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Junior year and the ACT

Updated: Jul 17

As many of our children are approaching junior year the choice of college seems much closer than we would like. Not all colleges require the ACT anymore but some still do and most still use it as measure for scholarship. The question always arises as to when to take it. I have heard some college counselors recommending waiting until second semester junior year to help with the math section and increased knowledge from one more year of school.

The ACT is not really a measure of what you know but is more a measure of the students skills. The English section does test grammar and punctuation as well as subject verb agreement. The reading section emphasizes reading comprehension and vocabulary interpretation. Math and science are more about problem solving. With the math there are 60 questions in 60 minutes. Not enough time to work out all of the problems and a lot of it is elimination and checking what answer choices work. There are math skills that can be practiced ahead of time but I am not sure if it is worth waiting until 2nd semester to take it. Science is all about reading graphs and charts and those skills can be taught and practiced. A lot of those skills are not practiced enough in school. This is something that we all need to start adding more of in our classes.

I would recommend taking the first ACT in the fall to get a baseline score and see which subjects they need to focus on for the winter or spring test. Super scoring can make a big difference in their overall score. Take into account their sports and activities. If they are already overloaded then they probably will not have time to practice and prepare. Get an ACT test prep book and if possible have them work with someone or go through a program that gives them the test taking skills that they need. You don't want to be scrambling second semester junior year trying to raise their score. Most of all keep in mind that it is a standardized test that does always reflect a students ability. Scores in the low 20's are average the first time through and the test is long and it is easy to lose focus. Practice and retaking it does help bring up the score. A lot of my students have raised their scores 3-4 points by practicing and taking it a second time. Give your student the time that they need to get the score that they want and make sure that they set realistic goals.

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