Review What's Important.
Complete workouts to build your skills in each of the four subject areas: English, Math, Reading, and Science Reasoning.
Increase Your Score.
Kaplan's highly effective test-taking strategies, which provide focused and detailed approaches for every question type. Go into the test with more confidence!
Special CD-ROM Features:
2 Full-Length Practice Tests
Customized Study Plan
8 Additional Tests: 2 for Each ACT Subject Test
|Product dimensions:||8.42(w) x 10.92(h) x 1.27(d)|
Read an Excerpt
Chapter One: Introduction to the ACT
Before you plunge into studying for the ACT, let's take a step back and look at the big picture. What's the ACT all about? How can I prepare for it? How's it scored? This chapter will answer these questions and more.
The ACT is an opportunity, not a barrier. In fact, you should be grateful that you have to take it. Really. Because a strong ACT score is one credential that doesn't depend on things you can't control. It doesn't depend on how good or bad your high school is. It doesn't depend on how many academic luminaries you know, or how rich and famous your family is, or whether any of your teachers are gullible enough to swear in a letter of recommendation that you're the greatest scientific mind since Isaac Newton. No, your ACT score depends on only you.
Granted, the ACT is a tough exam. It's probably one of the toughest exams you'll ever take. But you should be grateful for that too. Really. If the ACT were easy, everyone would do well. A good score wouldn't mean much. But because it's such a bear of a test, the ACT can be your single best opportunity to show what you can do, to prove to colleges that you are the candidate of choice for admission, for advanced placement, for scholarships.
It's important, though, that you take the test in the right spirit. Don't be timid in the face of the ACT. Don't let it bully you. You've got to take control of the test. Our mission in this book is to show you exactly how to do that.
It helps to think of the ACT challenge as a contest not only between you and the test, but also between you and that other person trying to get your spot in college. The ACT, after all, is meant to provide a way for all college applicants to compete on an even playing field. How do you compete successfully in a fair academic fight? You train harder and smarter than the next guy. First, you learn whatever knowledge and skills you need to know. But then, just as important, you learn how to show what you know, in ways that the test is designed to reward. You learn how to be a savvy test taker.
THE BIG THREE
There are three basic commandments for achieving ACT success. Following any of these by itself will improve your score. Following all three together will make you nothing less than awesome.
1. Thou Shalt Learn the Test
The ACT is very predictable. You'd think the test makers would get bored after a while, but they don't. The same kinds of questions, testing the same skills and concepts, appear every time the ACT is given.
Because the test specifications rarely change, you should know in advance what to expect on every section. Just a little familiarity can make an enormous difference on the ACT. Here are a few ways in which learning the test will boost your score:
You'll learn the directions. Why waste valuable time reading directions when you can have them down pat beforehand? You need every second during the test to answer questions and get points.
You'll learn the difficulty range of questions. It's a fact that a typical ACT test taker gets only about half the questions right. Knowing this will stop you from panicking when you hit an impossible science passage or trigonometry question. Relax! You can skip many tough questions on the ACT and still get a great score! And once you know that the questions aren't arranged in order of difficulty, you'll know that just beyond that awful question will be one, two, or even three easy questions that you can score on with no sweat at all.
You'll learn how to get extra points by guessing. Unlike some other standardized tests, the ACT has no wrong-answer penalty. Knowing that simple fact can boost your score significantly. If you can't answer a question, guess.
We'll help you get a better understanding of the ACT in the chapter following this one, entitled "The Four Subject Tests: A Preview."
2. Thou Shalt Learn the Strategies
The ACT isn't a normal exam. Most normal exams test your memory. The ACT isn't like that. The ACT tests problem-solving skills rather than memory, and it does so in a standardized-test format. That makes the test highly vulnerable to test-smart strategies and techniques.
Most students miss a lot of ACT questions for no good reason. They see a tough-looking question, say to themselves, "Uh-oh, I don't remember how to do that," and then they start to gnaw on their No. 2 pencils.
But many ACT questions can be answered without perfect knowledge of the material being tested. Often, all you need to do to succeed on the ACT is to think strategically and creatively. We call this kind of strategic, creative frame of mind "The ACT Mindset."
