Hi ACT test takers. Many students find the science section the most daunting section on the ACT. It is always at the end of a long test - and your head may already be spinning from the previous 2 or so hours. When you finally start the section you are faced with 35 minutes in which you have read 7 passages and answer 40 questions, while analyzing charts, graphs and figures. Pressure!! Most students do not actually finish the section in the allotted time. Here's a tip - don't take the science passages in the order given. Many find some sections intimidating when just looking at them. Fine. Stay calm, skip that passage. Quickly move on to a section you feel you have more confidence tackling. If you have time you will come back to anything you skipped. Take the sections in whatever order you feel most comfortable with. Many students skip the "conflicting viewpoints" passage - the only passage with 7 questions, and usually is the most time-consuming to sort through. For others - lots of illustrations might cause some panic. I recommend picking your "letters of the day" and bubbling in guess answers in a section as you are skipping it - just so you don't have a rush at the end, or the proctor misses telling you you have only a minute or two left. "Skipping" does NOT mean "leave blank"! You never want to leave anything blank on the ACT. But you don't have to do the science passages in the order given. Maximize the use of your time on this test - and give it your best shot.
Although the content of the SAT math has been presented to students by the end of, if not mid, junior year, this unique timed test poses a difficulty to many students. Many find that both the questions AND the answers are structured in an unfamiliar way. Some struggle with word problems or logical analysis that is the basis of so many questions. A frequent difficulty is that some of the information tested was last thought about somewhere between the 6th to 8th grade. The SAT also often requires students to know EXACT math definitions, also sometimes long forgotten. Lastly, and what can be a problem for even high-achieving math students, "careless" errors can really kill a score. Need some advice?
1. Prepare. If nothing else, sign up for the college board Question of the Day. There's even an app for that! You must familiarize yourself with content matter, as well as how questions are asked, before the test. Also, find out how to use the structure of the test to your advantage. A little preparation will go a long way. A lot of preparation will help you achieve your goal.
2. Practice the timing, so you will know if this is an issue for you. A full length SAT practice test is available for free! Print it out. Don't cheat and do it online - print it, sit down with your number 2 pencil, set your timer, and pretend it's a real test. If you can't set aside 3 hours and 20 minutes of uninterrupted time, do it section by section, paying strict attention to the timing of each section. Make yourself comfortable with skipping questions. Be mindful that you must keep alignment on your answer sheet, and it is best to keep track of questions skipped in your test booklet. You don't want to be the kid freaking out and erasing like crazy because you mis-bubbled a whole column of answers. But good timing is more than that. Are you "taking the long way" to answer ALL the questions? Are you relying on your calculator too much? Could back-solving, estimating, setting proportions, substituting real numbers, using your units,... help you? For some problems, there are strategies to lessen time consuming step by step analysis. For other problems, the step by step analysis is the best way to consistently get the right answer. Practice solving problems via alternate methods so you are familiar and comfortable using what ever strategy is quickest for you on test day.
3. Through PREPARING and PRACTICING you will uncover the topics you may have long forgotten. Working with fractions, percentage problems, prime numbers, rules of exponents, greatest common factors and least common multiples are among some of the prevalent stumbling blocks within the "easier" of the math content. Review what you need to.
4. Careless errors are addressed in a separate post on this page, with steps listed to overcome them. You must be ruthless in attacking them! They can steal more points than most will admit. But come test time - they add up whether you admit it or not. In your practice, when you see you got a wrong answer, and roll your eyes when you see the answer - don't just say - "I knew that". Analyze what you did wrong. Was it a sign error? A copying error? Mental math error? Was your handwriting too sloppy to read? These are all "real" errors and cost you "real" points. Learning that you MAKE these mistakes (just like I make those mistakes too), and more importantly, HOW TO CATCH THEM (here is where I, personally, conquer them), will be key.
If you need help or more advice, please contact me. I address all of these, and more, and have been successful at helping students raise their SAT math score. I build skill and confidence by strengthening the fundamentals, as well as go over test taking tips and strategies, so you can maximize your score. Without a long term contract or "boxed" course, we will personalize a plan for you.
"She just doesn't so too well on tests". "He has "test anxiety"." I've heard comments like this many times, when test results, particularly standardized tests, don't reflect what one thinks a student SHOULD score, or the score is not in line with their school grade. Part of the problem is that, unlike many school exams, most standardized tests offer NO partial credit. Do you realize a student may score an 80 or even a 90 on a school test - by getting the general idea, writing down most of the steps of the solution, but ultimately getting each question wrong? Boy, we wouldn't want our doctor or architect performing to those standards! But in school, the "good grades" may hide "careless errors" to the point they are never addressed and conquered. Real "test anxiety" is a significant issue, and will be addressed separately in the future. But if underperformance, or anxiety, is a really an issue of careless errors, these need to be, and can be, addressed head on.
First Step - Admit it. If you see an explanation to a problem, and "get it" - do you move on? NOT the right approach! The only thing that counts is if you can START a problem all on your own and finish it correctly all the way through. If you get a HW question wrong, the best thing to do is find a similar question and try that, and do this until you are consistently getting that material or question type right. You want to make sure you can find the "solution logic" without any hints or helps. Understanding an explanation, or following along, is completely different from doing it on your own. Don't fall for fooling yourself! And please don't try to fool your tutor by not mentioning HW questions you understood once you saw the answer. If you really understood it, that's fine - but you are not getting at the real issue - addressing why you fall victim to the careless error. You may not realize how much careless errors are stealing from your score, and it will not be overcome unless specifically addressed.
Second Step - WRITE! WRITE! WRITE! Mental math errors can steal huge points. And you also don't see assumption errors or an inconsistency in units unless you write it out. Use your own shorthand to write the info given, the intermediate calculations,... - all the way to the answer. It really doesn't take much time and not that much energy! I'm not sure why so many students are adverse to actually pushing the pencil, but those who do write things down consistently score higher. You also save time at the end because you can't check your work, and catch an error(!), without totally redoing the problem unless you have something written down from the first time around!
Third Step - check your work, as you go, and when you are through. Ask yourself - did I copy the information right? Are my assumptions valid? Are the intermediate calculations correct? Look at equations you write backwards and forwards to catch the "careless error". Check if the "units match" on both sides of the equation. Lastly, ask - does the answer makes sense? Should the answer be larger or smaller than what I started with? Questions like this will help you catch the "careless errors" and raise your score.
Test Anxiety is a real issue, that often needs addressing all on it's own. But, if some of the anxiety is coming from a history of underperforming on tests, and that is due to a multitude of careless errors, you can conquer those with some simple steps. Develop the habits of writing and checking. Your goal is to get it right, by yourself, cold. If it really is just "careless errors", you can avoid them with good habits. The confidence you gain by consistently higher scores, may lessen your anxiety on the next test.
I can help you with this, and provide more tips and techniques for combatting specific careless errors. I can also help you strengthen subject matter, which builds confidence. Separately, I address test anxiety issues with a variety of exercises and techniques that have proven helpful. Contact me for more information.
Summer - Yippee! Fun! Swimming! Vacations! Packets? Ugh. That stapled stack of papers or list of online work you have to do in Pre-Algebra, Algebra, or Geometry. Keeping skills "fresh" when they weren't that sharp to begin with can be tough. Or maybe you are at the other end of the spectrum - wanting to get ahead. If you want to get it out of the way - or if you've waited and are up against a deadline - I can help. Contact me for an appointment. We'll strengthen the foundational concepts and get you prepared for the math to come!