ACT Test Preparation

What is the ACT?

The ACT is a required college admissions test for ALL Colorado students. It is also accepted by most colleges and universities in the United States as an admissions and placement test. The ACT differs from the SAT in that the ACT tests more the student’s academic preparedness whereas the SAT is more of an aptitude test. Both are widely accepted today with nearly 1.666 million students taking each last year.

Origin of the ACT

In the summer of 1959, the American College Testing (ACT) Program was founded by Ted McCarrel and University of Iowa education professor E. F. Lindquist. Lindquist suggests that there is a need for a new regional or national test for college-bound high school students. They determined that the current SAT test was designed primarily as an aptitude test used for admissions by certain colleges in the northeastern US, whereas the ACT would be an achievement test that would more accurately measure a student’s academic preparedness and would be used for college placement as well as admissions. In 2007 the ACT finally became accepted as an admissions test by all US 4 yr. colleges and universities.

Today, the ACT is taken by nearly 52% of all graduating students and is becoming most popular of the college admissions tests. Furthermore, the ACT is now an active partner with the Common Core State Standards Initiative. These standards are based on empirical data and reflect the shared goal of preparing students for readiness in credit-bearing college courses and in careers.

Common ACT Test Preparation

The ACT, or American College Test is said to be designed to test what students have learned throughout their grade school education. When preparing students for the ACT, most test prep schools and tutors teach “content”. Meaning that they teach the basics of grammar, reading comprehension, basic sciences and basic math skills. Although knowing content and basic academic skills is necessary for taking the ACT, students should have already mastered those skills while in school. Besides, if the ACT is only testing a student’s academic abilities, why do so many high achieving students with a GPA of 3.5 or higher still have difficulty scoring well on the ACT? Surely there is more to getting a high score on the ACT than just reviewing what a student has learned in school?

Why that method is not effective:

Basic skills and content teaching cannot help students earn high scores because the ACT does NOT simply test the basics of what a student has learned in grade school. Furthermore, this test is long, 3 hours and 25 minutes, and a student also needs to be prepared for it physically as well as mentally.

Here at PGILA, we have studied the ACT to determine why, when over 1.66 million students took the ACT last year, the average score was 21 out of a possible 36 points. A score of 32 is typically the minimum needed to apply for scholarships.

The fact is many students who take this test are at the top of their respective classes and yet still earn only an “average” score. Surely there is more to the ACT than basic knowledge of grammar, reading comprehension, general sciences, and mathematics?

The fact is the ACT is indeed a basic skills test. However, the choices are designed to confuse and distract even the best of students. Our methods help students to identify and eliminate those wrong choices so they can hone in on the correct ones and earn a high score: earning them a scholarship.

The PGILA Difference

The PGILA Difference is that, although we do address content and instruct students in EXACTLY what they will be tested on the ACT so that they study only what they need to earn a high score, moreover, we concentrate on instructing our students about the structure, the following of ACT directions, identifying and understanding the question types, and following the rules the test is based on.

Using differentiated instruction, we use “guided practice” to describe and demonstrate how the methods and procedures must be applied to each problem type to work effectively and consistently. Then, using “independent practice”, students test individually to determine how well they understand the methods and procedures. We return to guided practice when scoring tests and going over the questions types our students are having difficulty with and determine what procedures they have skipped or did not understand, make the necessary corrections and then return to independent practice. We instruct and practice until our students can raise their scores by 3-5 points in each section consistently. The more students practice the methods the better they do. On average, PGILA students increase their ACT scores by 3-5 points overall.

Keep in mind that the reason no one has ever successfully challenged the makers of the ACT is that the test is based on very specific structures and rules. Knowing these structures and rules enables our students to earn high ACT scores and scholarships!

*ACT is a registered trademark of College Board with whom PGILA has no affiliation.

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