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Realistic ACT Score Improvement

Many students who take the ACT take it more than once. The obvious objective is to improve your score each time you take it, but “improvement” is a vague goal. In this blog post, we will discuss what a realistic ACT score improvement goal looks like and how you can identify and achieve this goal through study strategies. We will also discuss what factors should be considered when setting your goal to help you come up with an ideal plan of action. 

ACT Scoring System

In order to understand the parameters of a good ACT improvement goal, you need to understand how the ACT is scored. The ACT consists of four tests, or five if you take it with writing. Each test is scored from 1 to 36. Each test is scored individually, and then the individual scores are averaged to give you your composite score. 

This means that to improve your overall composite score, you need to focus on all areas of the ACT– but particularly the areas you are weakest in. We’ll discuss this more momentarily.

What Is a Realistic ACT Improvement Goal?

Because the ACT is only scored up to 36, an improvement of 2-4 points is actually much larger than it looks. Even small changes can have an impact on your percentile rank. For example, a 2-point increase may move you from the 75th percentile to the 80th percentile, indicating that you have performed better than 80% of ACT test takers. This can potentially improve your chances of admission to competitive colleges and universities.

It is also important to consider your starting score when you’re considering your improvement goals. For example, if you get a 32 the first time you take the ACT, a 4-point improvement is going to be more difficult to achieve than if your starting score was a 20. If you’re at a 32, aiming for a 2-point improvement is a much more realistic goal. 

However, if your starting score was lower, a 4-point improvement is more attainable and can make a substantial difference in your college admissions prospects. It’s important to manage your expectations and not compare your progress with others, as each individual’s starting point and abilities are unique.

How To Set An ACT Goal

Knowing what a reasonable ACT improvement goal looks like is one thing, but how can you set the ideal goal for yourself? There are several factors to consider that will be unique for each test taker. You should consider how all of these factors apply to you, and set your goal from there.

Baseline Score

As we discussed briefly above, your baseline score will tell you how much of an improvement you can realistically aim for. If you haven’t taken the ACT yet and don’t have an official baseline score, don’t worry. You can take practice tests online or out of an ACT test prep book to see how you are likely to score. Try to mimic test-taking parameters as well as possible, including timing and resources available. The ACT offers free online practice tests, which are a great place to start.

Once you have your baseline score, you will see where your strengths and weaknesses are. For example, if you perform well in the English and Math sections but struggle with Reading and Science, you can focus more attention on the latter areas during your preparation. 

You should also continue to take practice tests to regularly reassess your performance. This will allow you to monitor your progress over time. As you study and implement targeted strategies, you can observe how your scores change and (hopefully) grow. 

This ongoing feedback helps you stay motivated and make necessary adjustments to your study plan. Continued reassessment of your baseline score and overall performance will also help you see how you’re progressing in your weaker areas. 

Target Schools

Most schools publish the average ACT scores of their admitted students, as well as information on the score ranges of these students. This information is typically available on their websites or in admissions materials– and if it’s not there, you can always contact the admissions office and ask. By understanding these scores, you gain insight into the academic competitiveness of the institution and the level of achievement typically expected from applicants.

Time and Effort

Consider how much time you have to work on ACT improvement. What are your daily and weekly commitments, including school, extracurricular activities, work, and personal responsibilities? For ACT improvement, consistent practice is key, and it’s important to have a realistic understanding of the time you can devote to studying.

Think about the time frame you have before your intended ACT test date, too. Planning ahead allows you to establish a study schedule that balances your other commitments. Give yourself enough time to prepare, typically a month or more, to allow for gradual progress. You want to avoid cramming for the test if at all possible– it’s not an effective study strategy and can lead to test anxiety or panicking on the day of the exam.

Resources and Support

The resources you have and the way you prepare for the exam can make a huge difference on the goal you should set for yourself. You should explore as many ACT study materials as you can. Look for materials that cover all sections of the ACT, provide detailed explanation and information about test construction, and offer practice tests to assess your progress. You can also meet with in-person or online ACT study groups and classes. 

ACT prep courses are one of the best ways to make a positive impact on your ACT score. When taught by qualified instructors, these courses can effectively target your weaknesses and help bring up your overall score. 

Learning Style and Strengths and Weaknesses

No matter what your learning style is, you can set ACT improvement goals. You just need to identify how you learn best, and then incorporate that into your ACT prep. Understanding your learning style can also help you identify your strengths and weaknesses in both test-taking abilities and content areas.

Since your ACT score is determined by four (or five, if you’re doing the writing part) different content areas, you may find that some of your subject scores are higher than others. Factor in the content you need to become proficient in when setting your goals.

Test-Taking Skills and Strategies

Enhancing your test-taking abilities, including time management, understanding question formats, and employing test-specific strategies, can significantly boost your score. You need to know how the test is constructed and what the parameters are for all of the parts. You should learn how to improve your chances on multiple choice questions by swiftly eliminating distractor answers. 

Scoring high on a standardized test like the ACT isn’t just a content issue– it’s a skill issue. Part of what the ACT tests you on is your ability to think quickly and critically. ACT takers who consistently score well have mastered these test-taking skills. Consider how comfortable you are with them when you set your improvement goal.

No matter what your baseline ACT score is, you can improve it! When you’re setting your improvement goals, it’s important to set realistic, achievable goals. When you take one of our ACT courses or work with one of our top ACT tutors, you will have the expert help and resources you need to meet your goals!

Prep Expert

Written by Prep Expert

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