The ACT Test Prep Program in Greater Cincinnati, Mason, and Loveland
Our Greater Cincinnati ACT test prep is a natural choice for many parents here in the great state of Ohio perhaps because many in the Midwest prefer the straightforwardness of the ACT over the “trickiness” of the SAT. Nevertheless, upon a bit or research, it can be found that the common theme to every type of question in either test is critical thinking. Students need to be able to break problems down into their simpler parts to see the relationships that get them the answer. We believe this is true because many students who finish our SAT program and do very well on the SAT test, do extremely well on the ACT (i.e. 98th or 99th percentile) thereafter, with only a few more sessions of prep. In other words, the carefulness of thinking needed to navigate the SAT provides a great foundation for the seemingly less tricky questions of the ACT.
Though it can be argued that there is less reasoning involved in the ACT than in other tests, students don’t simply stumble upon a score of a 36 accidentally. Knowing the fundamental rules of English (and essay writing), math, reading and science allows a student to have some foundation to deal with the problems, but connecting relationships can be equally important, especially in the Science Test.
The ACT exam is really composed of several “tests”, as this ACT.org page describes. We at A Plus have found that rather than a question and test booklet oriented approach, having as a basis the student do many questions and practice tests to be prepared for the big day, it is better to be step oriented first, to get down the fundamentals and focus most students are missing to get their maximum scores.
1. Underlining. Right away we help students understand the pieces they are working with by underlining each context idea they encounter. In essence, students are beginning to process these parts at this point and understanding how they fit with the whole of the question. This step is most relevant in reading comprehension, when we are isolating ideas we are going to soon find in the passage. We do the same with some English (or one might say “grammar”) questions, except in the case of understanding grammatical questions, we are mainly trying to prevent misreadings and using those pieces to help us classify into some of the same categories we see in our reading questions. We actually “underline” in a way in the Science and Math tests as well, which are still part of the ACT. In Science, as in English, we are more narrowly focusing on words that help us see whether we have a main idea or inferential reasoning question, though seeing the individual pieces we are going to look for is also crucial.
2. Classifying. Classifying our types of questions is imperative to help us know where and how to look. Is it about the whole passage (main idea) or just a certain part (detecting detail)? Or is the question more idea oriented or detail oriented? These main idea, detecting detail, and inference questions are in the reading section, while only the main idea questions and inferential reasoning questions occur in parts of the English section. The Science test, being more mathematical in nature, requires students to simply use detecting detail and inferential classifications to know how and where to look in the charts, tables, and graphs (and sometimes passages) to be certain they are on the right track.
3. Go the the right part of the passage. The “part of the passage” step helps us isolate the actual pieces we’ve broken down and classified in our first two steps for Reading, English, and Science. While the proper charts, tables, and graphs are usually the focus of where we look in the Science test on the ACT, the Reading and English test having long passages, forces us to look either at the beginning and end, or somewhere in the middle, based on our types of questions.
4. Underlining (in the Passage). Isolating the pieces in our tutoring is a big part of getting the right answer. When we underline the parts of the passage that match up with what is in our question in the reading and English sections, we prove to ourselves that the ideas we started with and those that we have found in the paragraphs are truly the same. This same basic process occurs when we isolate the components in the graphs, charts, and pictures in the Science test that match up with the ideas in the question parts. Are the pieces basically the same? Are we looking in the right place? That is what we want to know.
5. Predict. Once one has found the evidence that one is required to find. It is time to put the pieces together. In the Reading, what are the ideas in the passage point to? What can we anticipate before we look at the choices? Seventy to eighty percent of the time we can predict this answer before getting to that point. This improves accuracy and efficiency, which are both very important for the ACT. With an average of only about 50 seconds per question, we need to be in and out and onto the next question or we will lose precious points. A similar phenomenon happens in our ACTs when we deal with the Science section: gathering up all of the clues and patterns in our charts, we put those elements together into something coherent that fits the idea we were trying to find in the first place. Either the answer will be directly there, or we put together the pieces in the puzzle until we have our own idea of the answer.
Finally, we correlate that prediction we have made with the actual choices. While we may only be able to anticipate and write down our predictions 75% of the time, we still can pinpoint with considerable accuracy what our choices will look like . This is a crucial step. Writing down our answers, though we are dealing with a multiple choice format, allows us to know we are thinking correctly when we see the essence of that prediction reflected in the choices we are given.
