Skills and Drills: Help Your Child Improve on the ACT


Test-taking comes naturally for some kids and for others it brings enough stress to misrepresent their real abilities. Understanding the pressure students are under can help your good test-takers become better and push your anxious child to do well. Once your child recognizes the importance of great scores on all test sections, you can use personalized and traditional approaches to improve them.

Good Scores Increase Future Options.

Over 40 selective colleges and universities have made SAT or ACT test scores optional for incoming applicants.

This trend does not change the reality that a high ACT score is still accepted at most schools and it always impresses admissions officers. Besides college admission, good test scores also influence scholarships and fellowships. Future employers may also request scores for elite internships and early career jobs.

Stay on the safe side and prepare students to meet application requirements for the highest number of college possibilities, plus reap other benefits of a great score.

ACT Prep is Personal.

Preparing students for the ACT is more important than ever. For the last several years, the American College Testing (ACT) organization reported average national scores declined in English and math readiness.

The decline in ACT scores coincides with the rise in internet practice options, digital tools and online tutoring. These resources do help with content, but their flexibility can backfire. Students mainly need to simulate the rigid, group test-taking experience.

Nothing can replace a personalized, hands-on ACT prep class.

  • Start with a diagnostic. You must know which skills your students are strong on and which skills they need to work on.
  • Measure performance often. Do not leap from the diagnostic exam to test day without another evaluation. Assess student progress every few weeks.
  • Partner with parents. Parents can have higher hopes and stress levels than students. Praise their child's strengths and give them tips to address the weaknesses.

Understand the Composite Model and Use It.

The ACT gives a composite score based on student performance in four sections: Math, Science, English and Reading. 36 is the high score for each section. The sections test basic to high level skills, material and critical thinking.

The composite score is the average of the score from all four sections.

Realistically, a good student can score among the average admitted students at a selective university even with a low score in a weak section. This is good news. When you start with diagnostics, you know which sections your students can rely on to raise their composite number.

Keep students practicing all sections, weak and strong.

Take no chances. Keep measurement and drills in all sections fresh for your students, even if they believe some are not necessary for what they plan to major in. They can not afford to lose the boosts from their strongest sections or leave weaker sections unimproved.

Be Practical With Technology.

The benefits of prep classes are group interaction and direct contact. You can answer questions immediately and observe when students are frustrated, then discover why and how to help. You can also get to know student personalities and have fun with them. Blend technology such as videos and online materials into classes, but do not rely on them.

Traditional approaches have proven to help students retain more information. Learning via technology and engaging teachers on social media can extend student attention to lessons and concepts, but only as supplemental enrichment.

Real-life lectures and drills, including timed practice tests, stick with students most during the actual tests.

Throughout all your test prep efforts, remember you are a valuable partner to students at a high stakes time. This preparation now is an investment in their paths and options later. They will have good days and bad days, but you must motivate them to keep up practice and preparation until test day.