I know I’ve done a video on how to get a perfect score on the ACT – based on my experience and my tutoring background.
But in this video what I’m going to do is get a bit more specific about working with one student whom I tutored that scored a perfect 36 composite on the exam. I’ve also had one student super score a 36, and had a lot of other students score 34’s or 35’s and get 36’s on individual sections. In any case, let’s get to it.
The student who came to me had already been to multiple tutors and classes and prepped her way from about a 28 on practice tests to around a composite 32 (sometimes 33) on practice tests.
How She Did It:
We picked up there in late July with the idea of prepping for the September test date.
She was hyper-intent on a perfect score and very willing to do the work.
We got ahold of as many ACT official exams as we could find (thank you internet and Google search) and she took about 3-5 tests a week for 6 weeks. She took about 20-25 official tests overall in a pretty tight span. At that point, she had to go back to school so we cut back a bit and she was focusing on sections she wasn’t quite to a 36 on yet (science, for example). At that point she was doing maybe 2-3 full tests a week. Overall she completed about 30 full length practice ACT’s.
Because she’d already done courses and worked with other tutors, we didn’t focus on content as much as I do with some students—she knew most of the grammar rules that are easy to teach, so we weren’t working through an ACT English study guide or grammar workbook regularly. If you’re not scoring say a 32 consistently on the English, those are a great place to start– but at a certain point comma splice errors and subject verb agreement rules won’t help you anymore.
To get those last few points on the English, we focused on the rules that are tougher: things like commas, dashes, placement and author choice questions on the English. As we reviewed why her answers were wrong, she took notes on how to improve the next time.
For the math, she was close to begin with, but I would supplement with some math problem sets of similar type questions for areas she didn’t know well, such as Matrix Algebra. I.e. if she got one question wrong that involved Matrix Algebra, I’d give her 20 more problems to do for homework from my not yet published math book series on the ACT. Same with Exponents, and any other rusty sections.
Before she went in for the test, she had gotten two or so 36 composite scores on her practice tests and the others during that period were 35’s.
What I always say is that your real test is unlikely to be your first “36” – if you can’t do it on a practice test it’s not likely to happen randomly– always try to prep to the point you want to achieve. Even then, there are no guarantees. I would say over half the students I tutor will score lower on their actual ACT than their highest to date ACT composite score.
We crossed our fingers, and luckily, she walked out with a composite 36!
Wow, that sounds like a ton of work.
I agree! Aiming for perfection isn’t easy. I’ve had many other students score a 36 here or there on a practice test– most walked out though with a 35 overall. It’s really tough to get everything right all on one day.
That’s not to say that every student who scores very high on the exam has to work as hard as this particular student did. For example, I’ve also coached a student to a 36 super score—but he did a more typical course of prep – about 4 ½ months of prep taking one test a week (about 16 full practice tests in total). He started around a 30-31 with his initial practice tests. And I’ve had many more score a 34 or 35 overall while starting anywhere from 28 to 32 overall, working for 2-6 months on the exam with a single test a week of practice.
Ultimately there are two ingredients to getting ahead:
- Practice, learning from mistakes, adjusting strategy, practicing more.
- Forming a better understanding of the test, how it works, and what is right/wrong and why.
That second piece can be tough for some self-studying students to attain.
Even if you can’t afford private tutoring, if you subscribe to one of our ACT prep courses, you’ll get that insight on how I approach each question and what kinds of strategies I teach my students so that they can not simply practice, but improve through their practice. These courses focus on going over real tests from ACT, just how I did with the student I coached to a perfect score!