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Taking ACTion for Test Success

Whether your student is getting ready to take the ACT for the first time, or looking to improve a previous score and put their best foot forward and through the door of the college admissions office, there is a myriad of resources available that will take the mystery out of the test and guide your student through a season of strategic preparation.

The following are tips for success, compiled and shared by SVS faculty member Jordan Cockrell. In addition to teaching upper school science, Jordan also facilitates ACT Prep as a full-length course at Spring Valley School, where our mission is to provide excellence in education for bright students with learning differences such as Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, and Dyscalculia. Her recommended resources for download are also included below.

Tips for Test Preparation and Test Taking

  • Take as many ACT-sanctioned practice tests as you can.

  • Retake the actual test as many times as you would like, but do not sign up to take it until you feel confident and ready. Your initial score will serves as a benchmark for you to improve upon, moving forward.

  • Consider enrolling in ACT tutoring over summer break. Current SVS families may consult with the school office about tutoring services offered by SVS faculty.

  • ACT Prep is offered as a full class period, 5 days per week, and is incorporated into class schedules of current SVS students in grades 11 and 12.

  • SVS recommends that students take the ACT standardized test. The ACT is more content-based, whereas the SAT is more logic-based. Most higher-ed institutions will accept scores from either test. It is also possible to configure the equivalent of what the SAT score would be, if necessary.

  • If a student were to elect to take the SAT, he/she should not guess on the answer sheet as scores are deducted for incorrect answers. In contrast, if a student were to elect to take the ACT, he/she is advised to fill every bubble but to first narrow the multiple choices available according to content analyzed from the preceeding prompt.

  • Test-taking time will differ by student. Please discuss with your school's administrative office your options for accommodations such as extended time, given your student's specified learning difference. Self-administer practice tests according to the time you have been pre-approved for, and set a timer.

Becoming Familiar with Sections of the Test

  • The Science and Reading sections are both heavily focused on reading comprehension. This being the case, the majority of the content that you will need to make well-informed responses to the prompts is contained the passage. Look for and highlight / underline those context clues!

  • A test taker will be most successful in navigating the Science section if he/she is skilled at reading graphs, interpreting data, and identify trends within that data.

  • The Reading section of the test is comprised of 4 standard passages. These passages include a literary narrative, a social science passage, a humanities passage, and a natural science passage. The literary narrative and humanities sections are both character-based, whereas the social science and natural science sections are heavily concentrated with facts and details.

Resources for Download:

2. Preparing for the ACT (PDF) and Free ACT Practice Test (from ACT, Inc.)

It is recommended to utilize resources released from ACT, Inc. as opposed to created by Kaplan or McGraw Hill. Other companies create their own "ACT-style" questions, but they are not the same as the questions created by ACT. Creating an account at will also give you access to free daily practice questions.


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