Here is what we help our Cincinnati students do in each part on the ACT exam:
We prep students on the ACT English Test. which is a 75-question, 45-minute test that primarily covers usage and mechanics (i.e. punctuation, grammar and usage, and sentence structure). Secondarily, students must also prepare by sharpening their rhetorical skills, including recognizing proper writing strategy. organization, and style.
The English Test (Required)
- completion time is 45 minutes
- multiple choice
- corrections to be made in passage format
- usage, mechanics, and rhetorical skills tested,
Writing Test (Optional)
- students must complete in 30 minutes
- free response in essay format
- students scored by two professional graders who each score from zero to six, with a total of up to 12 points
* Spelling and rote recall of the rules of grammar are not tested directly.
There are a total of five passages on the test, each of which is accompanied by a sequence of multiple-choice test questions focused on that passage. Various passage types are given to provide a variety of rhetorical situations.
We at A+ are happy to say that we have helped several students get 99th percentile or even perfect scores on this test on the ACT. We recently did a test prep session online to highlight the basis of what we help students do in our ACT lessons.
In the Reading Test, multiple choice and scored to a maximum of 36, we teach students 6 basic steps to make sure they are on track to the right answer. You can get an idea of those steps below, which we normally cover right after our diagnostic test.
In short, there are 4 subsections to the Reading Test.
First is the Prose Fiction passage, which may be the most idiosyncratic of the four subsections. Because of the extra element of dialogue between multiple speakers that is not present on the other subsections, it can naturally be difficult to track who is saying what and why. Our method of labeling makes this fairly easy, so our students stand out in a portion of the test that gives others a hard time.
The Social Studies passage uses content based on anthropology, archaeology, biography, business, economics, education, geography, history, political science, psychology, and sociology. Still, being familiar with this material isn’t usually necessary: it is more about the ability to break these problems down, predicting the answer, and then correlating properly with the choices.
The Humanities passage may be the second most notorious of the Reading Test passages. This might be because material from architecture, art, dance, ethics, film, language, literary criticism, music, philosophy, radio, television, and theater is sometimes remote from some students lives. Don’t worry, hang in there with the steps and you will make it through!
Natural Sciences segues nicely into the Science Test, which comes after the Reading. Questions here come from passages in the content areas of anatomy, astronomy, biology, botany, chemistry, ecology, geology, medicine, meteorology, microbiology, natural history, physiology, physics, technology, and zoology.
So, these are our categories, but don’t get distracted! Remember it is much more the method than knowing the content to help us know what is going on. There is also the practical test of reason.
The Science Test is the next part of the ACT exam. What makes Science unique is not only the content involved (which some students can really take advantage of, possibly like in the Reading Test), but the necessity of interpreting graphs, tables, and charts.
In other words, we teach our students to break down these problems into their simpler components in a similar way with similar the six steps we teach in Reading. The difference is that there are only two classifications we use in the questions: (1) inferential reasoning (2) detecting detail. With these two categories to look through, students know where and how to find their answers.
The types of questions of this particular section is broken down into data representation (graphs, tables, and other schemas), research summaries (descriptions of several related experiments), and conflicting views (expressions of several related hypotheses that are not consistent with one another).
Secondarily, there is the school-oriented subject matter that makes up these same subsections, oriented toward Earth or physical science, and biology. Students who have a very deep understanding of the related classes obviously have a big advantage, but pinpointing how and where to look generally allows an intelligent student to get 5 of every 6 questions correct. That sixth question will be more about how well the student took in everything in a well-developed class (fundamental ideas are assumed to be known well).
The Math Test, unlike the mathematics problems on the SAT, is more about knowing formulas than solving puzzles. However, having a system in place is crucial, with or without a tutor. Besides the more direct nature of the questions and their more practical orientation, students need to remember the many formulas and concepts they learned in school, from basic mathematics to trigonometry and pre calculus. A big reason the ACT has received the stigma of being the “easy” test is probably that, despite the fact there is some trigonometry tested, it is only about 6% of the tests, while basic math, algebra, and geometry predominates. Still a student needs to be systematic about going through the problems and knowing what he is looking for each step of the way. We handle this with the same six steps we use for the SAT, though it is very important to get practical and do actual practice tests before test day to see the wide range of concepts tested.
As seen from the video below, we can get big results in a short amount of time with our system, so if you would like to check out the possibilities and our availability for ACT test prep in Cincinnati, Loveland, Mason, or West Chester, Oh, give us a call at 513 939-9033.
A Review of Our System for the ACT