So you want to be in the 95% percentile, eh? On the surface that seems like a pretty tall order; in a group of 20 test takers you want to be the best. Though the statistics make it seem near impossible, earning a 30+ score on the ACT has become a goal for many students hoping to attend selective colleges across the nation. At the same time, colleges brag about their accepted students’ high standardized test scores.
In this article I hope to speak directly to students who hope to see a 30+ on their score reports. So if you’re ready to put in the hard work, let’s begin.
Your Starting Line
A 30+ score on the ACT might have more to do with your life before you ever heard the letters ACT than the studying you’ll do for the test. Everything from home life to parents’ level of education affects how a child will perform in school and on standardized tests. While training to teach my own ACT prep course in 2013, I learned that students whose parents graduated college had composite ACT scores three points higher compared to students whose parents only graduated high school. While teaching ACT prep I encountered many students whose life experiences both helped and hindered their ability to do well on the ACT.
No matter what, though, your ACT score wasn’t carved in stone on the day you were born. Though you may have a few more hurdles to leap through on your journey to 30+, your determination and grit is more valuable than most things on this planet.
Discovering Weak Spots
The first thing to do, of course, is to take a timed practice test. Let’s say, for example, you got the following scores:
Let me just say that even though it’s not what you’re looking for, a 28 is a perfectly respectable score. Now it’s time for the most important part: triage!
Just like a doctor in an ER, you need to make some judgment calls about which patients, in this case tests, you are treating first. Science and Math, being your lowest scores, take the top priority. English might come later if there’s time, but Reading is good to go.
Raising Your Score
So you’re focusing on the Math and Science Tests. The first thing to do is set some reasonable goals. Remember, you’re not aiming for perfection, just 30+. Using this handy-dandy conversion chart, we can see that on the Math Test, you answered 37/60 questions correctly. You answered 32/40 questions correctly on the Science Test.
To earn a score of 30 on both the Math and Science Tests, you would need to get these raw scores:
- Math: 51/60
- Science: 37/40
In the simplest terms, 19 missed questions stand in the way between you and a 30+ score on the ACT. That’s going to take some work, but there are a few tricks I can offer you.
The first thing is to take time to focus solely on the Math and Science Tests. As you review the results of your practice test and create a study plan based on your weaknesses, set aside topics with which you are already comfortable. Also, consistently apply new knowledge and techniques to practice questions. Doing this will reinforce learned material. Finally, take multiple timed practice Math and Science Tests to determine whether or not your studying is having the desired effect.
If you are doing these things, your sub-scores will show improvement. Let’s say that in this example, though, weeks spent studying Math and Science have still not resulted in a 30+ score. At this point I would suggest turning to the English Test. Getting just two more questions correct would raise your English score from 29 to 31. On the actual ACT, that would go a long way to earning a 30+ composite score.
Here’s all my advice in a nutshell: Identify your weaknesses, attempt to fix them, and only then reinforce your strengths.
It’s a hard road to a 30+, but I hope this article makes your journey a little smoother. Good luck studying, students, and I’ll see you next time!