What Winners Know About the ACT


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A collection of ideas to guide students when preparing to take the ACT in high school, or any standardized test.

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What Winners Know About the ACT

  1. 1. WHAT WINNERS KNOW ABOUT THE ACTPreparation:How you feel, how much you are rested, and the state of mind you are in can affect your performance. Try to consider thefollowing in preparation for your ACT test day: 1. Get a full night’s sleep 2 NIGHTS before test day (the night before the night before the test) a. Chances are you may not sleep well the night before the test, for one reason or another, and having that reserve rest will allow you to have a stronger “second wind” performance on test day if need be. 2. Eat well—a leading cause of test anxiety and stress is poor nutrition. Make sure you eat well in the several days leading up to test day, because your body makes as a good an output as what you put into it. (Just like an algebraic function!!) a. Day of the test: i. eat a breakfast rich in protein and complex carbohydrates (eggs, oatmeal, yogurt with fruit) - this will give your brain the fuel it needs to think straight and your body the energy for test endurance 1. Avoid eating junk food for breakfast – the “something is better than nothing” rule is not your friend on ACT test day – eat something good (plan ahead) 2. A study done in high schools in western Michigan cities found that 100% of failing ninth grade students just so happened to skip breakfast ii. AVOID the following on test day 1. Refined sugars (juices, granola bars, pop, sugary cereals, pop-tarts, etc.) 2. Drinking too much water – this will just make your blood overloaded with fluid and cause you to have to go to the bathroom…don’t want to do that during your ACT a. Instead, consider a beverage that is isotonic to your blood – Gatorade G2 (lower sugar, plenty of electrolytes) 3. ENERGY DRINKS: it doesn’t matter what commercial or ad you’ve seen, every energy drink will negatively affect your body function in one way or another (either by the chemical additives, artificial sweeteners, or sugar) 4. Powerade – contains a chemical depressant that will bring you down during the time you need to think most iii. Take your own snack with you to the test for during the breaks (if you can) so you don’t get sabotaged by hunger or “bad snacks” 1. No one will care about your performance as it relates to nutrition as much as you! b. Day before test: i. Eat a dinner full of complex carbohydrates (like carbo-loading before an athletic event) to build reserve fuel of glycogen in your liver for test day 1. Good choices include whole-grain pastas, brown rice, sweet potatoes 2. Avoid refined starches and carbs (e.g., white rice, white potatoes, white pasta) ii. Drink plenty of water – flush out your system of any excess sugars iii. Avoid excess sugar (candy, desserts, juices, pop, etc.) iv. Eat lots of green vegetables – the nutrients available in green vegetables are key to functioning 1. Try to avoid covering the vegetables in cheese or Ranch dressing 3. Don’t cram or study the night before – contrary to popular belief, you cannot information pre-load your brain – instead, do something relaxing and low-stress (like watching a funny show/movie) 4. Avoid drama in the days leading up to the ACT – it’s just going to weigh on your mind and block your best thinking on test day – don’t even talk to your most dramatic friends on test day (they can unintentionally be a psychological vampire on your attitude and thus performance on the test.) 5. Make sure you are totally prepared with everything you need – pencils, calculators, erasers, anything else you might need – don’t rely on others to come through when you need them to (because what if they don’t?) 6. Do some deep breathing to relax yourself and minimize stress before you get to and when you arrive at the test 7. Remember, thinking positive thoughts (like about all the successes you’ve had in life, or things you are grateful for) can only help clear your mind and make the neurons flow smoothly by producing beneficial neurotransmitters a. Pump yourself up with POSITIVE self-talk (“I can do this!”) b. Give another student a compliment and pump them up too – it will help reinforce your strengths to you!!
  2. 2. Test Strategies:Things to keep in mind for the test itself 1. Triage (prioritizing) – quickly glance at each of the passages in a section to determine where you want to start a. This is a test of earning correct marks (not completing questions) so find passages with themes that you are strongest in and do those FIRST i. You might as well pump yourself up with immediate success AND get as many right as possible 2. STOP-THINK-PREDICT (STP!) – when you get to a question, a. cover up the answer choices b. read the question stem c. stop and think about what the question is really asking, what could the answer be, and where in the passage you could find information d. Once you have an answer, uncover the choices and hunt for an answer that sounds reasonable compared to your prediction i. IMPORTANT: ANSWER CHOICES ARE MADE TO “SOUND GOOD” SO THE STP METHOD AVOIDS GETTING SUCKED IN BY THE “SUCKER ANSWERS” 3. False Answer Types: recognizing types of false answers is the hallmark of a good test-taker a. There are a few main false answers that are cleverly placed on the test: i. THE OPPOSITE OF THE RIGHT ANSWER ii. THE CLOSE TO THE RIGHT ANSWER BUT OFF BY SOME SPECIFIC DETAIL iii. THE “SUCKER CHOICE” THAT SOMEONE WHO WASN’T PAYING ATTENTION AT ALL WOULD PICK b. If you can recognize which choices might fit these wrong-answer descriptions, you can quickly narrow down your choices to the best answer if you cannot predict ahead of time 4. Annotating Passages – a. As you read, make little marks off to the side of each paragraph that LABEL the main thing talked about in that passage b. Annotations help you organize your understanding and comprehension of the passage, AND let you quickly find places in the passage that contain necessary information later when/if you need it 5. Managing Test Stress/Anxiety – a. If you feel panicked during the test, put down your pencil, close your eyes, breathe calmly and deeply and RUB YOUR EARLOBES b. An ear massage will stimulate blood flow to your ears, and thus your brain, allowing for better thinking and relaxing you – this is a MUST strategy to useAfter the Test: 1. When you are finished with the test and it is completed and turned in, CONGRATULATE YOURSELF ON YOUR ACCOMPLISHMENT a. Don’t think about what you could have done better after the fact, because you can’t change it and it will only bring you stress; instead, acknowledge the SUCCESS of finishing the test and doing your best 2. Celebrate finishing the test by rewarding yourself with a favorite food or doing something fun when you get home