
Each Question is Different
Some questions are harder than others.
The most obvious example of this is the Math section. Math question #47 will almost certainly take you longer than question #3 – that’s fine, as question #47 will likely be trickier and involve a bit more work.
You are not a robot who can be counted upon to spend exactly one minute per Math question, or exactly 8 minutes and 45 seconds per Reading passage. Some questions and passages will take you more time, and some will take you less. If you’re constantly glancing at your wrist, though, comparing yourself to an inflexible standard, you’ll likely only grow frustrated and distracted from what’s most important – getting points.
Each Student is Different
The ACT is a predictable, standardized exam that behaves in predictable ways. Knowing how the ACT is set up allows students and tutors to plan and strategize. However, even though the test is standardized, students are not! Each student is going to have a slightly different path to their best test performance. It is important to be open to making those adjustments as you prepare, instead of trying to base your strategy on the watch. The ACT is stubborn and inflexible enough for all of us – we need to adjust and adapt in order to be successful.
Technology Sometimes Fails
If your test performance hinges too much on the watch at your wrist, what happens if it fails? If the battery dies, or some other mundane mechanical problem arises? Your best insulation against the timing restrictions of the ACT is practice and strategy. Having a plan, practicing the plan, and following the plan is much more reliable than counting on a piece of technology that may or may not reliably get you through the exam.
Proctors Might Object
All these products advertise that they are allowed on the ACT, but a glance at their Amazon reviews shows that there have been instances where proctors don’t allow the watch into the room. If you practice with it and come to depend on it, and then the proctor doesn’t allow it into the testing room, you may become frustrated, anxious, or discouraged. That’s not a recipe for success on test day!
We want to see you get the best score you can on the ACT, and we don’t think these watches are the best way to accomplish that. Practice and preparation are key, even if they are more work than picking up a new watch.
It’s a common occurrence when taking the ACT. If you’re like most students, you struggle to finish different sections of the ACT or maybe even struggle to finish every section! You’re not alone. There are a lot of questions and this is a timed test, so time management is key to finishing each section.
Let’s take a quick look at the breakdown of questions and the allotted amount of time per section.
We like to say that the English section is one of the easiest sections to pick up points. Think about…within this section you are reviewing idioms, punctuation, pronouns, verbs, rhetoric content, and rhetoric style. Those are all things you’ve most likely learned about in the eighth grade. A solid review of all of those categories will pick up lost time within this section and leave you feeling ready for the math section, where students typically feel rushed.
The math portion of the ACT can be tricky for some students. There are 60 questions and 60 minutes to complete the section. Within this section, the questions become progressively harder. The second half of the test will generally have the questions that take the longest amount of time to solve and will involve more geometry and trigonometry than algebra. Do you struggle with geometry? Do you need help with trig? Defining what areas you struggle with and spending more time brushing up on those skills will be a huge help with the math section. Try not to rush. Answer each question to the best of your ability and if you feel pressed for time, bubble in the last questions with the same letter. Read about our Letter of the Day Strategy here.
Most students have a hard time completing the reading section since there are four different passages (humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, literary fiction) to skim through as well as forty questions to accompany the passages. You have less than a minute to answer each question! Don’t freak out. There are different strategies to use within the reading section. Each passage has ten questions. Skim through the passage, then attack the questions. There are different categories within the passage such as line reference (e.g., “In lines 16-20”). Line reference is literally directing you straight to the lines within the passage! Other categories include lead word, comparing passages, vocabulary in context, the main point/big picture, and tone.
Here’s a shocker…there is no physical science in the science section of the ACT! It’s mainly charts and graphs. As you study for this section, make sure you know how to accurately read graphs and charts since the answers for all of the questions are right in front of you. For the questions that you can’t answer with the visuals, you can usually figure them out by reading the passage. Save time by skipping the instructions and head straight to the questions. Then go back to review the passage and the answer will most likely be within the passage.
Every student is different, but the common occurrence among all students is time management within the ACT. One way we like to prepare students is by giving them a Pretest, Midterm, and Final. Then we compare each test to see how far each student has improved. Not only does this get students ready for the test by practicing strategies, but it also helps practice their time management skills.
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