Last week I was called by a parent to help her daughter prepare for her fifth attempt at the ACT. The reason for this was that her college of choice required a two point increase on the ACT a week later. With only 6 days to help her I had to approach this very differently.
The first thing I do is figure out if the student has performed to his or her potential. This is where you can find the real opportunity for quick improvement. Often I find that confidence and time are the two biggest factors holding a student back from performing to his or her potential. I run several drills where I eliminate the time factor and the bad habits formed from lack of confidence. After several drills I can start to get an idea of what kind of score this student is really capable of achieving if he or she eliminates those negative factors.
Example Drill: Ask the student to read the passages in the reading section for understanding only and allow them to take notes at their own discretion. After they complete this for two passages ask them to discuss what they read. After the discussion, cover up the passages with post-its and ask the student to answer the question and allow the use of any notes taken. This eliminates time as a factor (something that can be worked on later) and eliminates confidence issues since they have the opportunity to take notes. Furthermore, the habit of going back and forth between passage and questions is eliminated thus forcing the student to learn to rely on his or her understanding of the material.
Once you have an idea of their potential, you begin to work on strategies for helping students realize it on test day. This comes down to optimizing his or her performance. Like any sport, this requires lots of repetition, mental endurance training (i.e. 4 hour sessions with no breaks), and confidence building.
In case you are wondering how things went with my client, the verdict is still out on the actual score (she only took the test this past Saturday), however, she reported feeling more confident walking out of the test than in any of her previous four attempts. She felt that time did not factor in on her performance and that she was able to perform at her best level. This did not come easily though – she worked with me for 16 hours in 6 days (2x 4hr sessions, 2x 3hr sessions, and 2x 1 hour sessions). Let me remind you, 5 of those days were school days and she had two-hour dance practices on four of those days after school plus plenty of school homework. The Friday before the test we only met for an hour to discuss progress, confidence, and plot the steps to a great performance the following day.
Five Steps to Quickly Boost Your ACT Score:
- Isolate Potential: by eliminating time, any lack of confidence, and other controllable variables.
- Calculate Potential: Average initial “isolation” drill scores to determine a range for potential score
- Repetition: Complete as many drills as possible to train the brain.
- Endurance: Arrange for “Endurance Sessions” that last at least 4 hours.
- Encourage: Encourage students on their strengths and successes during training – no time for fixing gaps in knowledge (i.e. math topics).
If you follow these steps and help students develop realistic expectations by focusing on what you can realistically control within a short time frame, you can focus on making a few effective changes in a short amount of time.