Like most parents, you have big dreams for your child and for their future. These dreams may include obtaining a college degree. More and more students are choosing to go to college after high school to increase their chances of a meaningful career in today’s competitive job market. Most colleges require a minimum score on the ACT to gain admission to that college.
The ACT is a standardized test that most students in the US will take during their junior year in high school. College admission offices and scholarship committees consider a student’s ACT score in conjunction with his or her grades and extracurricular activities. The test consists of three timed sections that include English, Reading, and Math and Science. There is also an optional writing section that is required by some colleges. A perfect ACT score is a 36; however, most students do not achieve a perfect score. Check out the admissions page for the college your child is interested in to see their minimum requirements for an applicant’s ACT score.
The ACT not only measures your student on what they know, it also tests them on their critical thinking skills, test taking ability, and time management. No matter your own ACT score, or how much math you actually remember, you can help increase your child’s future success on the ACT beginning in middle school or even earlier. These five strategies can increase the chances for your child to achieve a score that can get them into the college they are aiming for and even help them earn scholarships to pay for it!
The most important thing your student can do to prepare for the ACT is to read. It doesn’t matter what they read, just that they are reading. Skilled readers are better equipped to get through the questions for every section without running out of time. Encourage frequent reading by finding material they enjoy.
2. Teach Critical Thinking Skills
Kids love riddles and puzzles. Check out websites that have riddles and challenge each other to solve the riddles each day. It might be something you do at dinner or before bed. Figuring out riddles teaches kids to think in a non-linear way. Puzzles and strategy games do the same thing. The ACT is unique in how it presents questions to the test taker. The test often provides information that is not needed to slow down or confuse test takers. Developing strong problem solving skills early increases the chances that your child will do well on the test.
3. ACT Question of the Day
May test prep sites offer a free ACT sample test question of the day. This strategy is best utilized for older students, those in middle school or high school. These sample questions are representative of the actual questions on the test. Don’t let your child be discouraged if they don’t know the answer. Use the test questions to help your child get familiar with how the test structures the questions. Most sample questions will give explanations on why the right answer is correct and why the others are incorrect. Offering a reward for answering the question each day is a good incentive for students. A little extra screen time or even $1 per question can be a powerful motivator.
4. Teach Testing Strategies
The ACT is a timed test. There is no penalty for answering a question wrong so it is in your student’s best interest to answer all of the questions. Teach your child that it is not always necessary to read the entire passage that accompanies each question. Oftentimes there is no need to read the passage at all. Have your child read the question first and then the answers that go with that question. Then they can determine if they need to review the passage and if so, how much, in order to correctly answer the question. Teach them to eliminate answers that are clearly incorrect to narrow down the possible choices.
5. Prep Classes
As your child gets closer to taking the real ACT test, usually sometime during their junior year of high school, you may consider signing your child up for a prep class. These classes come in a range of different price points and many high schools offer classes to students free of charge. Everything you’ve done up until this point is setting your child up for success. These prep classes are often the last piece of the puzzle to ensure your child does his or her very best on the day of the test. Keep in mind that your child is not limited to a single try on the ACT. They can retake the test multiple times to increase their chances at a good score.
You’ve taught your children so much during their lives. You’ve helped them with homework, taught them to take care of themselves, ride a bike, and many other life skills. Test taking skills, including preparing for the ACT, is just one more way that you can prepare them to be successful in life.