ACT Vocabulary Tricks and Tips

ReflectingStudying vocabulary should be on your schedule of things to do as you prepare for the English and Reading sections on the ACT. Numerous lists are available online that feature words commonly seen on the test.

Fortunately, there are many simple tricks and techniques to help you learn and remember ACT vocabulary words and definitions.

Personalize Your Flashcards
Flashcards are a traditional tool for students who are learning vocabulary for the ACT. But you can make your flashcards more effective by taking them a step further. Include the word, its definition, and a personalized sentence on each flashcard. For instance, if you’re learning the word “cunning,” you may create a sentence about your little sister such as, “My sister is cunning about stealing cookies out of the cookie jar.” The word “cunning” means “crafty” or “clever.” You’re more likely to remember a word and its definition when you study it in a personalized context.

The creators of the ACT are interested in measuring your understanding of words and how they are used as opposed to just the number of words you’re able to memorize, so it’s important to thoroughly understand each word you learn.

Expand Your Reading List
Another successful strategy to use when learning vocabulary for the ACT is to read a wide variety of material. For instance, if you usually limit your recreational reading to fiction, try reading some biographies or articles in science or nature magazines, or choose a subject you want to learn more about, such as an animal, a country, space travel, the Industrial Revolution, or a famous individual in history. You are more likely to be an active reader when delving into a subject you’re curious about.

When you vary your reading material, you are exposing yourself to larger amounts of unfamiliar vocabulary. As you read, make a list of the words you don’t know and look up the definitions later. Try to determine the definition of a word by looking at the context in which it’s used, then check the dictionary to see if you were right.

Use New Words on a Daily Basis
As you are focusing on learning ACT vocabulary, try using some of your newly acquired words in your daily life. Saying a word aloud in the correct context is an excellent way to solidify it in your memory. You could do this in your classes at school, during club meetings, or at home with your family. In addition, try including a few of the words in papers and other assignments for your English classes. Why not score some extra points on your schoolwork as you prepare for the English and Reading sections on the ACT?

Play Word Games
Playing word games is one of the best ways to prepare for the ACT. There are many online games that ask you to match a definition with the correct word or vice-versa. Some games test your speed at unscrambling letters to make a word that pairs with a definition. Various types of word games can be played by two or more people, so you can get together to play a game with a few friends who are also preparing for the ACT. Making the learning process fun with colorful graphics, music, and exciting challenges helps you add to your growing supply of words.

Take Several Practice Tests
Another effective way to prep for the Reading and English sections on the ACT is to take practice tests. This helps you to figure out which skills you’ve mastered as well as the ones that need work. If you’re worried about these two sections on the ACT, completing practice questions can make you feel more prepared on test day.

Our instructors achieved extremely high scores on the ACT, so when you study with us, you have access to the proven tips and tricks used by our instructors to learn ACT vocabulary. But the ACT tutors at Veritas Prep are more than experts at helping you learn ACT vocabulary: we can also teach you strategies you can use on all parts of the exam. Take advantage of our free trial class to become familiar with the material on the ACT and discover what our instructors at Veritas Prep can do to help you succeed on test day.

Still need to take the ACT? We run a free online ACT prep seminar every few weeks. And be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

ACT English Tips to Improve Your Score

writing essayIn the English section on the ACT, you have 45 minutes to finish all 75 multiple-choice questions. This section tests your grammar and punctuation skills. Also, you have the opportunity to showcase your skills when it comes to understanding sentence structure.

There’s also a Reading section that evaluates your comprehension skills with 40 multiple-choice questions in 35 minutes. But with a little preparation and some useful strategies, you can improve your score on both the ACT English and Reading sections.

Read the Entire Passage
Most students understand the importance of reading all of the passages included on the ACT Reading test, as this section includes questions designed to measure how well you can understand and interpret the text. But it’s just as important to fully read the passages on the English section of the test.

The English section is made up of five passages containing underlined phrases. You’re given several alternative options for each underlined phrase. Your job is to choose the one that’s a better fit for the sentence. You also have a “no change” option if you think the sentence is correct as it is.

