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  • Writer's picturePhilip Martin

Focus on Improving the Worst Score...Right?

I understand the idea. Your son just got back his ACT scores, and they look something like this:

ACT English: 25

ACT Math: 24

ACT Reading: 23

ACT Science: 17

ACT Composite: 22

Immediately you start to consider all of the different ways that you can help him improve that ACT Science score. After all, if his Science score could be bumped up to a 23, his overall score would also then increase to a 24, which is the minimum benchmark set by his favorite college.

You hire a Science tutor. You but an ACT Science textbook. You make him (or bribe him, same thing!) do practice Science tests. Because the ACT allows you to retake individual tests, you place him in an ACT Science test...the score comes back: 17. You have him take the Science test yet again...the score comes back: 16.

By this point, you might be settling for college options that were not on your son's radar. You've got time for one last ACT...should you focus on Science one last time?

Short answer: no.

This answer cuts against conventional wisdom; it seems like raising a student's worst score would be the easiest and wisest thing to do. However, think about it like this. Let's say your son is in college now, and he is trying to decide between a few different majors. If he's more naturally gifted in mathematics, for example, compared to English, for example, then does it make more sense for him to choose a major in a math related field (business, engineering, physics, etc.) or an English related field (British literature, philosophy, etc.)? Obviously, it's the former, and here's why: if he's already good at math, it will be easier for him to get better at math.

This is why, in your son or daughter's ACT preparation, focus should NOT merely be isolated to a worst score. I've had plenty of ACT students increase their best or second best (or both) scores so substantially that their worst scored didn't even matter. Maybe it will be the same for your son or daughter.

Moral of the story: don't just focus on the 1 worst score. I would argue it is the least likely way to raise a student's ACT score. Possible? Sure, but give him or her a chance to increase in the other subject tests as well; it'll have the exact same effect on the overall score.

Looking for a self-paced option that puts first-things-first? Check out The ACT System, a 75 lesson, research-based ACT course that teaches lessons by subject in order of importance (most likely to be asked to least likely) by clicking here.

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