Why Students Struggle on the ACT

Published on Tuesday, April 2nd, 2019 by

ACT Chalk Talk #17


The first step to improving scores is understanding why they aren’t as high as they should be. Students’ scores are typically held down by one of four things: 

1: Time Management

The ACT is a timed test. Students who can answer questions more quickly and have more disciplined pacing are more likely to succeed. Check out our chalk talk on time management to learn more.
Read more about Time Management in this blog post

2: Test-Taking Skills

Knowing how to take tests is a learned skill that does not develop naturally. If students have not received intentional instruction on common test-taking techniques and logic (aka “the process of elimination”), they are at a disadvantage. Fortunately, these skills aren’t magical or even mysterious, and many of them can be learned in the space of a single day, which we do in our ACT Boot Camp.

3: Assessed Standard Gap

Students often ace classroom content only to fail when similar content appears on the ACT. That’s because even though state standards and the ACT both focus on college readiness, there’s a gap in how the ACT assesses these standards, which can defy student expectations. Only teachers who are intimately familiar with the ACT’s approach can help their students bridge this gap. This is a primary focus of our professional development program, Decoding the ACT.

4: Content Mastery

Even if students have mastered time management and test-taking skills and even if their teachers have worked to connect classroom instruction to ACT’s college readiness standards, students will still have a difficult time on the test if they don’t know the math, the grammar, or if they struggle with low reading levels. Remediation can move the needle for these students, especially when aligned to college readiness—but it takes time. Start early! ACT Mastery can help; our course has accelerated students scoring as low as 14 to achieve a 20 and higher.