Has she taken the ACT?
What was her score?
I’ve heard those questions a few times this year and if you have a high school student you have, too. Whether you’re a traditional or home school family, the ACT is part of preparing for college. Many, many years ago I took the ACT (I’ll share about that at the end) but when it came time for my first college bound child to test I had lots of questions.
As we prepared to launch another college bound child we decided to take advantage of a local ACT Prep Course.
Brandi taught the Math and Science portion of the course so I reached out to her and asked her to answer a few questions about the ACT that I thought might be helpful to you.
Brandi Bright holds a Master’s Degree in Secondary Education General Science from
Jacksonville State University as well as a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing (BSRN). Teaching science to high school students quickly became her passion and, therefore, she has continued to teach high school science classes over the last 11 years. With an equal passion for math, Brandi has spent all of these years building a strong curriculum for high school students that incorporates both math and science into every content area possible. She is committed to providing an exceptional college-prep experience for students,
as well as aiding the struggling student to achieve beyond their expectations.
What You Should Know
The ACT is something that is talked about often throughout the high school years. Many parents remember taking it during high school yet are puzzled by all the hype to today’s ACT. You see, the ACT itself has changed little since today’s high school parents were in school. However, today the stakes are high and both students and parents are left wondering what they should do and what is available. Hopefully this will shed some light on the mysteries of the ACT.
Why take the ACT?
The first, most obvious question is “Why take the ACT?” The answer to this is pretty cut-and-dry. The ACT is most often required as a part of the college/university admission process. It is also required for nearly all scholarship applications. And, not only is it a requirement but the score itself has more to do with acceptance and scholarship eligibility than grade point average (GPA) (high GPA’s are a requirement but that alone will not get acceptance). Therefore any student who is college-bound will with almost certainly be required to take it. Virtually the only exception falls with those who choose to take the SAT instead of the ACT. This is most often personal choice since pretty much all colleges now allow both tests for admission (some do want SAT subject test for course placement and possibly for admission and scholarship eligibility in addition to the ACT or SAT). This all leads us to what is perhaps a more important, yet less often asked question…
When should the ACT be taken?
Frequently this question comes too late. While there is no definite answer as to when it has to be taken, time has shown that those students who start early taking the ACT and preparing for it are more likely to increase their scores and qualify for more scholarships. College admission applications and scholarship applications most commonly have a deadline date between December and March of the student’s senior year. ACT scores must be in and available to the college prior to those deadlines. This limits the student’s opportunity for improving their scores and re-taking the ACT during their senior year. For this reason, most students are encouraged to take it during their Junior year.
HOWEVER, data shows that taking the ACT at least once during the sophomore year when stakes are lower has beneficial effects. There is no limit to how many times a student can take the test and colleges count the highest score – not most recent. A sophomore testing session allows the student to experience the test taking process with the knowledge that they will have plenty of time to re-take it. Also, the scores give them an idea of what a realistic goal is for them and what they will need to do to reach that goal over the next 1 ½ – 2 years. Time is on their side and if they are committed they can make drastic improvements in their score.
How To Prepare for the ACT
Now that it has been determined when and why the ACT is taken, it is now time to address How To Prepare for the ACT. Preparation can vary depending on what works best to meet a student’s need. There are many books with advice, subject-specific content reviews, and practice tests on the market. Many of these are very helpful, but do be aware that ACT prep is a big business so there are many pitiful efforts made by publishing companies in an attempt to cash in. Sticking with the better names is advantageous while also checking out Internet reviews in order to pick out the best option. There are also general and subject specific guides that are very good, but also beware because many of them require an ACT prep book to reference in order to fully use the guide. Most guides are written to enhance the #1 ACT prep book on the market, which is The Real ACT, 3rd Edition. These guides are not necessary but some do offer some good suggestions.
ACT prep books are fantastic and almost certainly a necessity. Internet resources are also plentiful and helpful. However, nearly none truly deal with strategy and developing a study plan. They also do not assist with time-saving measures when dealing with specific types of problems. The subject-specific reviews can also be a bit overwhelming and there is no-one to whom students can ask questions. This is why ACT prep classes can be a huge advantage. Especially when the class size is small and there is someone knowledgeable in the specific subject-areas to give tips and answer questions. Students are also more likely to know how to use their book and how to study more effectively after taking an ACT prep class.
What is a good score?
All this talk about preparation and improving scores and college and scholarship eligibility brings up another very important question. “What is a good score?” The answer to this depends greatly on what college/University is being considered. It is best to look at the specific college and see what their average admittance score is and then add roughly 5 points to it for scholarship eligibility. That being said, there are some general suggestions to give an idea of where a student stands. For Junior colleges, ACT scores are most often used for course placement in math and English and not as much for admission. Smaller 4-year state colleges and universities average about 18-20 for acceptance and scholarships for partial tuition begin around a 24. Larger, more competitive state universities have a broad range of average scores for admission but a good idea is around 22-24 with scholarships beginning around 27-30. Prestigious colleges around the country have an admission range in the 28 ballpark with partial scholarships beginning at 30-32. There are, of course, exceptions to all of these categories and these score ranges are averages so there are many accepted with far lower scores and do very well in colleges and universities. However, the higher the score the greater the scholarship opportunity.
Now that we have established a basic overview of the ACT, lets discuss some of the advantages of the test. The ACT has become incredibly accessible and is fairly affordable. It is given almost monthly and the locations abound! The ACT is given at most colleges and universities and some high schools. It is also now being given by many school systems to their students during privately arranged test times. Because of all the opportunities to take the ACT and the many preferences within colleges and universities for the ACT, ACT prep resources are abundant. This gives students a variety of good opportunities for achieving their goals. Although many schools have moved to promoting AP courses (put out by College Board, the SAT company, therefore a different format and focus than the ACT), because of the popularity of ACT, they are teaching a bit more to the ACT-style. This gives students a little more advantage when taking parts of the ACT, although it is not altogether a prep for the ACT.
This is pretty much the general scoop on the ACT. Hopefully this has been informative and will provide you with a basic understanding of the ACT.
Thanks, Brandi, for providing us with answers! Good information helps us be prepared. If you’re interested in the ACT Prep Course Brandi leads leave a comment with your email address and I’ll send you more information.
You can also find The Real ACT Prep Guide here.
One final note for parents and students: My ACT score was 20. I took it once my senior year and don’t remember knowing that I could or should take it again. But I have a college degree, a master’s, and a doctorate. My hubby never took the ACT and spent some time on academic probation due to over-zealousness in extra-curricular activities, aka, he partied too much. However, he went on to get a college degree, and a master’s that benefit him and others in his life’s work and calling. We did not have the benefit of scholarships and spent years paying student loans. We consider it one of our greatest investments.
Don’t let your GPA or ACT score or some past academic short-fall determine what you do with your life. Work hard. Get help when you need it and never, never, never, give up.
But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength.
2 Timothy 4:17