The MuchSmarter Blog

How Samantha Learned to Play the ACT Game

Steve Schecter
April 1, 2020

As of her junior year in high school, Samantha had not yet shown much effort or much excellence in her school work.  She had not been failing, but she called her school work “just OK”. She approached the ACT with uncertainty -- how well could she expect to do?

She did not take great encouragement from her initial ACT practice: 

- 47% of English questions correct

- 30% of Math questions 

- 55% of Reading questions

- 53% of Science questions 

We estimated that her ACT score would be about a 17.  

We explained to Samantha that the ACT was a game, and that our scores the first time we play a game only show what we can do before we know what we are doing. We begin to find out what we can do when we truly practice a game.  

Samantha spent the next several weeks with our online MuchSmarter ACT game.  

As in any game, the first step is to “learn the moves.” Samantha spent several weeks learning problem types in ACT English, Math, Reading and Science. We gave her ample time to get good at it:  we practiced some moves three or more times.  

The Reading section was particularly difficult for her. She seemed to have a hard time grasping the main idea of the passages she read. We at MuchSmarter have found that understanding the main idea is a key part of getting most questions right.  

Then came the second step: practicing the moves in combination. Samantha began doing sections of mixed English, Math, Reading and Science questions.  

And Samantha began to improve. Her first breakthrough was in Reading. From her initial starting point of 55%, she improved to 65%, then 85%, then 95%, and then 100% correct. She began routinely getting all or almost all of the Reading questions correct. She began making similar improvements in the other sections of the test. 

Finally Samantha began to practice playing the entire game. We increased the number of questions she did in each section until she was taking an entire ACT.  

And all of that gradual, patient practice paid off: Samantha's final score was 33 -- a level that she'd had no idea that she could reach when she started!

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