If you’re in high school, then at some point you’ll probably be thinking about the big, bad ACT. Whether you’re a sophomore getting ready for a practice test or a junior or senior about to take it, the ACT is on your mind and it’s not going to go away.
It certainly hasn’t for me.
What is it?
The ACT is simply a standardized test that one takes before applying to colleges. When the ACT first came about it was called the American College Test, but now it’s just known as the ACT.
The ACT is essentially four basic tests: English, Math, Reading, and Science. A fifth writing assessment is also an option. Each test has an allotted amount of time for the questions, prior to the test I was told it’s all about time management and that the content would be information I’d already learned.
The English test is first and it’s 75 questions in 45 minutes, which sounds like so much and like it’d be extremely difficult, but trust me, it’s not as bad as you think. Next is Math which is 60 questions in 60 minutes. The last two are Reading and Science which are both 40 questions in 35 minutes.
What your ACT score means to you though, is a little bit trickier than the actual exam. Basically it’s just a score that you use to get into college, and if you get in the high teens or up, you’ll get into college no problem.
However, I’ve noticed that many people use their scores to define themselves, that’s what caused the stress about the test for me. Friends would brag about their scores or talk about them with disgust and say they’re taking it again. One friend said he did bad on the ACT when he got a 28, which is a superb score, and hearing things like that really psyched me out.
All you’ve got to keep in mind is that your score doesn’t define who you are or how intelligent you truly are. In reality, it’s just a number.
DON’T FREAK OUT. You will get nervous, that’s just how it goes, but try to stay calm.
The days leading up to it are the worst part, seriously.
The week before my ACT I found myself asking everyone for tips and tricks, looking up skills online, basically doing everything but actually studying. You may feel you have to study or maybe not, it’s up to you.
I’ll let you in on a little secret though: it’s not really a test you can study for.
That mindset didn’t stop be from being anxious as heck the night before. As a planner I had everything set out. I had comfy clothes piled up, my ticket printed out, my calculator charged, and even five Number 2 pencils sharpened and ready.
Tips I’d learned from friends and the internet raced through my head. Circle the answers in the book and transfer them onto the answer sheet. Set a watch to noon before every test so it’s easier to know how much time you have left. Skip around and do all the easy ones first.
Don’t let yourself go planning crazy though, try to relax the night. Wind down with a few episodes of your favorite show, take a hot shower, drink a cup of chamomile tea. Freaking out beforehand really is not worth it.
All you have to do is make sure you have all your supplies ready and attempt to get a good night of sleep.
Surprisingly, taking the test was less stressful than the night before. On the first page of the English test I tried skipping around and circling answers on the page, but I gave that up almost immediately. I knew myself as a test taker and I decided to do what felt most natural to me, which happened to be chronological order.
For the English test I only read the underlined portions and moved as fast as I could, I ended up finishing the 75 question test with 15 minutes to spare. Immediately I wondered, “Did I manage my time too well?”
After the initial exam, a sort of calmness swept over me, it wasn’t as nearly as hard as people made it out to be.
Everyone says you won’t finish any of the test your first time taking the ACT, but I happened to finish each with a few minutes left over to go back and check it all over. Honestly, it’s all based on how you fare during tests. It’s good to listen to advice, but don’t fight your natural instincts.
Incidentally, the hardest part was not being able to go to the bathroom until the 10 minute break after the Math section.
The only test that threw me off guard was the Science one, it was more about being able to read charts than knowing science. So if you can read a chart, which you probably can, you’re in the clear.
During the test I figured out that it wasn’t worth all the hype, the stress and anxiety, any of it.
Even though it wasn’t that bad, there’s nothing like the feeling of walking out of that classroom. It was sleeting and cold when I left the building but I felt so free and alive.
It’s only noon on a Saturday when you finish, so go home and do whatever you want because you accomplished something, you took the ACT and you survived. Treat yourself to an ice cream lunch and binge Netflix all afternoon or hang out with friends and revel in the weightless feeling of having completed the ACT.
All you have to do now is wait 2 – 8 weeks for your score.