Test Prep

How This Student Brought His ACT up by 4 Points

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Boosting your ACT score several points isn't easy, and it may even take a few tries to get a score you're happy with. That's what happened with Wisconsin high school student Liam Gordon, who was able to bring up his ACT score from a 29 to a 33 after two retakes.

We spoke with Liam to discuss his strategies and to get his advice for other students who are looking to considerably increase their ACT score.


College Confidential: Can you tell us about your early score and how it changed?

Liam Gordon: I took the ACT during sophomore year of high school and got a 29. I knew that would probably be good enough for a few of my schools, but it was definitely not going to be enough for the University of Michigan, which is where I wanted to go. So I decided I had to retake it. I took it two more times. The first retake I got a 29 again, and the second retake I got a 33.

CC: What did you do in between tests to bring up your score?

LG: For my first retake, I got an app that my sister had used (and it worked for her). She would use the app for about 20 minutes every day, and it just sort of gave her information that would help improve the ACT score. But when I retook it and got a 29 again, I thought maybe I wasn't using the app right. So I got a tutor, and we looked over both ACT score sheets and found out where I needed the most help. The funny thing was that when we looked at the details of my score, the areas that I did the best on were the ones that the app went over. So I was studying an app that helped me with topics I already knew. It was sort of a waste of time. If I hadn't looked at the score reports I wouldn't have known that. So then when I did the third test, I was more prepared.

CC: What did you do before that third testing that helped you prepare better?

LG: For one thing, I focused only on the areas where I struggled the first two times. For instance, my Science score was really low. The tutor said I was taking way too much time to read and strategize each answer. She showed me some tips that would help me skim and underline the passage, and then use the process of elimination (and sometimes guessing) to do better on the Science section. We found similar shortcuts to help me in other areas, and we also went over some of the math formulas that I had been struggling with.

CC: What advice would you give students who need to bring their score up?

LG: I would definitely say scrutinize that score report if you haven't already. It seems like such an obvious answer, but I skipped it. Also, the tutor showed me shortcuts on my calculator that I didn't know existed. I saved a lot of time just by using those on the test for the calculator sections. I would also say to relax on test day, which isn't easy, but it helps you not worry so much.

CC: Did the higher score help you get into your goal school?

LG: That's the funny part. I did all those test score improvements to get into Michigan, but when I visited there junior year (and stayed in the dorm with a friend from high school who went there), I decided it wasn't for me. I preferred a smaller campus, so I picked a different school as my top choice and I got in there. I don't think I could have gotten in without the 33 ACT, so I'm still glad I did everything to improve it.

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