When Should My Student Start Taking the ACT?

As an ACT Prep coach, a common question I hear is “when should my child start taking the ACT?” Being primarily a math coach, my response is from a math perspective. So, I begin by looking at the math skills that are tested on the ACT. Watch me give more details on the structure and content of the ACT Math section on this video that is a part of my Learn Math With Me - The Academy.

When are students exposed to these skills?

Following a traditional sequence of math classes, these skills are usually taught in Pre-Algebra, Algebra 1, Geometry, and Algebra 2. Most of the trigonometry skills tested on the ACT are covered in Algebra 2, so it is not necessary that students are in upper-level classes such as PreCalculus or even Calculus before taking the ACT. The Calculus-level skills are not usually found on the ACT at all.

So this is the advice that I give. For a student to do their very best on the math section, they should be exposed to skills covered in the math classes mentioned previously. Also, there is a “math maturity” level that I think is needed to work through the modeling aspects tested...how to apply several math skills to a question. Around the 9th-10th grade school year, I recommend students take the ACT to get a baseline score. This can be the first official time the test is taken, but I always recommend taking a practice test before the first real time as well.

How does a student gain math maturity for the ACT?

Preparation and practice can help a student get ready for the ACT. Students will gain some practice in math class, but I suggest additional practice and preparation as well. This can be in several forms, depending on what works best for the student. Here are a few suggestions.

  1. View free Youtube videos related to ACT math prep. On my Learn Math With Me Youtube channel, I have several videos with ACT-type math questions.
  2. Attend in-person tutoring and ACT prep workshops. If near my area, I hold in-person workshops in math and science several times a month.
  3. Read and work practice questions from workbooks, worksheets, and other materials.
  4. Join an online ACT prep community. If you are unable to find an in-person tutor or coach OR if you need more flexibility in your time to prepare for the ACT, consider an online program. I have an online program, Learn Math With Me - The Academy, full of videos, material, and membership support for those on the ACT math journey.
  5. Look for ACT prep classes to take at school. Sometimes, these classes are offered as electives.
  6. Form study groups with friends. Try to find old copies of ACT exams, and set up study sessions with friends that are interested in preparing just as you or your student is.

So when should your student start taking the ACT?

From my math perspective, I feel students do their best when they have been exposed to examples of the tested math areas and/or have gone through some ACT prep material and are comfortable with the skills being tested. When he or she is ready to do a little prep-work, then sign up for the ACT.

My updated ACT e-Workbook is available for purchase, but you can start reviewing example ACT-type math questions now! Sign up here, and I’ll send you the first section of the e-Workbook. Students can prepare to do their best, with a little practice.

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