How do you put yourself into the ACT Mindset? You continually ask yourself questions like: "What does this mean? How can I put this into a form I can understand and use? How can I do this faster?" Once you develop some savvy test-taking skills, you'll find yourself capable of working out problems that at first reading might have scared you half to death! In fact, we'll show you how you can sometimes get right answers when you don't even understand the question or the passage it's attached to!
There are many, many specific strategies you can use to boost your score. For instance, here are just a couple of things you'll learn:
You'll learn the peculiarities of the ACT format. The ACT is a multiple-choice test. The correct answer is always right there in front of you. We'll show you how to develop specific tactics for each question type to maximize the chances of selecting the correct answer. The wrong answers are often predictable. For example, in English the shortest answer is the correct answer with surprising frequency. Strange, but true. Knowing statistical information like this can give you an important edge.
You'll learn a plan of attack for each subject test. We'll show you some really useful ways of attacking each subject test. You'll learn how to do "question triage" deciding which questions to do now and which to save for later. You'll learn a strategic method for each subject test designed to get you points quickly and systematically. You'll learn gridding techniques to avoid any answer-sheet disasters.
You'll learn "unofficial" ways of getting right answers fast. On the ACT, nobody cares how you decide which choice to select. The only thing that matters is picking the right answer. That's different from the way it works on most high school tests, where you get credit for showing that you've done the questions the "right" way (that is, the way you were taught to do them by Mrs. Crabapple in high school). We'll show you how to find creative shortcuts to the correct answers "unofficial" methods that will save you precious time and net you extra points.
The basic test-smart techniques and strategies for the whole test are covered in the chapter called "Taking Control: The Top Ten Strategies." General strategies for each subject test, plus specific hints, techniques, and strategies for individual question types, are found in the Skill-Building Workouts. These are then summarized in the Strategic Summaries.
3. Thou Shalt Learn the Material Tested
The ACT is designed to test skills and concepts learned in high school and needed for college. Familiarity with the test, coupled with smart test-taking strategies, will take you only so far. For your best score you need to sharpen up the skills and knowledge that the ACT rewards. Sometimes, in other words, you've just got to eat your spinach.
The good news is that most of the content on the ACT is pretty basic. You've probably already learned most of what the ACT expects you to know. But you may need help remembering. That's partly what this book is for to remind you of the knowledge you already have and to build and refine the specific skills you've developed in high school. Here are just a few of the things we'll "remind" you of:
You'll learn how to read graphs and tables. Many Science Reasoning questions rely on your ability to use data presented in the form of graphs and tables. (We'll teach you how to read graphs and tables in Science Reasoning Workout 1.)
You'll learn how to do trigonometry problems. Do you remember exactly what a cotangent is? A cosine? We didn't think so. But there are four trig problems on every ACT. (You can learn about trigonometry problems in Math Appendix C, items 96-100.)
You'll learn the difference between lie and lay. Is it "I lay down on the couch" or "I lie down on the couch"? You may want to lie down yourself if you encounter such issues on the ACT. But don't fret. We'll remind you of the common grammar traps the test lays for you (or is it lies for you???). (For a discussion of this conundrum, see Classic Grammar Error #9 in English Workout 3.)
Specifics like those mentioned above comprise what we call the ACT "knowledge base." The components of this knowledge base are reviewed along the way throughout this book. The two appendixes then summarize this information for the two sections of the ACT that explicitly test knowledge: English and Math.
In sum, then, follow these three commandments:
1.Thou shalt learn the test.
2.Thou shalt learn the strategies.
3.Thou shalt learn the material tested.
If you do, you'll find yourself just where you should be on test day: in full command of your ACT test-taking experience. Count on it.
WHAT IS THE ACT?
It was Attila the Hun who first coined this epigram: Knowing the enemy is the first step in conquering the enemy. Attila, of course, was talking about waging wars on the steppes of Central Asia, but his advice also works for taking standardized tests in central Illinois. In fact, that's probably why Attila got a Composite Score of 30 on the ACT.
Well, to be honest, we haven't fact-checked Attila the Hun's ACT score, but the point remains valid. To succeed on the ACT, you've got to know the ACT.
