Test Prep

How This Student Achieved A Perfect ACT Score on English

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The perfect SAT or ACT score is something that many students strive to achieve, but it can be hard to know exactly which strategies students employ to get those perfect marks. College Confidential is working to share the stories of students who achieved a perfect score on each section of the SAT and ACT. Our series continues today with a profile of Isabella Watkins, who was living in Florida when she got her perfect ACT score on the English section in 2016.

We sat down with Watkins to hear about her strategies and tips so current students can get a feel for what it took to get a perfect score in ACT English.


College Confidential: How many times did you take the ACT, and which was the perfect score?

Isabella Watkins: I took the test twice, but my perfect score was on the first time. The second time I took the test, I got two points lower than the first.

CC: What study strategies did you use to get the perfect score?

IW: I had taken three practice ACTs, and I knew what I had gotten wrong on each one. So after each practice test, I would go through the areas where I got questions wrong and study those over and over again. One part that I kept making mistakes on involved subject-verb agreement. The test would have a clear subject-verb agreement IF you took out the extra words in the middle of the sentence, but for some reason I kept falling for (what I considered) the sort of trick questions that they would put in there. I would look at the extraneous words in the middle and base the verb off of that, rather than off of the obvious subject. So the third time I took a practice test, I was able to eliminate those errors, and I had a feeling I would do pretty well on the real ACT once I took it.

CC: Did you have any particular routine the day before the test?

IW: Yes, I used to run track, so I treated it like the day before a track meet. I ate food that was good for me, put out all of my supplies the night before (pencil, calculator, snacks) and went to bed early so I would feel refreshed. Having said that, I did the same thing the second time I took the test, and I didn't do as well in this section! But my score went up in other sections the second time, so it all worked out.

CC: Did you guess on any of the questions?

IW: Yes, I guessed on quite a few, but I think there were only one or two where I guessed out of nowhere. On most of the questions where I guessed, I had already narrowed it down to two choices. I also circled those in the book and saved them for last so I could focus more on them after I answered the ones I definitely knew the answer to for sure. I think that helped.

CC: Do you have any specific tips you can share with students taking the ACT?

IW: In the passages, you'll come across some underlined words, and the ACT will ask if you want "no change" or if you want to change the underlined part to have different grammar or punctuation. Some of the options to change the answer to are VERY similar to each other. When I would take practice tests, I would cross off the two similar ones because I thought they were identical and I would eliminate them from contention. But actually, there were subtle differences that I didn't notice because I was going so fast. So really look at all the options, and figure out what's different before you make your choice.

And keep your eye on the clock. The second time I took the test, I was probably over confident and took a little more time. I ran out of time on a few areas of the test, which probably hurt me. Know how you're doing on time to make better use of it.

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