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Kristin Fracchia

TuesdACT Video: How to Get a PERFECT Score on the ACT

Soooooooo, first of all–I have to say that there’s no way a short little internet video can give you the secret to the incredibly difficult accomplishment of a perfect score on the ACT, but because I hate click bait as much you do, I promise to give you some valuable advice about how you might be able to achieve this lofty dream in the video above.
Here are the highlights:

Tip 1: Take as many practice tests as you can.

I’m talking a dozen or more if possible. Definitely take all the official ACT tests available to you in the 3rd edition of The Real Guide, but also take the practice PDF test on the ACT website and do all the practice questions on the website as well. In addition, you can complete practice questions and tests from quality ACT prep resources such as Magoosh! You can also hunt down older editions of The Real Guide or practice with released official tests you can get from friends or tutors who have used the Test Information Release service.

The reason many, many practice tests are particularly helpful for the ACT is because the ACT is very repetitive and predictable–it uses the same question types over and over (and over). The rationales behind the correct answer choices are often equally as predictable. But a certain oddball question type might not repeat itself for a few tests, so you want to make sure you have as much exposure to ACT questions as possible.

Tip 2: Remember you don’t have to get every question right to get a perfect score.

A perfect score means a 36 composite score and a score of 35.5 rounds up to a 36. This means you only need to get a 36 on two sections as long as you get a 35 on the others to get a perfect score. Or you can get a 36 on three sections and a 34 on one.

So how can you use this to your advantage?

Well, first of all it means don’t freak out and get hung up on one troublesome question and waste time you could be spending on others. Make eliminations, take your best guess and focus on the rest of the questions.

It also means that for a perfect score, you want to make sure you are really focusing on your strengths. I am sure you are very strong across the board if you are shooting for a 36, but you might feel more comfortable with English instead of Science, for example. This means you need to be VERY careful on English. Don’t get overconfident: take your full time on the sections that are typically a breeze for you, read very carefully, and practice good test taking strategies. Because if you want a perfect composite score, you are going to want to make sure you get a perfect section score in your strongest subjects.
Also, keep in mind that due to the curve, you can sometimes miss one question and still get a 36 in that section. This happens most often on Reading and Science, occasionally on Math, and rarely on English. You usually won’t find it to be true for more than one section on any given test so don’t get your hopes up too much, but it should provide a little bit of comfort.

Tip 3: Practice seeing the test from the test makers’ perspective.

This means considering where they are expecting you to trip up and also how they create answer choices that can be defended as irrefutably correct. So after you do practice tests, don’t just check off all the questions you got right and move on. If you are scoring in the upper 30s already, you aren’t going to learn as much as you need to by just reviewing the handful of questions you got wrong. Instead, go back through the entire test and look at the answer choices for each question. Look at things such as how the test makers’ are creating tempting wrong answer choices on each individual section and how they test the same concepts over and over. Check to see if there is a smarter strategy you could have employed to get the answer faster. Thinking about the test from the test makers’ perspective will help you avoid expected traps and help you finish questions more quickly so you have time to check your work.

Bonus Tip: Let it go.

Finally, remember that getting a perfect score is really, really hard, and really, really rare. And it seriously requires a stroke of good luck–you need the stars to perfectly align on your particular administration of the test. Only about 1400 out of the 1.8 million students who took the ACT in last year’s graduating class got a perfect score. So it’s possible, but don’t beat yourself up over it. A perfect 36 is a cool thing, but it doesn’t make you a shoe-in for college admissions.

Nevertheless, following these tips hopefully will help you increase your odds of a perfect score–or at least get you a little bit closer. And, as a bonus, someday you will make an amazing ACT tutor. 🙂


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About Kristin Fracchia

Kristin makes sure Magoosh's sites are full of awesome, free resources that can be found by students prepping for standardized tests. With a PhD from UC Irvine and degrees in Education and English, she’s been working in education since 2004 and has helped students prepare for standardized tests, as well as college and graduate school admissions, since 2007. She enjoys the agony and bliss of train running, backpacking, hot yoga, and esoteric knowledge.

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