But is the ACT really your enemy? Only in a manner of speaking. The test is more like an adversary in a game of chess. If you know your adversary's entire repertoire of moves and clever stratagems, you'll find it that much easier to beat him. Myths about the ACT are common. Even high school teachers and guidance counselors sometimes give out inaccurate information (we know you're shocked to hear this). To earn your best score, you need to know how the ACT is really put together.
So, before anything, take some time and get to know this so-called adversary. Let's start with the basics. The ACT is a three-hour exam (two hours and fifty-five minutes, to be precise) taken by high school juniors and seniors for admission to college. It is not an IQ test; it's a test of problem-solving skills which means that you can improve your performance by preparing for it.
Speaking of myths, you may have heard that the ACT is really the only thing colleges look at when deciding whether to admit you. Untrue. Most admissions officers say the ACT is only one of several factors they take into consideration. But let's be realistic about ACT scores. Here's this neat and easy way of comparing all students numerically, no matter what their academic backgrounds and no matter how much grade inflation exists at their high schools. You know the admissions people are going to take a serious look at your test scores.
The ACT consists of four subject tests: English, Math, Reading, and Science Reasoning. All four subject tests are primarily designed to test skills rather than knowledge, though some knowledge is required particularly in English, for which a familiarity with grammar and writing mechanics is important, and in Math, for which you need to know the basic math concepts taught in a regular high school curriculum.
Here are some quick answers to the questions students ask most frequently about the ACT.
How Is the ACT Scored?
No, your ACT score is not merely the sum total of questions you get right. That would be too simple. Instead, what the test makers do is add up all of your correct answers to get what they call a "raw score." Then they put that raw score into a very large computer, which proceeds to shake, rattle, smoke, and wheeze before spitting out an official score at the other end. That score which has been put through what they call a scoring formula is your "scaled score."
ACT scaled scores range from 1 to 36. Nearly half of all test takers score within a much narrower range: 17-23. Tests at different dates vary slightly, but the following data is typical.
* Percentage of ACT takers scoring at or below given score
Notice that to earn a score of 20 (the national average), you need to answer only about 53 percent of the questions correctly. On most tests, getting only a bit more than half the questions right would be terrible. Not so on the ACT. Getting about half of the ACT questions correct and earning a score of 20 won't earn you a lifetime membership in the Academy of Arts and Sciences, maybe, but it's nothing to be ashamed of.
The score data above includes two very strong scores: 26 and 31. Either score would impress almost any college admissions officer. A 26 would put you in the top ten percent of the students who take the exam, and a 31 would put you in the top one percent. Even a 31 requires getting only about 90 percent of the questions right. The best student in your high school will probably get at least a dozen questions wrong. There are questions that even your smartest teachers would get wrong.
If you earn a score of 23, you'll be in about the 76th percentile. That means that 76 percent of the test takers did as well as, or worse than, you did in other words, that only 24 percent did better than you. It means you're in the "top quarter" of the people who take the ACT. That's a good score. But notice that to earn this score, you need only about 63 percent of the questions correct. On most tests, a score of 63 is probably a D or an F. But on the ACT, it's about a B+.
How Many ACT Scores Will You Get?
The "ACT scaled score" we've talked about so far is technically called the "composite score." It's the really important one. But when you take the ACT, you actually receive twelve (count 'em, twelve) different scores: the composite score, four subject scores, and seven subscores. Though the subject scores can play a role in decisions at some schools, the seven subscores usually aren't important for most people, so feel free to ignore the chart below if you don't feel like looking at it.
Here's the full battery of ACT scores (1-36) you'll receive. Few people (except your parents, maybe) will care about anything except your Composite Score for college admissions, though some schools use subscores for course placement.
English Score (1-36): Usage/Mechanics subscore (1-18); Rhetorical Skills subscore (1-18)
Math Score (1-36): Prealgebra/Elementary Algebra subscore (1-18); Algebra/Coordinate Geometry subscore (1-18); Plane Geometry/Trigonometry subscore (1-18)
Reading Score (1-36): Social Sciences/Sciences subscore (1-18); Arts/Literature subscore (1-18)
Science Score (1-36): There are no subscores in Science.
