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ACT Tips: Everything you need to know

As most schools are over a month into the second semester, it’s crunch time for standardized testing, including the ACT (American College Testing). However due to COVID-19, the ACT looks a little different this year, but some things remain the same. Here’s what you need to know to do your best on the 2021 ACT.


Parts of the ACT

The ACT consists of 4 test sections (Reading, Math, Science, and English) and an optional writing section, which can be required for certain universities’ admission requirements. With the writing section, the ACT costs $70.00 and $55.00 without. It’s scored from 1-36 and if you are eligible for a fee waiver at school, you may be eligible for an ACT fee waiver, although most public schools (and some private) offer at least one free ACT for juniors a year. Students trying to reach a certain score often take the test more than once, but it is not required.


How to Prepare

While some have seen great improvement through private tutors and from some of the many ACT prep books out there, there are many free options available to prepare students for the ACT. On the ACT website, there are free practice questions along with tests from previous years. They also offer a list of what you need to bring to be prepared for the actual test day. ACT Academy is also a free online source with lessons, practice tests/questions, tips, and more. With all of these options and the enormous amount of information available to you, it may be hard to find out where to start. Creating a study plan and focusing on weaker areas can make things seem more manageable. An often forgotten utility by many students is their counselors. They are here to help you with things like this and often have great, personalized advice on how to improve your scores.


Changes due to COVID-19

As it does all other aspects of life, the pandemic has also altered the way students can take the ACT. Students must wear a mask for the entire duration of the test and when entering and exiting the building; desks are six feet apart to maintain social distancing. Many test dates have been canceled due to a rise in cases and colleges and universities have realized that. A lot went test-optional for the 2020-2021 admissions process, and many are planning to do the same for 2021-2022 including schools like Harvard, Centre, Tulane, and more. You can find a full list of 2021-2022 test-optional schools here. If you are able to take the ACT, however, it is important that you try your best, because scores can be used for scholarship opportunities and more, although they won’t be counted against you at the schools listed above.


Think the ACT isn’t right for you? Maybe the SAT is. The SAT is formatted differently with different questions that appeal to different skills. To learn more about the SAT, visit the College Board website.


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