If your score disappoints, feel whatever you feel: sadness, anger, fear, whatever's inside. But after some normal grieving and frustration, you have to actively frame the test in your mind in a way that sets you up to succeed.
I teach my students not to judge themselves by their results, but by two questions instead.
Results are often out of our control. You can take the test and have it feel great, yet your score disappoints you; you can also feel like the test kicked your butt, yet surprisingly, you end up doing great.
What matters most is in your control - the effort you gave, and your willingness to learn everything you can from the result.
These are the two questions to ask yourself about any result:
1. Did I give my best effort?
2. Will I learn everything I can from this result?
If the answers to those questions are “Yes,” then you can feel good no matter what your score is tomorrow. What else can you do?
You might want a 30 tomorrow, or a 35, or whatever number you’re aiming for, but the hard truth often is, you’re not ready to get score that yet. Your grammar or math skills might not be sharp enough yet. You might still be reading ACT Science questions incorrectly and not realize it.
There’s also luck. On any given day, I’ll score between a 33 and 36 on the ACT – that’s a big range. But I’m still the same testtaker.
Getting your best score is a marathon, a long test of persistence and grit. Many students take the test at least three times.
When you get your score, if it isn't yet the one you want to send to colleges yet, then study what went wrong:
* Did I run out of time on a Section? How can I watch the time during the Section so that I know I’m on track the whole way? (Answer: memorize how minutes you want each Passage to take you, and as you begin each Passage, add that many minutes to the current time and write down the time by when you want to have finished the Passage. Do this every Passage.)
* Did I get frustrated by a Math question and spend too much time on it, causing me to not give enough time to later problems? How can I practice circling problems I’m unsure of and quickly skipping over them so I can get to all of the problems I CAN quickly solve, first? What do I need to tell myself so I can be less perfectionistic, to accept that some of the questions I won’t be able to do, and to keep an upbeat and aggressive mindset throughout the test even if a couple questions stump me along the way?
These are the types of specific questions you ask about your score tomorrow to ensure you are learning everything you can from it.
Few students get their best score on the April test. The truth is, it’s still a little early in the game.
You may have more studying to do, and if you started later in Junior year, then you may be one of the many teens who studies over the summer and gets their best mark on the July, September, or, yes, even the October exam of Senior year.
At the end of the day, you want colleges to see your best score. To get there, you don’t have to stress. You can still find times to relax and enjoy yourself each day.
But you do have to be persistent. You do have to keep your morale up., And you do have to learn everything you can from your mistakes.