I have met with countless students over the years who become very disheartened when their ACT score remains the same (or even drops) after spending a lot of money and time working with a tutor. Many of these students are high achievers with strong GPA’s and top tier college aspirations. They have become adept at successfully navigating their academic worlds and are not used to mediocre results - especially when they put in the time and effort.
Which is why they quickly lose hope, especially after the second failed attempt to climb the ACT mountain. This is when phrases like “test anxiety” “I’m not a good test taker” and “I just don’t test well” begin to fill the room. And we as teachers, counselors and parents reinforce these thinly veiled excuses because we feel their pain and are also searching for a valid “reason” that our otherwise gifted academic has not found testing success.
The reality is, most students are not studying for the ACT the right way. Their lackluster score is not due to academic ignorance, it’s due to ineffective preparation. The ACT is designed to trick and confuse the test taker. The questions are often written in a way that coaxes students to spend extra time on needless details that are not necessary to finding the answer.
So while understanding grammar rules and trigonometry equations will help, if a student does not recognize the layout of the test, the patterns that exist and the way questions will be asked, their score will rarely increase. In fact, I have seen time after time where students that understand the ACT framework, have a game plan and implement the strategies they have practiced score significantly better than students who are simply experts in the subject matter.
A good ACT prep plan provides the students with an overall blueprint for the test and gives them specific insight into what skills they may need to strengthen before test day. It allows them to spend one or two hours with a tutor (if needed), learning specific skills, rather than wasting time and money on subject matter that will not impact their score. The right prep plan will simplify the studying process and allow for most students to increase their score the very next time they take the ACT.
The ACT is a predictable and highly coachable test, and with the right prep plan you absolutely can improve your score. And yes, test anxiety is a real thing, but effective preparation and practice will defeat it every time!
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