One of the most valuable ACT English tips to keep in mind is to read the entire passage instead of just the underlined phrase. Other sentences in the passage can give you clues about the correct answer. The ACT instructors at Veritas Prep can help you boost your score on the English section by guiding you through practice English questions. We’ll provide you with strategies on how to evaluate the options to arrive at the correct answer. Each of our instructors scored in the top one percent of ACT test-takers, so when you study for the ACT with Veritas Prep, you’re working with someone who has mastered the material!

Be on the Lookout for Parallel Structure
Looking for parallel structure in the sentences of each passage can help you to find the correct alternative to an underlined phrase. If an underlined phrase isn’t parallel with the rest of the sentence, then it needs to be replaced with one of the answer options.

An example sentence might be, “Philip enjoys reading, horseback riding, and to swim.” This sentence is not parallel because it contains mixed verb forms. The correct version of this sentence is, “Philip enjoys reading, horseback riding, and swimming.” Philip’s third hobby, “swimming,” should have the same verb form as his first two hobbies. Reading articles in science magazines, online newspapers, and other publications can help you become familiar with parallel structure. The more reading you do, the easier it will be to recognize a passage with sentences that are not parallel in form.

Look for Subject and Verb Agreement
One of simplest tips to remember when completing the ACT English section is to look for agreement between the subject and the verb of a sentence. If the subject of a sentence is singular, then its verb should also be singular. The same goes for plural subjects and plural verbs.

Consider All of the Answer Options
This is a necessary addition to any list of ACT English tips. Understandably, many students are anxious or nervous on test day. Most want to jump right in and get started on the questions. Because of this nervousness, a student may skim passages, glance at the answer options, and choose one that looks like the obvious answer. This is a trap you want to avoid. Take the time to look at all of the answer choices before selecting one. The most obvious answer is not always the right one.

Read the Corrected Sentences to Yourself
Once you choose an alternative option for an underlined phrase, it’s a smart idea to insert it into the sentence and quietly read it to yourself. This can help you to determine whether the changed sentence flows or sounds clunky. If the sentence doesn’t sound right in your mind, it is worth your time to go back and reconsider the option you selected.

At Veritas Prep, we offer a free online ACT prep seminar that gives you the chance to see what our study program is all about. We give you the guidance you need for tackling the ACT Reading and English sections as well as the rest of the exam. Students who work with us prep for the test using the most effective study materials and resources. Our professional instructors are not only experts on the ACT, but they recognize the value of providing lots of encouragement to their students. And you have the option of either taking an online class or participating in one of our in-person courses. Either way, we’ll give you the preparation you need to excel on the ACT!

Still need to take the ACT? We run a free online ACT prep seminar every few weeks. And be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

Answer ACT Reading Questions By Matching the Author’s Tone to the Answer Choices

ReflectingOne of the best ways to attack the Reading Section on the ACT is to look for reasons to eliminate answer choices. In other words, rather than try to find evidence for each answer choice to determine whether or not it is correct, you can identify reasons as to why you can eliminate answer choices because they are incorrect.

In this post, I’ll be covering one easy trick you can use to eliminate at least one answer choice on a surprisingly high number of questions in the ACT Reading Section – matching the author’s tone to the choices. Quickly read the following excerpt:

Russian author Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy, perhaps better known as Leo Tolstoy, is largely considered the most prolific Russian novelist in history. Most famous for his two long novels War and Peace, which he penned in 1869, and Anna Karenina, which he wrote in 1877, Tolstoy was a master of realistic fiction. While not the beginning of his literary career, his rise to prominence began when he accounted his experiences in the Crimean War with Sevastopol Sketches, his first acclaimed work. Soon after, between 1855 and 1858, he published a self-autobiographical trilogy, Childhood, Boyhood, and Youth, recounting through fictional characters his own childhood with a sentimentality he later rebuffed as poor writing. Toward the end of his life, Tolstoy became more of a moral thinker and social reformer, transitioning from poplar novelist to evangelical essayist.

Even after a quick read-through, you should be able to describe the author’s tone. (And if you don’t feel comfortable doing so, now is the time to start!) That is, you should be able to ask yourself, “Is the author’s tone laudatory? Is it critical? Is it neutral? Is it persuasive?” and so on. In short, you should have a general sense of whether or not the author has a positive, negative, or neutral stance towards their subject, and you should also have a sense of the degree – i.e. is the author strongly critical, or do they just have some reservations?

