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David Recine

ACT Games

Thomas recently wrote a good post about fun ACT prep activities, including games. As a follow-up, here is a post dedicated to ACT games for each section on the ACT.

ACT Math game: 3 numbers, 21 results

This is a really fun game that I’ve used to sharpen my own math skills. In the game, you take three consecutive single-digit numbers (1,2,3; 7,89; 3,4,5, etc…). Then you use math operations to get resulting numbers from 1 to 21. This game requires you to get really creative with math in a way that’s both challenging and fun. Here’s one example, using 1, 2, and 3:

  • The numbers 1-21, calculated using digits 1, 2, and 3
    • 2-1=1
    • 2*1=2
    • 2+1=3
    • 2+(3-1)=4
    • (3+2)*1=5
    • 3*2*1=6
    • (3*2)+1=7
    • (3^2)-1= 8 (the /^/ sign means “to the power of,” and 3 to the power of two, aka 3 squared, is 9)
    • (3^2)*1=9
    • (3^2)+1=10
    • x-1=(3^2)+1 (3 squared plus 1 is 9 + 1, or 10. If x-1 results in 10, then x must be 11. So if you solve for x,  the result of this problem is 11. Hey, I never said you couldn’t use an algebra equation….and I never said you could only use each number once!)
    • Etc… (Figure out 12-21 on your own!)

You can play this game alone, but it can be even more fun to do this with a partner or two. Getting from 1 to 21 in this way takes a lot of creativity, and having extra thinkers in the game is helpful. As you build up your ACT Math skills, you could even start competing with others, to see who gets to 21 first.

ACT Science game: Competitive chart reading

This game should be played with real ACT Science practice materials, such as The Real ACT Prep Guide or the ACT practice questions from the official website for the test.

Remember that one of the main skills tested in ACT Science is your ability to read the test’s infographics–the ACT Science graphs, charts, and tables. So find an ACT Science visual, and look at it carefully with a partner or some teammates. How many different facts can you find in the visual? Try to write down every last fact you are able to read from the infographic. (And check the passage that comes with the infographic too–you can find a lot of “hidden facts” by connecting the passage to the visuals.)

To give you an example of how this can work, here is an ACT table, with facts taken from it and written out (see page 48 of this official free ACT test PDF for the passage and questions that goes with this table):

ACT games Science-Tables-1

  • Fact 1: If you put a Metanil Yellow indicator in a solution with a pH of 0 or 1, it will turn red.
  • Fact 2: If you put the Metanil Yellow indicator in a solution with a pH of 3 to 7 it will turn yellow
  • Fact 3: Etc… (Keep writing facts about the indicators and pH values)

Here again, you can do this through creative teamwork, or you can have a competition to see who can come up with the most facts, based on the graphic and passage.

When you and your team have written down as many facts as possible, go through the questions that follow the ACT Science passage and visuals. Give yourselves a point for any facts you found that also come up in the questions. And subtract a point if a question asks about a fact you didn’t think of when you looked at the visual. (As a variation on this, you and your study partners can try to guess which facts from the visual will also appear in the questions, and then see who’s right.)

ACT Reading scavenger hunt

In a real scavenger hunt, you’re given a list of objects that you need to find. In an ACT Reading scavenger hunt, you’re given a list of answers that you need to find. Where does this list of answers come from? From the test itself, of course. Each ACT Reading passage comes with a set of questions. And these questions are really a list of the answers you need to look for in the passage.

An ACT reading scavenger hunt can be played competitively. For game materials, use ACT Reading practice sets such as the ones from the official ACT prep guide or the official ACT website. Give each player a different passage and question set. Then have the players underline every part of their text that contains the answer to a question. Check the players’ work by looking at the answer key. The winner is either the player who finds all the answers in the text first, or the player who finds the most correct answers within the time limit you set for the game.

Two heads are better than one here, so for extra teamwork and extra fun, play the game in pairs, with one pair of ACT study partners competing with another pair of ACT preppers.

ACT English game: Why is this wrong?

In ACT Reading, math, and Science, the focus is finding the right answers. The ACT English Test flips this script, though. Here, you need to find the wrong ways of writing something. Not only that, but you also need to understand why each incorrect answer is wrong. Moreover, understanding why answers are wrong is a more valuable skill than just correctly identifying mistakes. Recognizing grammar rules and applying them is your key to ACT English success. And you can build this skill in a fast-paced, competitive game!

To play the “Why is this wrong?” game for ACT English, you’ll need some ACT English passages and question sets (again, use the official ACT guide or materials from the ACT website). And you’ll need at least three players: two or more competitors and one judge. Here are the game rules:

  • The competitors will be given a set of ACT English questions, which prompt test-takers to find mistakes in grammar, mechanics, and style.
  • The judge will look at the ACT English answer key and explanations, and give the competitors the answers to each question, one question at a time.
  • Every time the competitors receive an answer, they need to write down a short explanation for why that answer is the right one, and which rule of written English applies.
  • The judge will award a point to the competitor with the best explanation for the answer. Answers will be judged based on how well-worded the explanation is and how closely it matches the explanation in the ACT answer key. If both players give very similar answers–and both answers are correct–each player will get a point.
  • Whenever the game moves on to a new passage and question set, the old judge will step down, and it will be someone else’s turn to act as the judge.

The takeaway

Half the fun of playing ACT games is finding new and creative ways to turn test prep into play or competition. The games I just showed you are variations of several other math, science, reading, and writing games my students and I have invented over the years, and they have worked out really well. Try these games out, and try to come up with your own twists on them. This kind of “exam play” can help you gain one of the most powerful ACT test skills you can have: enthusiasm for the material!

About David Recine

David is a test prep expert at Magoosh. He has a Bachelor of Social Work from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and a Masters in Teaching English to Speakers of other Languages from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. He has been teaching K-12, University, and adult education classes since 2007 and has worked with students from every continent. Currently, David lives in a small town in the American Upper Midwest. When he’s not teaching or writing, David studies Korean, plays with his son, and takes road trips to Minneapolis to get a taste of city life. Follow David on Google+ and Twitter!

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