How Do Colleges Use Your ACT Score?
The most important score for most test takers is the composite score (which is an average of the four subject scores). This is the score used by most colleges and universities in the admissions process, and the one that you'll want to mention casually at parties during your freshman year of college. The four subject scores and seven subscores may be used for advanced placement or occasionally for scholarships, but are primarily used by college advisors to help students select majors and first-year courses.
Although many schools deny that they use benchmark scores as cutoffs, we're not sure we really believe them. Big Ten universities and colleges with similarly competitive admissions generally decline to accept students with composite scores below 22 or 23. For less competitive schools, the benchmark score may be lower than that; for some very selective schools, the cutoff may be higher.
To be fair, no school uses the ACT as an absolute bar to admission, no matter how low it is. But for most applicants, a low ACT score is decisive. As a rule, only students whose backgrounds are extremely unusual or who have overcome enormous disadvantages are accepted if their ACT scores are below the benchmark. It also sometimes helps if you can convince your parents to donate a gymnasium to the school you're aiming for.
Should You Guess on the ACT?
The short answer? Yes! The long answer? Yes, of course!
As we saw, ACT scores are based on the number of correct answers only. This means that questions that you leave blank and questions you answer incorrectly simply don't count. Unlike some other standardized tests, the ACT has no "wrong-answer penalty." That's why you should always take a guess on every ACT question you can't answer, even if you don't have time to read it. Though the questions vary enormously in difficulty, harder questions are worth exactly the same as easier ones, so it pays to guess on the really hard questions and spend your time breezing through the really easy ones. We'll show you just how to do this in the chapter called "Taking Control: The Top Ten Strategies."
Can You Retake the Test?
You can take the ACT as many times as you like. You can then select whichever test score you prefer to be sent to colleges when you apply. However, you cannot take advantage of this option if, at the time you register for the test, you designate certain colleges to receive your scores. Thus it is crucial that you not designate any colleges at the time you register for the test. You can (for a small additional fee) have ACT scores sent to colleges at any time you desire after the scores are reported.
Unless you don't have enough money for that small extra fee or if you're taking the ACT under the wire and you need your scores to reach the schools you're applying to ASAP, give yourself the freedom to retake the test. What this means, of course, is that even if you blow the ACT once, you can give yourself another chance without the schools of your choice knowing about it. The ACT is one of the few areas of your academic life in which you get a second chance.
Copyright © 2003 by Kaplan, Inc.
Table of Contents
|How to Use This Book||ix|
|ACT Emergency Plan||xi|
|A Special Note for International Students||xiii|
|Section I||ACT Basics|
|1.||Introduction to the ACT||3|
|2.||The Four Subject Tests: A Preview||13|
|3.||Taking Control: The Top Ten Strategies||27|
|Section II||Skill-Building Workouts|
|4.||English Workout 1: When in Doubt, Take It Out||43|
|5.||Math Workout 1: The End Justifies the Means||53|
|6.||Reading Workout 1: Know Where You're Going||69|
|7.||Science Workout 1: Look for Patterns||79|
|8.||English Workout 2: Make It Make Sense||95|
|9.||Math Workout 2: Shake It Up!||109|
|10.||Reading Workout 2: Look It Up!||119|
|11.||Science Workout 2: Always Know Your Direction||127|
|12.||English Workout 3: Trust Your Ear||139|
|13.||Math Workout 3: Figuring It Out||151|
|14.||Reading Workout 3: Arts and Sciences||163|
|15.||Science Workout 3: Keep Your Viewpoints Straight||175|
|Section III||Ready, Set, Go|
|Section IV||Practice Tests and Explanations|
|Answer Sheets for Practice Tests||205|
|Practice Test 1||207|
|Practice Test 1--Answers and Explanations||261|
|Practice Test 2||293|
|Practice Test 2--Answers and Explanations||349|
|Compute Your Score||379|
|A.||English Review for the ACT||383|
|C.||100 Key Math Concepts for the ACT||407|
|Section VI||CD-ROM User's Guide|
|Higher Score on the ACT||425|