3 Ways to Learn From Your Mistakes on the ACT® TEST

January 11, 2016
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Log Your Mistakes. Every great test prep student learns from his or her mistakes. You’ll dramatically improve your score if you grade your practice tests and try to figure out why you missed the questions you got wrong. I suggest keeping a little running tab of your mistakes; revisiting key rules for each missed problem is a great way to track what you need to work on. In some cases, it might help to actually write down the specific way that you figured out the problem. Similar questions will certainly arise, so it’s a great way to remember where you faltered and how to avoid it next time. For example, your notes may look like this:

  • GRAMMAR: Don’t forget to TRACK DOWN THE NOUN for every pronoun. What seems like an “it” could really be a “they”.
  • SCIENCE: Remember to check the introduction for keywords or definitions.
  • READING: Don’t pick an answer that overstates the case.


Practice Micro-Timing. Of course you are busy! Even with a crazy schedule, you can do mini practice sections to get a feel for ACT® timing. For example, you should be able to whip through an English passage in 9 minutes (there are 5 passages to be completed in 45 minutes).  You should be able to do approximately 10 Math questions in 10 minutes.  You should be able to read an ACT® Reading passage in about 4 ½ minutes. You should be able to do an ACT® Science passage in around 5 minutes. We all know that some problems are more difficult than others, but getting used to “units” of time will increase your timing confidence on the test. In some cases, tackling the easier material first will give you more time to deal with the more difficult questions.

Order, Study, Retake. Not all ACT® test dates allow you to order the test back*, but if you have the option, you should take full advantage. That way, you can see the mistakes you made in a real test environment, see your real scores, and practice from there. The service is called Test Information Release, and you may order or pay for the service during the registration process or during the three-month period after your test date. There is a Test Information Release Order Form on the ACT® website. Materials are normally mailed about four weeks after your score report. Although there is a charge for this service (currently $20), the money is very well spent! You will see exactly what you missed in each section, so you can then use the answer key to figure out what caused your errors. Sometimes, you can look and see that you ran out of time.

Ultimately, your goal is to improve your test scores. Practicing mistakes, timing, and concepts will help you on that path. There’s no escaping it; it takes hard work and tons of effort. However, the more you improve, the more confidence you’ll have.

Written by Mauri Artz from The Public Tutoring Initiative. Want to reach your personal best on the ACT® in the easiest, least expensive way? Whether you are taking the test for the first time or trying to up a previous score, The Public Tutoring Initiative www.publictutoring.org will provide you on demand online videos, livestreaming weekly review sessions, practice tests and more. AdmitSee members will receive a 30% discount from Public Tutoring, which means only $83! An added incentive - Good Karma - a free course is donated to a needy student with each paid enrollment.

*The December 12 2015, April 9 2016, and June 11 2016 ACT® dates are all available for the Test Information Release.

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