Susan E. McLaughlin-Jones, EdD

Transformational Leadership & Culturally Engaging Instruction

ACT Preparation

Many students do not try as hard as they might on ACT and other assessments because they lack confidence. Using the strategy below, many of my students had double digit improvement.

Student senior ACT scores; up from 8th grade EXPLORE scoreStep 1: Reframe the task from being “academic”

All ACT content is provided within the science portion of the test. To reduce testing anxiety, inform students that basic sixth grade knowledge is enough.

Step 2: Promote in-depth theory discussion

After attempting practice passage, ask students in small groups to compare answers and argue out solutions they do not agree on.

Step 3: Practice in “Risk-Safe” environment

After attempting practice passage, provide students with correct answers and ask them to explain how to arrive at the correct solution.

Step 4: Demonstrate it is possible

On each practice passage, ask for a show of hands for groups and individuals that had all answers correct.

Step 5: Reinforce good testing strategies

From working the easy problems first, to leaving nothing blank, basic good testing strategies can improve the overall performance of even the lowest performing students.

Step 6: Remind them they can retake

A low score is an opportunity to try again. Fortunately, ACT is a do-over test.

Student Responses; all 4 students are from the same class period.

Emily, 17


“I didn’t just speed through it. I knew I could do it if I slowed down.”
ACT 3/2012 Composite 22 Science 12 (pre-intervention)
ACT 10/2012 Composite 27 Science 25 (post-intervention)
+5 +13
Yarnella, 15


“It wasn’t so scary. I understood it so I didn’t rush.”
EXPLORE (8th) Composite 16 Science 17 (pre-intervention)
PLAN (10th) Composite 26 Science 26 (post-intervention)
+6 over predicted +6 over predicted
Sarah, 15

at-risk Hispanic

EXPLORE (8th) Composite 18 Science 19 (pre-intervention)
PLAN (10th) Composite 27 Science 26 (post-intervention)
+4 over predicted +3 over predicted
Arin, 18

Bi-racial transient

“Why don’t our other teachers tell us about this?”
EXPLORE (8th) Composite 17 Science 16 (pre-intervention)
ACT 10/2012 Composite 25 Science 33 (post-intervention)
+3 over predicted +12 over predicted


This strategy will NOT improve all students. Significant improvement occurred for otherwise capable students who were under-performing. All other students topped out their “predicted range.”

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