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The (Practical) Way to Prevent Summer Backslide

You’ve probably heard it over and over again: students lose 137.34% of what they learned in school during the summer. (Thank you for appreciating our sarcasm). Yes, students forget things during the summer because they aren’t looking at textbooks. The truth is, most people without photographic memories will forget things after a very short amount of time has passed. So, if you want to retain at least some of last year come fall, what should you do?


Retain Information Selectively

The truth is, you may never use some of what you learn in class once you finish a course. What you will and will not use depends largely on the path you take in life. Let’s use Chemistry as an example. If you plan on becoming a chemical engineer, you should probably pay close attention to everything you learn in Chemistry class. Is being an English teacher in your future? Chances are slim that you’ll need to know the locations of elements on the periodic table once you’ve passed Chemistry. If you just finished Algebra I and are taking Algebra II this fall, then set aside some time to study Algebra this summer.


Know What You Need to Retain

Make a list of your fall classes. Call/email/visit those teachers. Tell them you are taking their classes this fall, and you would like to know what concepts and materials will be covered in the first 4 weeks of class. The teachers will think you’re a good student, you get points with your teacher, and you now know exactly what to prepare for over the summer.


Make a Plan

You have about two months to prepare for the first four weeks of school. Make a commitment to set aside time each week to prep for your fall classes. Not a whole lot of time - just some time. There are plenty of things you can spend your summer doing, so go do those things, too! Just make sure you’re ready for school when the time comes.

The Wrong Way to Prep for the ACT

The Wrong Way to Prep for the ACT


Whether you’re prepping on your own or working with a tutor, it is important that you prep for the ACT in the right way. If you are preparing for the test using any of the following methods, it’s time to rethink how you prep.


1. You only prep for certain subjects. You have a good English score, and Reading is pretty good, too. If you only focus on raising those Math and Science scores, you’ll surely score higher on the next ACT, right? Wrong. While you should put more prep emphasis on your lower subjects, you definitely shouldn’t neglect your higher subjects. If you spend no time preparing for a subject, you may backslide and score lower than you previously have, which could cancel out any gains from the subjects you score higher in. Take time to prep for the subjects you score best in; just spend more time on the subjects you really need to raise.


2. You cram the week (or night) before. Cramming may work for tests in school, but it’s not going to do much for your ACT score. ACT test dates are available well in advance, so there is no excuse for not being aware of when you’ll be taking the test. In fact, here is a link to the official ACT website, which lists upcoming test dates:

Instead of cramming, prep steadily over a period of weeks. A little prep each day will help your score much more than a week of cramming.

3. You think your testing center and/or breakfast will alter your score. Yes, you, should eat a good breakfast, with a good amount of protein, the morning of the test. If, however, you do not eat this type of breakfast, your score will not plummet or sky-rocket solely because of your breakfast. Likewise, your testing center will not make the ACT easier or harder. A testing center might contain distracting students, which could impair your focus, but the ACT itself will be the same ACT every other student is taking that day, no matter the testing center.

Making the Most of Your ACT Math Prep

Preparing for the Math portion of the ACT can be a challenge, but it’s not quite as challenging as you may think. The Math portion typically tests the same concepts every time, so if you want to boost your score, you need to figure out which math skills you are lacking in.


The ACT tests your Algebra, Geometry, and Trigonometry skills. According to ACT, only 7% of the Math test focuses on Trigonometry skills, while 38% of the test is some form of Geometry, and the remaining 55% deals with varying levels of Algebra. So, how should you divide your prep time up amongst the different math skills you’ll be tested on? Remember that Geometry problems often build upon an Algebra skill, so, if your Algebra skills are rusty, your Geometry score may suffer. In fact, since many Math skills build on one another in some way, you need to first make sure your Math foundation is solid before worrying about advanced skills.


The Math portion of the ACT generally gets progressively more difficult as the questions progress. This means that #2 may not be more difficult than #1, but #8 is typically much easier than #45. I strongly advise that you purchase a copy of the Real ACT Prep Guide and take a practice test while timing yourself. Take notes keeping track of how long it takes you to work a set of 10 questions (1-10, 11-20, and so on). After you complete the test, examine which sets of questions took you the longest to complete and determine why they took the longest amounts of time.

Also, pay attention to how accurately you answer sets of questions. Do you get more answers correct when you take longer, or do you take longer, and get fewer correct answers, because you really don’t know how to answer certain types of questions? If you sound like the former, you need to practice similar problems and improve your speed. If you sound like the latter, you need to improve those lagging math skills before worrying about time limits. Set aside daily practice time for ACT Prep, and take a full-length, timed practice Math test once you think your skills have noticeably improved. Taking practice tests without improving your skills in between tests is not the best use of your time. Results will not come overnight, but you should see results after a few weeks of steady effort.

Avoid These Mistakes on the Reading Portion of the ACT

The Reading section of the ACT can become much easier if you learn to avoid some mistakes that are easy to make! Watch out for the following things in the Reading section:


#1. Details Used Incorrectly: Answer choices using actual details from the passage in a way that does not correctly answer a question.


#2. Made Up Details: Answer choices containing information simply not present in the passage. A character’s name or a date may be thrown in to make the answer appear legitimate. The answer may sound like a valid choice, but, if the information is not supported by and/or present in the passage, it is not valid.


#3. Partial Truths: Answer choices containing a variation on an actual detail found in the passage. If the detail is altered, even slightly, the answer choice is not going to be correct.


#4. Exaggerations: This type of answer will often involve a character’s opinion or the author’s opinion. An incorrect answer might use a statement from a passage such as, “The men were a bit shorter than the others.” to state that the author shows disdain for short people, which is obviously an exaggeration.


#5. “EXCEPT” Questions: These questions ask you to select the one answer that is different from the others. If you have trouble determining which answer this is, try determining which three answers are all supported by the passage. The answer not selected is your correct answer.

#6. Definition Questions: These questions will ask something like this: “In line 22, the term horrified most likely means:”. Words can take on different meanings when used in different contexts, so the common definition of a word may not be the right answer. A quick way to check your answer is to replace the term in question with your answer choice and then read the sentence again to make sure it makes sense with the substitute term.

Check out ACT’s Question of the Day!

Looking for an Extra Way to Prep? Check out ACT’s Question of the Day!

Did you know the ACT and SAT both post a question of the day on their websites? If you are trying to boost your ACT or SAT score, be sure to answer the question of the day each day. It will take very little time, and the daily exposure and practice can really help your score. Links to both the ACT and SAT questions of the day are provided below.

ACT Question of the Day:

SAT Question of the Day:

Please note that ScorePlus is not affiliated with ACT or College Board in any way. We simply help students prepare for the ACT and SAT exams, but we are not endorsed by either test.


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