5 tips for each ACT section from someone who scored in the top 1%

July 19, 2017

by Elan Zohar, Brentwood School senior(Korea Times Student Intern Reporter)

Standardized testing is one of the most strenuous and time-consuming aspects of the college process, and millions of aspiring college students take the ACT or SAT every year. Recently, the ACT has seen a rise in popularity due to the modifications of the SAT, so I thought, as someone who recently took the test, that it might be helpful to provide some quick tips for those who plan to take the ACT soon.


1.English is all about repetition and noticing patterns. A lot of times, there will be the same concept asked multiple times, but just with different wording. Recognizing these patterns will give you more consistency and speed.

2.If you don‘t know an answer, pick the most concise option. If it is a question asking to replace a phrase, the answer will usually be the only one word answer out of the four. The other sentences are usually too long and clunky to be correct. Always aim for the question with the most information that is still concise.

3.Read the whole passage, even the sentences that don’t have a question in it. This is most helpful for the questions at the end of the passage, where the overall message or quote placement is asked. It also helps to simply know the flow of the passage, as it can give clues about verb tense or other grammar concepts.

4.Grammar rules are key. This may sound obvious, but this will help you on the English section more than any other tip. Know the grammar rules. For example, know that in order to be able to put a semicolon somewhere, the phrase on each side of the semicolon must be able to stand as its own sentence.

5.There are often questions at the end of a passage with two yes answers and two no answers, but all for different reasons. Do not answer based on the yes or no part, but instead, first look at the explanation for both the yes and no‘s, and then decide your answer from there. There is usually an obvious explanation that can help you do the question more quickly and effectively.


1.Plug in. If math is not your strongest subject, this will help you even more. Since the ACT is a multiple choice test, they have to provide the answer. As a result, you can do many problems backwards by plugging the answer in and checking if it works.

2.Set time markers for yourself. For me, I made sure that I was at question 40 with 30 minutes remaining. This allowed me to finish math on time and allow extra time for the more difficult questions at the end.

3.Be familiar with your calculator. Know where every button is and in what situations you need to use it. This will save you a lot of time, and as a result, give you more time to finish the test and check your answers. Even just saving three seconds on each problem by knowing which buttons to press will save you three extra minutes.

4.Go in order. The test gets more difficult as you progress through it, so make sure you complete the first half of the test before you move onto the second half.

5.Don’t be afraid to do a question “the long way” if you forget an equation or procedure. As long as you think you can find the right answer, it‘s still worth it to spend extra time on a question that you would otherwise get wrong.


1.Everyone claims to have the best way to do it, but it honestly doesn’t matter, as long as you are comfortable with yours. Personally, I like to read the whole passage before answering the questions, but I know people that also did well by not reading the passage at all.

2.Extreme answers are never right. A lot of times, the answer is the option that has balance, often using “although” or “despite.”

3.If time is an issue, try to do the questions where a line is already given first. This way, you don‘t have to spend time looking for a specific line until the end. These questions also tend to be easier, so you will be knocking out the easy questions before moving onto the more reading-focused questions.

4.Do not assume something is true if the passage does not say it explicitly. That’s exactly what the test makers want you to do. Only use information from the passage, as all the questions and all the answers will just be taken from the text on the page, nothing else.

5.Do timed practice. Even try to compete against yourself for the quickest time possible. It‘s like how baseball players put a weight on their bat when they are on deck so that the bat feels lighter at the plate. This way, for the real test, you have more room and time for error.


1.Don’t read everything. If you do, you will undoubtedly run out of time. Read the important things, such as numbers or charts.

2.Find trends in charts and data. If you see a gradual increase in weight of an object as it undergoes some modification, that will definitely be mentioned in a question.

3.Science is all about momentum. Sometimes, you‘ll be stuck on one problem for a while, which can cause you to panic to finish and eventually end with a lower score. Sometimes, you’ll finish a passage easily and quickly, and gain confidence that you can do the other ones just as fast. With more practice, momentum will come easier.

4.Don‘t get flustered on the very clustered and busy charts that usually appear in the last passage. Just take each piece of information one by one and understand what the question is asking. It’s usually more simple than you think.

5.Don‘t waste time on the questions asking for background knowledge. There are usually at least two of them. If you don’t know it, just guess, and if you do, even better. But don‘t waste time on the background knowledge questions if you didn’t know them when you walked into the testing room.

Elan Zohar, Brentwood School senior(Korea Times Student Intern Reporter)

Elan Zohar, Brentwood School senior(Korea Times Student Intern Reporter)


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