Tips for Helping your Child Prepare for the ACT

What did you get on the ACT? Whether you like taking tests or hate them, if you plan to go to most colleges or universities, an acceptable score on the ACT or SAT are necessary evils. When I was in high school, we took the ACT our junior year--and, if we wanted a better result, we retook it our senior year. Today, with the availability of college coursework beginning as early as 7th grade.  Many students are taking these tests earlier (and many more times) in hopes of getting accepted for college coursework during high school or of getting that tremendous final score for THE college after high school. Today, I wanted to share a few tips to help you help your child prepare successfully for the ACT.
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Get those ACT Prep Books. 
Whether you opt to buy them, rent them or borrow them from the local library--those ACT Prep Books really do help students prepare. You can get the Official ACT Prep Guide, created by actual ACT test-makers, that comes with review material, practice tests, and online resources--or a buy a prep book from a host of other companies. We also like the prep book offered by The Princeton Review and the ACT prep book from Kaplan. All of these books provide test-taking strategies, reviews of the more common test material--and lots of practice tests. If you don't want to buy the books--check out your local library. You may have to pick up older versions of these guides--and you won't likely gain access to online resources--but recent books are still quite useful resources.

Set Aside Time to USE those ACT Prep Books
While your child won't likely read these prep books from cover to cover--they still need to use the books to help them prepare. Help your child set aside study time to work through each section of the book--and make sure that they stick to the plan. Reading the book the day before the test isn't going to be helpful. Your child needs to review material, develop some recommended test-taking strategies, and take some practice tests. 

Take a lot of Practice Tests. Early.  
My youngest daughter had the opportunity to take a full length, ACT practice test through a local tutoring club--when she was in the 7th grade. This "real" practice test let her experience the test-taking environment, practice pacing herself through the questions--and get a graded test score by section. The tutoring club even offered feedback and suggestions for areas of study to help her improve her score as she prepares now to take the actual ACT. To be successful on this test--students MUST become excellent test-takers in general. The more tests that you take, the more practice questions you answer, and the more practice results you receive! Practicing helps the student better prepare for the actual test. Even those "old" practice tests in those "older" books at the library are great resources to practice answering questions and determine strengths and weaknesses in each subject.

Take an Actual ACT Prep Class.  
Whether you sign up for an online class, a class at a local tutoring center, or participate in one at your school--these classes offer busy teens a scheduled time to focus on the ACT. Prep classes cover test-taking strategies and common areas to review. Some are short in length, while others last for several hours. In reality--I found these classes very useful for my kids toward the final couple of months of test prep as a forced study time/review session.

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Don't Over-Study What you Already Know. 
This tip was always tough for my kids! Generally, bright kids don't like things that don't come easily for them. It is so, so, so vital that you make sure that your student focuses the most time on their weaker subject areas. Boost those weaker areas with other study aids (like the Math and Science Workout from Princeton Review) or spend extra time with workbooks and study materials devoted to those individual sections.

Get a Tutor.  
If your child needs a little extra help--or a little more scheduled, devoted time dedicated to ACT study activities--it may be time to enlist the help of an outside tutor. There are a lot of tutoring classes out there charging fees for group tutoring or individual sessions. If paid instruction is challenging on your budget--check with your local library or college to see if they have tutors offering one-on-one tutoring sessions. Often these tutors are free or low cost. 

Unless your child is past the end of his senior year--he has time to retake the ACT for a better score. Encourage your child to study and prepare--but remember that this is a stressful experience for most students! In addition to helping your child prepare academically--be sure to help him prepare emotionally too! Brush up on some tips for overcoming test-taking anxiety and spend some time helping your child put those suggestions to use. 

While every test is different and every student is different--these tips help many students achieve their best scores and their goals. Try these suggestions as your students move into the long summer months to prepare for the next school year and fall ACT tests!

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