Common Mistakes on the ACT Test

Common Mistakes on the ACT Test

Making mistakes on the ACT is not good. Nothing is more frustrating than knowing you could have correctly solved a problem, but instead made a silly error and lost that opportunity.

Overall Test

1. Rushing

Most students struggle with time on at least one section of the ACT. Rushing to get to every single question is not necessarily a good idea if you are making careless mistakes along the way. Focusing all of your attention on only three-quarters of the questions, or even two-thirds, may in fact get you your best score.

2. Not marking answers for everything

There is no penalty for guessing on the ACT, so you can get some points for lucky guesses.

ACT English Test

3. Avoiding "No Change"

Some students think answer choices like “No change” or “No error” are traps, but this is not true, particularly on the ACT English section. The vast majority of questions have “No change” as a potential answer, and it is just as likely to be correct as any other answer choice.

4. Not reading the entire sentence

The ACT often asks a question about one small part of a really long, complex sentence. Make sure to read your answer choice into the entire sentence - there may be a punctuation mark that doesn’t work with your answer, or your answer may inadvertently create redundancy or a sentence fragment.

5. Answering questions on the entire passage or paragraph too soon

Sometimes questions that pertain to a whole paragraph or passage appear before you have gotten through the entire thing. Skip these questions and save them for last once you have read everything.

ACT Math Test

6. Not answering the right question

It is easy to get caught up in calculations and forget that the question asked you to find the value of 2y instead of y. Circle what the question is asking for and double-check before you answer.

7. Not using your calculator enough

You are allowed to use a calculator, so use it for all but the simplest calculations. It is easy to make a mistake dividing 84 by 6 with long division; you are less likely to do that on a calculator. If you have a graphing calculator, you can also use the graphing function to solve some coordinate geometry problems or the sin, cos, tan buttons to solve trigonometric problems.

8. Not writing down your work

If you are using hypothetical numbers to help solve a word problem, make sure to write down the numbers you are using. The last thing you want to do is get to your solution and forget the original numbers you had used. Or if you are plugging negative numbers into an algebra equation, make sure to use parentheses so you don’t forget about the signs.

ACT Reading Test

9. Inferring too much

The ACT is very literal. Most of the answers are directly stated in the passage. If they aren’t, then the ACT only wants you to make tiny inferences, not grand leaps in thinking. If you find yourself rationalizing how an answer could be true, stop. You are going down the wrong path.

10. Not noticing transitions

If there is a change in perspective or a new counter argument or direction introduced, the ACT will almost always ask you about it, so note those transition words and phrases.

11. Answering questions in order

The Reading questions are all mixed together. If you can’t figure out the answer to one, skip it and come back to it after you answer the others on the same passage; you may stumble upon the answer as you work through the other questions.

ACT Science Test

12. Mixing up labels and data

The ACT Science test will often give you multiple charts, diagrams, and figures that include the same or similar information. Always make sure you are looking at the right table or the right line on a line graph.

13. Not noticing NOT and EXCEPT in the questions

Sometimes it seems like putting words in all caps is a signal for your brain to ignore them rather than notice them. When you see “NOT” or “EXCEPT” in a question, circle it, draw arrows to it, whatever it takes for you to remember you are looking for what doesn’t fit, not what does.

ACT Essay

14. Not addressing all three perspectives

You have to address all three perspectives; the prompt says so. If you don’t, you will lose quite a few points.

15. Not having an argument

It is easy to focus too much on the analyzing the perspectives part and forget that the most important thing is that you present your own perspective. This means that you need to have a thesis statement and you should be supporting it throughout. Your thesis needs to present an argument.