The ACT is one of two popular standardized tests accepted by colleges and universities in the United States. It is comprised of four mandatory sections (English, Mathematics, Reading, and Science) with a total of 215 questions, broken down as follows:
There is also an optional, 30-minute Writing section where you write a response to a provided question, and are evaluated on a 6-point scale by two different readers.
Depending on if you take the Writing section, the test will take up to four hours to complete, including breaks.
The ACT website includes a comprehensive list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s) that covers matters like how to register for the test, a description of each section, testing dates, sending scores to colleges, and even some basic advice on how to prepare for the test. The link for that site is: http://www.actstudent.org/faq/faq.html
Example of ACT Prep:
The following is an example of preparatory advice that I’d give to students for the ACT; in particular, the Reading Section:
The Reading section of the ACT is not like any other reading you’ve done before. It is not like reading a book for school, nor is it like reading for fun. You aren’t supposed to be entertained by the passages, and you are definitely not expected to remember the material for a future test.
Your goal for the Reading section is to read a passage and correctly respond to ten questions in less than nine minutes (8:45, to be precise), and repeat this task three more times. It is very rare for a student to have experience with this kind of task.
Most students approach the Reading section by reading the entire passage at once, then hoping to remember as much as possible for the questions. The outcome from this is that the student will read back-and-forth between the answer choices and the passage, costing them precious time. Most students who use this method do not get the best scores, especially if they aren’t as good at Reading or English as they are at Math or Science. Because your goals are so different, your methods have to be different.
Even before you take the Reading section, you know the following:
1. The section will always have passages in the following areas: Prose Fiction, Humanities, Social Studies, and Science.
2. You will have to answer a variety of questions for all the passages. These can range from fact-based questions to questions that ask you to discuss the main idea of the entire passage.
3. Fact-based questions do not require reading the entire passage in order to answer them, and can be answered more quickly. Main idea questions will always require knowing the whole passage.
4. Therefore, main idea questions will require the most time and should be completed last, since they are worth the same number of points as the easier/faster fact-based questions
Knowing this, we can tailor our approach to reading each passage so that we can learn the most material in the shortest amount of time.
From the SAT website:
“The SAT is comprised of 10 total testing sections. The first section is always a 25-minute essay, and the last section is always a 10-minute multiple-choice writing section. Sections two through seven are 25-minute sections. Sections eight and nine are 20-minute sections.”
The company behind the SAT, CollegeBoard, maintains a detailed page of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s) about the test, including test dates, score reporting, and information on each section of the test. The link for this is: http://www.collegeboard.com/student/testing/sat/about/sat/FAQ.html
The following is an example of preparatory advice that I’d give to students for the SAT; in particular, the Mathematics Section:
The math section of the SAT is not necessarily hard because of the topics covered. In fact, the ACT is arguably harder because of the inclusion of trigonometry and other more advanced math. What makes SAT math harder is the trickiness of questions later on in the section.
Given that all the math questions are worth the same number of points, your test-taking strategy depends in part on how high of a score you are trying for. For a score of 700 or above (top 6% of test takers), you will be required to attempt every math problem and answer all of them correctly, excepting for a handful of omitted/incorrect answers. For a score of around 600 (top 25%), you have the option of leaving more answers blank or guessing more frequently on questions you are not sure of.
Remember that unlike the ACT, the SAT does penalize your score for incorrect answers. To remind you of how the SAT is scored: Your raw score increases by 1 point for every correct answer. It is unchanged for every blank answer, but is reduced by 1/4th of a point for every incorrect answer. That raw score is then converted into a scaled score ranging from 200-800 points.
are never required to answer every single question in a section, and you may in
fact get your highest score by leaving some blank.
The computer-based GRE revised General Test contains six sections that will take about 3hrs, 45min to complete under standard testing conditions:
In previous computerized versions of the GRE, the exam was “adaptive” on a question-by-question basis. Answering a question correctly would follow with a harder question, whereas an incorrect response would follow with an easier question. Your final score would be based on the difficulty of the questions you answered; if your test involved correct replies to the hardest questions, you would have a higher score. Under this mechanism, you could not “skip around” to other questions, and it was advantageous to spend more time on the initial problems so that you could get to the hardest ones by the end.
The current “Revised” version of the GRE has been changed so that it is adaptive on a sectional basis. This means that your performance on the first Verbal or Quantitative section affects the questions you will get in the second section. You may now “skip around” questions, mark off ones you’ve completed, and come back to harder ones before time has run out.
More information on the GRE can be found at: http://www.ets.org/gre?WT.ac=grehome_grehome_b_121017
Directions: Each of the following questions consists of two quantities, one in Column A and one in Column B. There may be additional information, centered above the two columns, that concerns one or both of the quantities. A symbol that appears in both columns represents the same thing in Column A as it does in Column B.
You are to compare the quantity in Column A with the quantity in Column B and decide whether:
(A) The quantity in Column A is greater.
(B) The quantity in Column B is greater.
(C) The two quantities are equal.
(D) The relationship cannot be determined from the information given
- a = 6
- b = 4
- c = -2
- d = -5