Here’s What Students Preparing for the ACT Need to Know About the 2018 Redbook
By Peter, IvyWise Master Tutor
The makers of the ACT released a new version of their own preparation ‘Redbook’ this past June. While it is mostly resembles that of the previous version, the new release is a great opportunity to discuss how students planning to take the ACT can best make use of the book while preparing for the exam.
ACT: The Basics
The ACT aims to measure high school students’ general educational development and their capability to complete college-level work with multiple choice tests covering four skill areas: English, mathematics, reading, and science, always in that order.
Each section has a section score out of 36. A composite score out of 36 is given based on the average of all sections. Subscores in English, Math and Reading that range between 1 and 18 are given in the score reports, but they are not actually used by colleges or universities. New subscores for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) and English Language were added recently, as were indicators on Career Readiness and Complexity Progress were also included.
The optional Writing Test measures skill in planning and writing a short essay. Student will receive a Writing test out of 36 along with subscores. There is no penalty for marking incorrect answers on the multiple-choice part of the test.
How the ACT Redbook Can Help With Test Prep
Now the Redbook goes into deeper detail section by section, providing question types and example passages. This is an essential part of any student’s ACT preparation, and indeed, students should be looking out to see how ACT question types are similar to curriculum covered in school.
The most important component of the new Redbook is that it confirms major shifts that have taken place in the content tested on the ACT math and reading sections. For the math section, more and more statistics and data representation questions have surfaced within the past couple years and the Redbook confirms this trend by including “Statistics and Probability” as one of its core content areas.
The reading section has similarly followed a recent trend of including two-passage into one of its four subsections.
The Redbook confirms this trend as the new standard policy: “the ACT reading test comprises four sections, three of which contain one long prose passage and one that contains two shorter prose passages that are on the same topic.”
There is one significant limitation for the Redbook though, and this is specialized strategy. The book simply does not delve deeply into specific test day strategies, whether it has to do with dealing with multiple choice questions or time management.
Instead, the Redbook offers general tips that are actually often overlooked by students, such as “Beware of correcting mistakes in the essay and, in your haste, picking a response that creates a new mistake,” or “Use your calculator wisely; each problem on the math test can be solved in a reasonable amount of time without a calculator.”
Other general advice includes “remembering that the ACT is only one part of the process of your education” and to “remain calm…panic detracts from test performance by causing students to become confused and discouraged.”
Even though the Redbook does not delve into specific test strategy, the advice offered does in fact correspond to the biggest concerns students have when they first take the ACT test.
To get the most out of the Redbook, students should make sure to read through the various section overviews before taking their first official practice test. The three sample ACT tests included in the book are also valuable, and should also be utilized as an integral part of the preparation process.
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