While preparing for a competitive exam such as the ACT, mere knowledge of allotment of question-wise & section-wise scores is not enough. One must also be smart enough to judge how to use the scoring mechanism to maximize his benefit.
In this article, I’ve listed down our all-time top four suggestions for scoring high on the ACT.
1. Hide a Weak Subject
The fact that ACT considers candidates’ averaged scores, unlike SAT which takes into account the total scores, is a boon to those who aren’t good in one of the four subjects.
To understand this better, let’s have a look at the example given below.
Consider a situation where you’ve scored in following section-wise scores on the ACT.
In this scenario, although you struggle with mathematics and score well in other sections, you may not have to worry much about your composite (overall) score because a low score in one section doesn’t play a huge role in bringing down your average score.
For the exam, in the above scenario, you might notice that despite scoring low on Math, your average score would still be 28 (i.e., [30+31+29+22]/2), which is a 90th percentile score. This average score is still significantly higher than your score on the Math section. This is how you can use this scoring method to your advantage.
(30 + 31 + 29 + 22) / 4 = 28
But this doesn’t mean that you entirely leave a subject. You should always strive to minimize your weakness but if there’s one subject that you just cannot score high on, beyond a point, it’s best to let it be that way and try maximizing your score in other subjects.
2. Focus more on maximizing your composite score
As discussed in the previous point, ACT takes into consideration only the composite (averaged) score of the candidates. Thus, one must not concentrate only on improving in his weak subject but should also focus on further strengthening his strong areas. This approach will ensure that one is decently prepared to ace the exam.
For example, if you are weak in Math and spend most of your time before the exam on improving in this one subject and ignore your strong subjects, you might, no wonder, score good in Math but by not giving enough time to the other subjects, you will have missed out on an opportunity to score higher on them, thereby failing to get a high composite score (which, by the way, should be your ultimate motive).
Have a look at the example below to understand this better.
Here, you spent all your time improving your performance in your weak subject area, here, Math, and got the following scores:
Now that is an outcome of a decent preparation. You managed to increase your Math score to 25 (about 80th percentile) and got a composite score of 27, which is about 87 percentile.
In this scenario, you spent some time on your strong subjects (ex: English & Reading) and comparatively less time on Math. This would result in a not-so-high Math score but will significantly increase your score on English & Reading (considering that increasing score on your already-strong subjects won’t be very tough and can be done with some smart studying).
This way, you would end up with such scores:
It is evident that even if this approach resulted in a not-so-high Math score, the increase in English & Reading scores more than makes up for it. This would result in a higher composite score.
3. Align Your Study Plan to Maximize Raw Scores
ACT releases raw to scaled score estimates. This data will help you to develop section-wise target raw score. This approach will make it very easy for you to plan your studies during your practice sessions.
For example, if you are aiming for 26 as your section-wise scaled score, the raw scores that you aim for look something like this:
To get the above-mentioned scores, one very useful strategy that you can implement is “skipping questions”. An elaboration of this means, if your target raw score in Math is 43, you can choose to attempt only 50 questions while skipping the last 10 toughest questions. This increases your per-question time, hence your accuracy. Despite this, if you miss 7 questions more, you’ll still manage to score 43 with absolute accuracy. The same logic applies to other subject areas too.
4. Do not leave any question unanswered
Having no penalty for wrong answers is a boon that many test-takers do not realize. One must use this to the fullest by not leaving any question unanswered. If you aren’t sure of the answer to any question, try your best to eliminate wrong choices and take a guess from among the remaining choices. However, if you have no idea about the correct answer to a particular question, it makes sense to take a wild guess rather than not answering that question at all.
This way, you stand a chance to increase your raw score in each section by one or two points, thereby, significantly affecting your scaled score.