Our last post discussed when and when not to submit ACT scores. Usually, taking the ACT can only help you. However, scoring competitively on the ACT will always help you. The reason is this: Competitive ACT scores matter. However, earning a high ACT score isn’t easy. Otherwise, everyone would do it. And if everyone could do it, it would not snag the benefits a high ACT score currently does. So, how does one increase their ACT score? Today, that’s what we’ll determine.
This post will help you decide if your student needs a tutor or can prepare for ACT alone. To do that, we’ll look at each approach’s merits and determine which works best for you.
As I mentioned, there exist two methods: ACT Tutoring and Self-Study.
Defining ACT Tutoring
I take ACT tutoring as a series of one-on-one sessions to increase a student’s ACT score. I’m not referring to ACT classes. ACT classes lack one crucial component: individualized instruction.
ACT Tutoring vs. ACT Prep Group Class
As an ACT Specialist, I often encounter situations where a test prep method that works for one student doesn’t work for another. Students learn differently. They have different strengths and struggles. And while some test prep strategies are universal, many are not. For example, if a student reads too fast, they’ll possess a different set of struggles than a student who reads slowly. One student might be a thorough mathematical problem solver, another more reckless. An experienced ACT tutor must tackle these particular problems differently. In my experience, these distinctions and nuances often get lost in group-based ACT prep courses. Individualized, not general, tailoring is key.
What to look for when hiring an ACT Tutor
To meet the rigorous demands of the ACT Tutors, they are well-versed in the four subject areas tested: English, Mathematics, Reading, and Science. They offer substantive academic support and equip students with valuable test-taking strategies. Understanding the nuances of the test and learning how to leverage time and knowledge efficiently can significantly boost scores.
Advantages of ACT Tutoring
ACT tutoring offers a myriad of benefits that go beyond test preparation. Personalized tutoring focuses on students’ strengths and weaknesses, enabling them to improve in specific areas that generic test prep classes might overlook. In addition, tutors can modify their teaching style to suit a student’s learning style, making lessons more engaging and effective.
Moreover, ACT tutoring provides immediate feedback, an element often lacking in self-study or group classes. Tutors can identify mistakes in real-time and provide corrective guidance, accelerating the learning curve. Overstating these advantages in a high-stakes exam like the ACT is tough.
Great ACT Tutors Keep Your Student Accountable
Accountability is a significant factor in any learning journey, and a good ACT tutor ensures that students stay on track with their study plans. Tutors create a structured timeline and hold students accountable for completing assignments and practice tests on schedule. Such monitored timelines foster discipline and consistency—keys to acing the ACT.
Moreover, a dedicated tutor will closely monitor the student’s progress, providing regular updates and feedback. This keeps the student informed about their progress, highlighting their achievements and areas needing improvement. Continuous engagement boosts motivation, encouraging students to strive harder and aim higher.
Strategic Guidance on ACT Prep
ACT tutoring provides strategic guidance that significantly impacts a student’s test performance. A skilled tutor understands that each student has unique needs and learning styles. Hence, they develop a tailored preparation strategy that aligns with the student’s strengths and addresses their weaknesses.
Tutors also impart essential time management strategies and tips to handle exam stress. As the ACT is a timed exam, allocating time effectively across sections can significantly improve scores. Similarly, managing test anxiety can lead to better concentration and performance on the test day.
Disadvantages of ACT Tutoring
While ACT tutoring offers numerous benefits, it also has drawbacks. It’s essential to be aware of these potential challenges to make an informed decision about the tutoring process. Every student’s needs are different, and what works for one might not work for another.
The first drawback is the cost. Hiring a private ACT tutor can be expensive, which might only be feasible for some families. The hourly rates vary, and prices can add up quickly. Additionally, there might be added expenses for materials and practice tests.
ACT Tutoring is Expensive
The financial investment required for private ACT tutoring can be significant. While it’s true that personalized tutoring can offer impressive results, the cost is often a hurdle for many families. The rates for private ACT tutors can range widely, depending on their expertise, experience, and demand.
