As any sensible person knows, major achievement requires hard work. So what do we mean by Work Less, Score More? Well, perhaps the blog title was chosen to catch your attention! Still, it does make sense. Remember, Work Less does not mean Don’t Work Hard. The key to high achievement is to work smarter, to use your time well.
Researchers have found that many people work really long hours but don’t accomplish much. The same happens in exams too. Some students get high scores, while others, equally intelligent and hard-working, do not. What ‘tricks’ do high scorers use? How can you translate your hard work into higher scores?
Spend your time on what matters. On the ACT, and for that reason on any other test such as SAT, GRE, GMAT, the only thing that matters is your final score. On the SAT and ACT, the only thing that determines your score is the number of questions you answer correctly. (Even on the GRE and GMAT the number of questions you answer correctly pays an important role in determining your final score.) So your only aim is to maximize the number of right answers.
On the ACT test (and also SAT and GRE), if a question seems too difficult, or if it is taking too long, mark that question and move to questions you can do faster. Later, if time permits, come back to the time-consuming questions. In the meanwhile, stop thinking about them. Instead of worrying about what is difficult, focus on doing as much as you can, and doing it perfectly. Before time runs out, answer all unanswered questions with any one letter. (Since there is no negative marking, we will never leave any question blank.)
The Key to Achievement
Start where you are
Use what you have
Do what you can
Look for easy, fast ways to answer questions. For example, some hard Math questions become very easy if you work backward from the answer choices. This may not be the ‘proper’ mathematical method, but who cares?
Incomprehension, do not waste time trying to interpret or analyze the passage. Every answer is in the text, and all you have to do is find it. Readjust enough to find the answer. Be careful not to assume or presume anything beyond what is in the text: doing so can lead you to the wrong answer.
On the ACT Science, read as little as you need to. As far as possible, try to answer questions by using only the table or graphs. (Again, this is also true in case of Chart questions on the SAT and even in respect of the Chart questions on the GRE.)
Suppose Student S1 rushes through all 75 questions in the ACT English test and gets 50 right whereas Student S2 does only 60 questions and gets 55 right. For the remaining 15, she marks her favorite letter (after all, there is no negative marking), and 3 of the 15 turns out to be correct. Student S2 has 58 right answers, whereas S1 has only 50 right answers.
This example illustrates that the quality of work can make up for quantity. In other words, accuracy matters more than speed. To improve your performance, be selective about how much to do. Avoid tasks (questions) that require too much investment (of time) for too little return. Do fewer questions — but do them ‘perfectly’.
For the purposes of the ACT (and SAT, and GRE, and GMAT), ‘perfection’ just means doing every question properly. That is the single most important ‘trick’ of high scorers: they pay full attention to each question. Their minds don’t wander. They don’t miss the details. Lapses in concentration lead to so-called silly mistakes. Avoid such mistakes by following a consistent process for each question.
For example, on the ACT English test (as also on SAT Writing and GMAT Sentence Correction), check what is changing in the answer choices. Eliminate answer choices, keeping in mind the basic principles: sentences need to be complete, and sentences need to be consistent, clear, and concise. In Reading, make sure you understand what the question is asking. Remember that every right answer comes from the text: you should be able to put your finger on the words that provide the answer. In Mathematics, answer the final question that was asked. Don’t skip steps. Do the step-by-step working on your paper or use the calculator when required.
All this can take time, but the extra time will pay off in increased accuracy. And if you keep practicing, your speed will eventually improve too.
Long exam? Take A Break
Every now and then, perhaps after every passage or after 10-15 questions, take a micro-break. Close your eyes and shut out the world for 20 seconds. Say a prayer, or recite a poem, or count to twenty, or just pay attention to your breathing – whatever works for you. Your brain will be refreshed. Try it sometime!
Everyone who practices does not improve. If we prepare the wrong way or keep practicing the wrong methods, the practice will not help. In fact, wrong habits can become more deeply ingrained. Thus the wrong type of practice is a waste of time and very frustrating too — because it results in putting in time without any tangible results.
Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect.
— Vince Lombardi
The key to improvement is mindful practice. If you make mistakes and don’t learn from them, you will make the same mistakes again and again. Treat every mistake as a learning opportunity. Make note of what you learned from each question. Keep a record of what you learned, and review this record regularly. True, everything will not stick in the brain immediately, But the learning will slowly become permanent.
Don’t Just Learn, Loop
Take a top athlete like Roger Federer. He doesn’t just go out there and hit the ball. He does the intense practice. He serves, measures the outcomes and gets feedback from his coach, and then slightly tweaks his serve.
Prof. Morten Hansen, University of California, Berkeley
By Vipra Khanna Malik, Senior Faculty
In continuation, you should read some of our other articles, like this one on Good Vs Bad Scores On The ACT to supplement your use of these tips and tricks!Book your Free Counselling Session now!