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Can you Write on the ACT and SAT Test Booklets?

ACT and SAT Test Prep, ACT English, ACT Math, ACT Prep, ACT Reading, ACT Science, ACT Writing, SAT Math, SAT Prep
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When students are used to taking tests in school, they are usually not permitted to write on the test booklet.  This is with very good reason – teachers want to be able to use the same booklets for other groups of students and want to save paper.  Typically, teachers will let you make small pencil markings on the test as long as you come back and erase them. 

You ARE able to write all over the test booklet on the SAT and ACT!  Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.  What you write on the test booklet will not be graded – only what you enter on your answer document.  

Writing on the ACT and SAT test booklets is particularly useful when it comes to the Math Section.  The SAT gives you a decent amount of space to do your figuring, but nothing compared to the blank right  half of a page that the ACT gives you.  Don’t do everything in your head or on your calculator – you will make a ton of careless mistakes if you do.

The trend towards the ACT giving you more space with which to write is also present on the Essay.  The ACT provides you with 4-5 pages (it has varied in the past couple years in my experience) while the SAT only gives you 2 pages on which to write.  You will still have room to prewrite on the page where they provide you your prompt.  

I hope you found this summary helpful.  If so, please share it with your friends!  Thanks, Brian Stewart

Bubble Trouble on the SAT or ACT?

ACT and SAT Test Prep, ACT English, ACT Math, ACT Prep, ACT Reading, ACT Science, SAT Prep, SAT Subject Tests
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Students often ask me, “should I bubble in the answers as I go or should I wait until the end of a couple pages and then bubble?”  My short answer:  it depends on the test and your approach.

The Test – Better to bubble as you go on the SAT, and do it out of order more on the ACT.  Why?  

  • The SAT answers are all A, B, C, D, and E on all the multiple choice questions, so it is more likely that if you do the questions out of order on the SAT, you will get off by one and you won’t notice that you have messed it up. 
  • The SAT bubble sheet has more answers than bubbles, making it more likely that you will make a careless error. 
  • The SAT questions almost always go in order of difficulty, so you won’t be skipping around as much as you would on the ACT, which has a more random ordering of difficulty. 
  • The ACT alternates its lettering between A, B, C, D, and E & F, G, H, J and K.  This makes is easier to avoid putting the answer immediately before or after the one you meant to put it in. 


 Your Approach – If you like to skip questions and come back to them, bubble later.  Why? 

  • With the time pressures you are under and the general stress level you will feel, know that you may make careless mistakes.  If you tend to skip tougher questions and come back to them, you have less room for error if you circle several questions in the booklet and then transfer them all at once. 
  • Students find that on the Math and Reading sections, skipping and coming back to questions often makes more sense.  I have found that students tend to become stuck on these questions more than they do on Grammar and Science questions.  And if you are skipping around, you should bubble later on.  You don’t have to have the same approach to every test section – you can mix it up.   

I hope you found this article helpful.  If so, I would invite you to share it with your friends.  I look forward to your comments. 


Timing and Pacing for the ACT Test

ACT and SAT Test Prep, ACT English, ACT Math, ACT Prep, ACT Reading, ACT Science, ACT Writing
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If you’re taking the ACT, you’re in for a long morning.  You should arrive at the test center before 8 AM in order to find your room and check in.  You will then have a roughly 4 hour test in front of you. 

The ACT is broken up into four sections with an optional fifth section:  English, Math, Reading, Science and Writing.  To remember the order in which the test sections fall, simply remember that they go in alphabetical order!   

Here is the breakdown for timing of the test, and how you should pace yourself on the ACT:

English Test – 45 minutes, 75 questions, 5 passages.  You should take about 9 minutes per passage. 

Math Test – 60 minutes, 60 questions.  Take about one minute per question. 

You then have a 10 minute break when you should have a snack!  Bring it yourself. 

Reading Tests – 35 minutes, 40 questions, 4 passages.  Take about 9 minutes per passage. 

Science Test – 35 minutes, 40 questions, 7 passages.  Take about 5 minutes per passage. 

If you are sticking around for the writing, you have a 5 minute break.  If you are not doing the ACT Writing, you can go home at this time. 

Optional ACT Essay – 30 minutes.  Spend about 5 minutes prewriting, and 25 minutes writing.  They typically give you 4-5 pages on which to write. 


As the tests go on, they become more difficult for most students to finish.  English is very easy to complete, and Science is quite tough.  Practice ahead of time so that you have a good internal feel for the pace at which you should go.  Also, by practicing, you will have a good idea of whether it makes sense to skip and guess on some questions.  Remember, there is no penalty for guessing on the ACT, so if you don’t complete all the questions, be sure that you at least bubble everything in.  For some free practice ACT material, please go here:

http://www.freetestprep.com/blog/2012/act-sat-test-prep-free/act-practice-test/

I hope you found this article helpful!  If you did, please share it with your friends.  Thanks, Brian Stewart    


ACT Science Test Content

ACT and SAT Test Prep, ACT Prep, ACT Science
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Although many people claim that the ACT Science test does not require any background knowledge, they are incorrect.  If you examine several ACT tests, you will find that you must have basic knowledge from these two high school courses:

  • Physical Science
  • Biology

Why do they require that you have this background knowledge?  Because high school juniors across the country should have taken these two courses, no matter the rigor of their individual high schools.  Expect to see just a handful of questions that involve actual background knowledge from these two areas. 

If you have taken advanced science, such as AP Chemistry or AP Physics, that certainly won’t hurt you.  It will help in the sense that your general ability to reason through scientific charts and graphs will be stronger, not because you need to have specific knowledge from any of those areas. 

The material they present on the passages can come from all sorts of general scientific areas:  physics, chemistry, biology, botany, zoology, astronomy, geology, and so forth. 

The ACT Science Section has 3 types of passages:

  • Data Representation (38%). There are three of this type of passage, and each passage has 5 questions.  You will need to evaluate information presented in graphs, tables and figures. 
  • Research Summaries (45%). There are three of this type of passage, and each passage has 6 questions.  You will need to analyze 2 or more experimental summaries, thinking about the results and the experimental design. 
  • Conflicting Viewpoints (17%). You will only have 1 passage of this type, and it has seven questions.  It will present viewpoints from anywhere from 2 up to several scientists.  You will need to read a good bit here, although sometimes there is a graph or two given as well.  You will need to sharpen your ability to compare and contrast differing scientific explanations. 

The passages are in a random order of difficulty, so just be on your toes to think critically at any point. 

If you would like to do some practice, please do my Free ACT Science Questions with Video Solutions

I hope you found this article helpful!  If you did, please share it with your friends.  Thanks, Brian Stewart 




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