Are you an international student taking the ACT soon and wondering what you could do to make sure you’re totally prepared? Or are you a US student interested in learning about the differences between the computer-based test and the one on paper? In this blog we go over some of those differences and give tips for how to approach the computer-based ACT exam.
In 2018, ACT announced that international testing centers would only administer computer-based tests. It is true, however, that some students in the US may take the computer-based test and these tips will help as well.
Tip 1 – Practice from a screen
Social scientists have found that people respond to information on a screen in different ways. Since you will be reading from a computer screen on test day, get a hold of as many practice ACT online modules as you can. You can find some of these on ACT.org and in The Official ACT Prep Pack, where you have access to two online tests. Another tip is to simply use PDFs of ACT Practice Tests and practice on your personal computer. A few of these tests can be found at supertutortv.com/resources. We recommend using two PDF viewers and having one display passages while the other showing the questions. That way you don’t spend so much time constantly scrolling the PDF and thus hinder your timed sessions. You can keep track of all your answer choices as you go on paper.
Tip 2 – Practice with a whiteboard
When you show up on test day, you’re going to be given a whiteboard and a marker. Familiarize yourself and determine your approach to use your whiteboard on each section. For English, jot down notes on things like tone, meaning, literary devices, or any confusion you encounter as you read along. On Math, designate areas on your whiteboard where you can keep questions skipped, formulas to remember, and any math you work out. Make yourself comfortable with the whiteboard come test day.
Tip 3 – Familiarize yourself with all functions on the online ACT
You can take timed and untimed computer-based practiced tests on ACT.org – although we recommend timing yourself to simulate test day. We recommend jumping from question to question using the “Next” tab because, aside from the reading test, the test isn’t numbered evenly and you might further complicate navigating the exam. The “Nav” tab allows you to flag questions for later and lets you see what questions you’ve answered and unanswered. Tools on the online test include magnifier, highlighter, answer eliminator, etc.
Using tools for the English section is pretty easy and would be the same as if you were taking the paper test. Use the highlighter function as you would a pencil. In the Math section it is important to remember NEVER to do mental math. Use the whiteboard and breakdown your work, you wouldn’t want to cost yourself some points for being careless. Similar as you would on paper, map your passage on the reading section. Take note of where information is to make the process of going between questions and passage much easier. In the science section, track trends and interpretations. Note that the online practice module has 7 science passages as opposed to 6 on the actual test.