However, it’s essential to consider the potential return on this investment. An improved ACT score can open doors to better college options and scholarship opportunities. Therefore, the decision should be made after weighing the potential benefits against the cost.
Unpredictable Quality of Tutors
The quality of ACT tutoring can vary significantly, and finding a high-quality tutor is only sometimes guaranteed. For example, some tutors might need to be fully equipped to teach specific test areas or more effective teaching strategies. Others might need consistency with their availability, impacting the learning process.
Thorough research and vetting of tutors are critical to avoid such issues. Look for tutors with proven track records, solid recommendations, and effective teaching strategies.
A great tutor will significantly enhance a student’s chances of success in the ACT.
You can ensure the quality of a tutor by asking them for references. Most tutors will have them. You can check their Google reviews if you’re hiring a tutor from a test prep firm.
Another disadvantage of ACT tutoring is the potential for inflexible scheduling. Many tutors have tight schedules, and fitting in sessions might prove challenging, especially for great tutors in high demand. The difficulty in scheduling can lead to inconsistent study patterns and affect the student’s progress. However, alternatives, such as online tutoring, offer greater flexibility. Furthermore, many tutors are willing to work around a student’s schedule to ensure they receive consistent, focused instruction.
What to Look for in an ACT Tutor
Choosing the right ACT tutor is crucial to maximizing the benefits of tutoring. The ideal tutor should have extensive knowledge of the ACT, proven experience in tutoring, and a track record of helping students improve their scores. In addition, they should be able to tailor their teaching methods to meet the student’s unique learning needs.
Moreover, look for a tutor who establishes clear communication. They should provide regular updates on the student’s progress, be open to feedback, and address any concerns promptly. Also, assess the tutor’s personality and teaching style – they should be patient, engaging, and capable of building a positive rapport with the student.
Proven Plan that Delivers Higher Test Scores
One of the critical aspects to look for in an ACT tutor is their plan of action. A proven plan that consistently delivers higher test scores is a good indication of a competent tutor. This plan should include a comprehensive review of the ACT content, strategic test-taking techniques, and a timeline to keep the student on track.
In addition, the plan should be flexible enough to adjust to the student’s learning pace and style. It’s also beneficial if the program includes regular practice tests to measure the student’s progress and adapt the strategies as needed.
Hire a Tutor that Assigns Homework
Homework is essential to ACT preparation. It allows students to reinforce what they’ve learned during tutoring sessions and improve their skills. Therefore, hiring a tutor who assigns relevant homework regularly is crucial.
Regular homework provides additional practice and helps the tutor monitor the student’s progress. Through this, tutors can identify areas that need improvement and adjust their teaching methods accordingly. Homework also encourages students to take responsibility for their learning, which is vital for academic success.
Ensure Your Student Keeps the Same Tutors
Consistency is key in ACT preparation; having the same tutor throughout the process can be beneficial. A tutor familiar with the student’s learning style, strengths, and weaknesses can provide more practical guidance and support. Conversely, changing tutors frequently disrupts the learning process and leads to inconsistent progress.
Before hiring, ensure the tutor will be available throughout the preparation period. In the case of tutoring companies, inquire about their policy on changing tutors. A consistent tutoring experience will provide a stable learning environment for the student and contribute to better ACT scores.
Studying for the ACT by Yourself
Only a particular student should study the ACT alone. Charting the course of ACT prep alone is only for some. It requires a specific archetype of a student endowed with a rare blend of qualities. Those qualities are as follows: maturity, motivation, discipline, and efficiency. As you can see, it’s tough to find these four characteristics in adults. Thus, if you’re a parent reading this, be honest when assessing whether your student possesses these qualities.
Maturity in Independent ACT Prep
Mature students know that good decisions are often inconvenient but make them regardless. They procrastinate less than their peers (and sometimes their parents). The mature student sets aside time to study for the final exam and avoids cramming the night before. They will forgo fun in the name of progress. Ultimately, they will choose to sacrifice an immediate life of leisure to create habits of discipline.
