We’ve already covered when you should take the ACT on a high level, but today I’d like to take a more opinionated approach. As someone who tutored the ACT for a couple of years, I’ve come to the conclusion that students who take the test junior year are better off. They end up with better scores, they have an easier time applying to college, and they get more sleep.
So, while my conclusion isn’t scientifically-based (I didn’t have a control group filled with unfortunate students who had to take the test two weeks before college apps or not at all), I stand firmly by it. Plus, the test makers agree with me, so you know I must be on the right track. 🙂
Without any further ado, here are my top five reasons why you should take your ACT junior year:
1. You’ll be well-prepared
By the time junior year rolls around, you’ll be well into the coursework required to do well on the ACT. High-level math concepts like trigonometry, logarithms, and the quadratic formula will be old hat by junior year. So, when you see these concepts on the ACT, you won’t be panicked by new information and strange symbols.
Also, for most students, junior year is the most rigorous year of high school. Though you may be overwhelmed by AP and honors classes, extracurricular activities, volunteer hours, sports, etc., you’ll already be in study-mode. You’ll be used to tackling long reading and math assignments each night. Plus, you’ll be used to test-taking and thinking critically about challenging problems. There is no better time to take the ACT.
2. You’ll have the opportunity to re-test
Imagine that you take the ACT and fall short of your goal score. It happens to a lot of students the first time they take the test. Maybe you didn’t prepare at all (and your scores reflect this), you had a bad day, or you just missed your goal score by a few points.
Now, imagine that your college apps are due in two months and you don’t have time to take the test again. That’s very overwhelming, and not how you want to enter college app season.
Whatever the reason for your lower-than-desired score, taking the ACT junior year allows you to avoid this unfortunate situation. You can always take the test a second time junior year, or spend the summer studying and then schedule your retake for fall of senior year. This time around, you’ll know your strengths and weaknesses, and will be able to structure your ACT prep accordingly.
3. You’ll have the opportunity to take the SAT
Maybe the ACT isn’t your test. Some students prefer the ACT to the SAT, but the reverse is also true. If you take the ACT and completely bomb the math and science sections, but do well on the reading and writing sections, you might be more of an SAT person.
The SAT and ACT aren’t just scored differently – they are pretty different exams in a lot of ways. For example, the SAT’s questions are a bit less straightforward than the ACT’s questions, plus the SAT includes more complex vocabulary. On the flip side, the ACT tests you on both science (more like data interpretation, really) and harder math.
Personally, I performed approximately the same on both exams. But if you’re the type of person who is stronger at one than the other, you need to give yourself time to take both. Preferably not back to back.
4. You’ll have your scores before deciding where to apply to college
Knowing your ACT score before you make your college list is invaluable. Maybe you’ll score higher than your goal, and will have more options than you expected. Or, maybe you’ll have to hedge your bets by applying to a safer safety school. Either way, you’ll be making your college list with realistic expectations.
When you visit college campuses, you’ll have more information about yourself, which will make your visits more focused. Also, colleges will know more about you and your interests in time to contact you during the summer before your senior year. They’ll send you admissions brochures, scholarship information, swag … be prepared for a deluge of mail.
I think I still have a CD of zydeco music from Tulane in a closet somewhere…
5. You won’t be cramming senior year
First semester senior year is nuts. It’s just as bad as junior year, if not worse because of the stress of looming college applications.
You’ll be taking challenging courses, performing leadership roles for your sports teams, clubs, and extracurricular activities, plus you’ll be making your college list and prepping your applications. Don’t underestimate the toll that this type of stress can take on you. Give yourself a break by not adding the ACT to your long list of activities.
Seriously – anticipate senioritis and take your ACT junior year. Even if you have to retake the ACT early on in senior year, you won’t be spending tons of time prepping for it. You’ll have done this over the summer and will just need to brush up before your test.
Are you convinced? Good. Now go register for the ACT. 🙂