Now, go ahead and write down what you think the author’s tone is in the above excerpt.

In this case, the author’s tone is laudatory, as the author calls Tolstoy “prolific” and  a “master of realistic fiction.” So, keep in mind that descriptive terms – adjectives, descriptive phrases, and the like – will clue you in on what the author’s tone is.

Now that we’ve identified the author’s tone, take a look at the following question*:

According to the passage, it could be concluded that the novel War and Peace was:

(A) The first of Leo Tolstoy’s works to be published.
(B) Leo Tolstoy’s last novel of any cultural or literary significance.
(C) Written by Leo Tolstoy after he wrote his self-autobiographical trilogy.
(D) Written by Leo Tolstoy using inspirations from his experience in the Crimean War.

Without rereading the passage, I can immediately eliminate one of the answer choices. Why?  Because it is distinctly different than the author’s tone. The author is praising Tolstoy, so answer choice B, which comes off as critical (Saying that the book is Tolstoy’s last novel of any cultural or literary significance is pretty dang snarky!), couldn’t be the correct answer.

Let’s use this strategy again on a few more questions. First, read the following excerpt and identify the author’s tone:

“A handicapped child represents a qualitative different, unique type of development… If a blind child or a deaf child achieves the same level of development as a normal child, then the child with a defect achieves this in another way, by another course, by another means; and, for the pedagogue, it is particularly important to know the uniqueness of the course along which he must lead the child. This uniqueness transforms the minus of a handicap into the plus of compensation.”

That such radical adaptions could occur demanded, Luria thought, a new view of the brain, a sense of it not as programmed and static, but rather as dynamic and active, a supremely efficient adaptive system geared for evolution and change, ceaselessly adapting to the needs of the organism – its need, above all, to construct a coherent self and world, whatever defects or disorders of brain functions befell it. That the brain is minutely differentiated is clear: there are hundreds of tiny areas crucial for every aspect of perception and behavior. The miracle is how they all cooperate, are integrated together, in the creation of a self.

In this passage, the author’s tone is positive. The author uses the words  “dynamic,” “active” and “miracle,” and cites another author (in the first paragraph) who uses the word “unique.” Thus, these descriptive phrases allow me to conclude that the author takes a positive tone towards his or her subjects of handicaps and the brain.

Now, let’s take a look at some questions. The goal of this exercise is simply to notice what answer choices we can eliminate (not what the correct answers are) without rereading by simply noticing which tones of the answer choices does not match the tone of the author.

The author’s main purpose in the second paragraph is to show:

(A) how he has come to think differently about the brain.
(B) why sickness often causes a contraction of life.
(C) when he had made new discoveries about the brain.
(D) which of his subjects helped him redefine the term “norm.”

With just a quick look at this question, I can immediately eliminate answer choice B. This option takes a negative tone towards sickness, which is clearly out of line with the author’s tone.

Simple enough! Let’s try another question:

The quotation in the first paragraph is used in this passage to support the idea that:

(A) children with handicaps should be studied in the same way as children defined by physicians as “normal.”
(B) deficits need to demonstrate intactness in order to be judged acceptable.
(C) neural or sensory mishap occurs in children as well as adults.
(D) development of children with handicaps may proceed in positive yet quite distinctive ways.

Once again, you will notice that the tone of one of the answer choices stands out as distinctly different from the author’s tone: answer choice B is unusually harsh in tone (judging a deficit “acceptable” comes off as rather cold, if not outright inhumane), so I can make the decision, even without rereading the quote, to eliminate B.

The more adept you get at noting the author’s tone, the more naturally this strategy will come to you. So, next time you do a practice reading section, try incorporating this strategy into your studies.

*Note that I can use the matching tone strategy on these questions because they all reference the purpose of the author (namely, they begin with the phrases “according to the passage,” “the author’s main purpose,” “the quotation is used in this passage to support,” etc.). However, if the questions had asked about a different point of view than the author’s, I wouldn’t be able to use this strategy.

Still need to take the ACT? We run a free online ACT prep seminar every few weeks. And be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

By Rita Pearson