September 18, 2022

How to Help Your Teen Get a High ACT Score

It’s common for scholars to be overwhelmed with the stress of the ACT. That’s why it’s important for parents to help in any way possible. Parent support not only relieves stress, but can improve test scores of your teens as well. If you want to know the best ways to help your teen get a high ACT score, keep reading!

Understand the ACT

The first step in helping your teen is to understand the ACT yourself. You can’t help with studying or advice-giving when you don’t know anything about the test. By knowing what the test is all about, you can help lend some structure to their studies and plans, and relieve some of the pressure they are likely to experience.

The ACT is one of two standardized tests used for U.S. college and university admissions (the other is the SAT). It’s a four subject, multiple choice exam, with the choice of a writing section. The writing section is optional, but some colleges require it and it can help your overall score if your teen does well. The four subjects are:

  1. English Test: 45 minutes for 75 multiple choice questions
  2. Mathematics Test: 60 minutes for 60 multiple choice questions
  3. Reading Test: 35 minutes for 40 multiple choice questions
  4. Science Test:35 minutes for 40 multiple choice questions
  5. Optional Writing Test: 30 minutes for 1 essay

act prep guide

The exam takes about three and a half hours to complete, with an additional 30 minutes for the writing portion. Students are given a composite score of 1 to 36, as well as individual scores for each section. The writing portion is scored from 1 to 12. 

Help Set Goals

Now that you have a basic understanding of the ACT test, you can help your teen set an attainable goal. Have them take a base practice test, and research your scholar’s top colleges.  Learn what the average ACT score is and adjust your scholar’s goal score accordingly.  Try to choose something you both believe can be accomplished. Remember to encourage them to aim high without putting too much extra pressure on them. 

Remember, everyone is different and has different attributes and abilities; just because the neighbor’s teenager got a 31 does not make this a realistic goal for your son or daughter. Maybe your child has already surpassed the average score of the colleges to which he or she plans to apply. If so, set the goal 4 or 5 points higher to open up more opportunities in case there are unforeseen events in the next year. Or, suppose your child is well below the average ACT score needed for his choice of schools. Set the goal at the score needed for admission, but begin looking at other schools that have a lower average.

Practice, Practice, Practice

teen studying

Practice makes perfect, which is why continual practice is one of the best ways to prepare your scholar for the ACT. A practice schedule can help them prepare. This can be in the form of a prep class or practice questions from ACT. Have your student set aside time a few days a week to study and set a realistic amount of time a week to practice. There can be options for in-school ACT courses as well. At Paradigm, we require all scholars to take our ACT prep course.

Create a Schedule

You know your teen best; consider their schedule, their academic ability, and their ACT goals then create a schedule that allows them to practice test questions and concepts. For many students, a course is the most structured option, but only you know the best practice method for your active teenager. 

ACT Prep Class

A good idea might be to enroll your young scholar in an ACT prep class. There are many after school programs you can enroll your teen in. These can be provided through small organizations or private tutors. Some schools may also offer their own ACT prep courses. Paradigm requires our 11th graders to take both ACT prep and college readiness. It is our hope that after our scholars graduate, they’ll be ready to take the next step in their education and enroll in college.

act answer sheet

Encourage Plenty of Sleep and a Healthy Breakfast

The ACT experience will take up a large portion of your teen’s day. There are multiple tests within the exam and it can feel overwhelming. Good sleep the week before can help them feel well rested and more awake during the exam. Limit activities late the night before and during the day of the exam, and encourage them to get at least 8-9 hours of sleep.

Make sure they eat a healthy, substantial breakfast the day of the exam. Breakfast will provide the energy needed for your scholar to perform well, and will keep them from being hungry which can be a distraction. Pack your teen with snacks, as there will be breaks during the exam.

Be Supportive

There is a lot of pressure surrounding the ACT. Young scholars are worried about getting into their dream college, some are poor test takers, while others don’t want to disappoint their parents. Therefore, anything you say about the ACT can be interpreted as added pressure. Because of this, it’s vital that you stay positive, be supportive, and remind your child that you’re proud of them. 

Assure them that all questions are valid and that it’s okay to make mistakes. Your teenager might not appear to be the most motivated or serious student, but he or she will perform to the best of their ability on test day. 

teen studying

Paradigm is Here for Our Scholars

At Paradigm Schools, we want each of our scholars to be prepared for their post-secondary education. That’s why all 11th grade scholars are required to take an ACT prep class, which can help build strong college applications and meet qualifications for scholarships. Contact us today to learn more about enrollment and our ACT prep class!