Most students aren’t like this. And that’s okay. Furthermore, some students demonstrate admirable maturity in certain areas but fail to apply it to others. I met one student who meticulously planned his meals and workout routine, rarely ate or consumed sugar, and never ate fast food. They sacrificed nutritional indulgence in favor of obtaining physical excellence. Yet, this student struggled immensely with chemistry and often prioritized working out over doing their chemistry homework. They made mature decisions when it came to their health but not with their academics.
Independent ACT Prep requires academic maturity. And no parent can quickly instill that in their students no matter how many ACT PREP books they buy. By the time ACT prep comes along, a student has academic maturity, or they don’t. And if they don’t (like most students), I would advise you to look for a tutor rather than wasting money on the ACT prep curriculum your student probably won’t use.
Motivation in ACT Prep
ACT Prep is the opposite of a pizza party. It’s the anathema to all fun. Thus, it takes a motivated student to engage with such dry content. And dry it is, especially the math and science sections. Aside from doing a lot of math, there are a few ways to increase your math skills. And if a student has it in their head that they’re terrible at math, it can be a downer to spend an hour a day doing the thing you believe you have no talent for. That’s where motivation comes in.
A motivated ACT student doesn’t necessarily enjoy ACT prep. I’ve met few who do. However, they often understand where the ACT fits into the puzzle of their long-term goals (going to college, getting scholarships to pay for that college, etc.). So, students aren’t just motivated to score well on standardized tests; they’re motivated to do well on anything necessary to realize their academic potential.
She doesn’t believe the ACT is fun. However, she looks at test prep as necessary, nothing more, nothing less. If your student isn’t like that, you probably shouldn’t rely on them to study for standardized tests. You’ll save a lot of time getting them a tutor than hoping they’ll spontaneously develop the motivational habits of a competitive law student attempting to pass the bar exam.
Discipline in Test Prep
Many terms I’ve mentioned possess interchangeable meanings. Depending on what we’re discussing, maturity might also mean motivation, while discipline might pass for maturity. However, when I refer to discipline in our discussion here, I refer to a student’s steadfast commitment to finish something they start. The ACT is a marathon, not a sprint. And while the test is only 3 hours long, preparing for it takes daily study for at least weeks or (more often) months.
So, ask yourself, “Is your student disciplined?”
I’m not asking if your student makes their bed in the morning, irons their clothes, is never late for an appointment, or lives strictly by their Google calendar. What I’m asking is if they’re committed. When they agree to do something, do they see it through to the end, even if it isn’t fun? It’s easy to start test prep, just as it’s easy to start learning Urdu or Arabic. It’s another thing to become fluent in either of them. That doesn’t just take painstaking practice but consistency. Welcome to ACT prep. As with many skills, slow, sustained effort outpaces bursts of sporadic intensity. The work is thankless, but it’s effective. So, if your student has enough discipline to study more days than not, they can score well on the ACT independently.
Efficient ACT Prep
Not all ACT Prep is created equally. There are a thousand ways to do it wrong, a few ways to do it right, and a million ways to waste time. One of the values of an ACT tutor resides in their ability to maximize a student’s time preparing. However, ACT tutors don’t have a monopoly on efficient test prep. Before we get into how to do it right, let’s first discuss how to do it wrong.
Avoid Taking Too Many Practice Tests
Don’t get me wrong; it’s always good to start test prep by taking a full-length practice test. However, practice tests primarily help diagnose the question types students answer incorrectly. There’s value in that. After all, effective test prep centers around a student’s mistakes. Practice tests go a long way in highlighting a student’s individualized mistakes. But it doesn’t take long for too much of any good thing to become bad.
Imagine feeling sick, taking your temperature, and discovering you have a fever. Wonderful. Identifying the problem or getting a diagnosis is an ideal starting point. That’s the first step. But to get the fever to break, you wouldn’t just keep taking your temperature. No, you’d seek an expert to guide you toward an adequate remedy. You see what I’m getting at.
Practice tests exist to diagnose and measure progress. Rediagnosing or measuring progress without strategically practicing won’t do much in the way of helping. Thus, take practice tests, but take them sparingly. A good rule of thumb is to take a practice test every 16-20 hours of tutoring or prep. Otherwise, you’re wasting time taking your temperature when you should be taking aspirin.
