• Philip Martin

The Myth (Excuse?) of Not Improving

In a somehow equal world, the playing fields would be the same; everyone would be given a fair shot. The ACT and similar standardized tests would like to maintain the integrity that comes with a reputation of equality. In other words, they would love it if there was no way for a student to improve on the ACT by practice and preparation, except by the kind of preparation that comes from years and years of education.


Unfortunately for some but fortunately for those of you willing to take advantage, you can improve on the ACT. I have seen it time and again, literally, with my own eyes.


When I first started teaching ACT prep courses it was in conjunction with the high school where I taught at the time. My course was made available to these students at a low rate, and then it was my responsibility to convince the principal and the guidance office year after year that my course was bearing good fruit. After each class (I offered 4 a year), I would be given access to student records to see what they made on the ACT before my course (or on their PLAN predicted score) and what they made after.


Let’s just say that the school let me keep teaching the course.


Many students upped their scores by a point or two (certainly well worth the cost, given that that one point or two makes a huge difference in both admissions and scholarships). Some went up 3 points and a handful four. However, there were always “big fish,” students whose scores jumped 5, 6, or 7 points. Still to this day when I see this I do a double take.


That kind of increase literally means a world of difference to a young person. That is the difference between being admitted to a state school and being offered a scholarship to an out of state school, or maybe even the difference between attending college or not at all.


Be not mistaken: you can improve on the ACT. Not only can you learn more content (which helps you improve ACT Math and English scores), but like they say, practice makes perfect.


Imagine the world of difference, for example, between a student who is taking the ACT Science test for the first time on ACT day, and she that is prepared. The first student doesn’t know what to expect, and maybe even more importantly, doesn’t know what not to expect. The second knows what to expect, how often to expect it, what not to expect, how to keep time, what to look for when evaluating the passage, what not to linger on when evaluating the passage, what to look for in the charts and tables of data, etc.


So, don’t settle for the excuse that you can’t do any better, because you can. Be active in your preparation. Sign up for a class or at least purchase a good prep book with both strategy and practice tests. All you can do is your best, but doing nothing is certainly far from that.