Additionally, a full-length ACT practice test takes around 3 hours to complete. You could spend that time targeting the skills you need help improving. Furthermore, you then have to grade said test. And even if you review the test and delve into the ones you answered incorrectly, you can’t know for sure (usually) that the solution you’ve arrived at is correct. If you keep taking practice tests without filling the gaps in your knowledge, you’ll train yourself how to keep getting those questions wrong.
Trust me. There’s a better way.
Purchase an Online ACT Course
You’re in luck if your student has the maturity, motivation, and discipline needed for test prep. Get them an online ACT course. With an online ACT prep course, a student can slowly but surely master the menagerie of the content found on the ACT. It won’t be a picnic, but you know that already.
Many ACT courses are floating around the internet, but I recommend one. And I should know; I helped write it, after all.
Achievable ACT Course
Indeed, the Achievable ACT course is an exceptional alternative for those seeking efficient and affordable test prep. Its salient features cater to a student’s deficiencies and can get them on track to be ready for the test. Here is a more detailed exploration of the course’s crucial features.
Personalized Learning Approach
The Achievable ACT course focuses on intelligent personalization. Leveraging advanced algorithms and memory science, it adapts to each student’s strengths and weaknesses, facilitating concentrated study on areas requiring improvement. It doesn’t merely offer a pre-set path but instead crafts a unique route of learning based on the student’s performance, presenting an optimum utilization of study time.
App-based Learning Environment
Achievable recognizes the digital era we inhabit and smartly integrates it into the learning process. Their course allows students to access interactive exercises, comprehensive study materials, and progress trackers anytime. This flexibility accommodates varying schedules and resonates with the tech-savvy generation, enhancing engagement and convenience.
Guided Study Plans
The Achievable team doesn’t leave students to navigate the rigorous ACT prep process alone. Instead, they provide structured study plans based on scientific models of memory and learning. This approach ensures a balanced distribution of study time across various subjects while incorporating regular revisions to enhance retention. It’s a map for the ACT journey, embedded with efficient checkpoints and expert advice.
High Quality, Affordable Test Prep
The Achievable ACT course endeavors to deliver the benefits of a private tutor without imposing a financial burden. It provides comprehensive academic support, consistent performance analysis, and personalized guidance at a fraction of the cost of traditional tutoring.
In-depth Progress Analysis
Achievable believes in equipping students with a complete understanding of their progress. Their performance dashboard gives students an in-depth analysis of their strengths, weaknesses, and improvement areas. This clear visibility empowers students to adjust their prep plans based on factual data, eliminating guesswork and facilitating informed decision-making.
Successful self-guided ACT prep is tough. It requires a unique blend of maturity, motivation, discipline, and efficiency within a student. As discussed, an invaluable tool like the Achievable ACT course can significantly streamline test prep. I honestly can’t recommend a better method for the well-suited independent student. By offering a personalized learning approach, adaptable study plans, and in-depth progress analysis (and all at an affordable price), it embodies the same elements required for efficient self-study. The ideal independent ACT preparation combines the right student with the right strategies and uses practical tools like the Achievable ACT course.
However, remember that independent test prep isn’t for everyone or even most. If your student needs these characteristics, seek a reliable tutor. Ultimately, the goal is to harness the right resources to fulfill your student’s potential. Sometimes that comes in the form of tutoring, sometimes self-paced test prep. And after reading this article, hopefully, you will know which methodology makes the most sense for your student.
 Another College Expense: Preparing for the SAT and ACT, Carrns, Ann – accessed at https://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/29/your-money/another-college-expense-preparing-for-the-sat-and-act-.html on 21 June 2023.
 SAT and ACT costs: Why college admission testing is so expensive, Saxena, Jaya – accessed at https://www.vox.com/the-goods/2019/3/28/18282453/sat-act-college-admission-testing-cost-price on 21 June 2023.
 Modern online ACT test prep with endless practice questions, Achievable – accessed at https://achievable.me/exams/act/overview/ on 21 June 2023.