Archive for the ‘Test Prep Resources’ Category

6 Factors That Can Affect ACT Scores

How-to-Improve-ACT-ScoresIt’s difficult to know whether or not something will make or break your college application. Should you take exclusively AP courses? Focus more on your personal essay? Take three lifestyle courses and cling tight to your 4.0? The reality is that, the most important factor comes down to what your dream school deems the most important factor.

However, one thing does remain true — your ACT score needs to be high enough to keep you out of the “no” pile. Here are six things that may factor into how well you’re scoring.

1. Sleep

We’ve all heard it before and we’re going to hear it again. Sleep impacts everything, especially your test scores. Cramming all night long will never be as beneficial to you as sleep will be. In a study performed by the ACT committee, students who slept 7-10 hours the night before retaking their ACT consistently scored one point higher than their previous test scores. Students who reported sleeping less than three hours saw only half of that improvement in their composite test scores.

 2. Breakfast

No doubt having a well-balanced breakfast is another tip you’ve already heard, but the same study done by the group at ACT found that students who ate breakfast before their retakes saw composite score improvements. Going into your test with a full stomach will allow you to focus less on finding a snack during your breaks, and more on the next section of the test.

3. Faster Internet

In a recently published study by High Speed Internet, a state’s internet speed showed a stronger correlation to ACT scores than household median income. The study also reveals that, on average, students who live in states with faster internet score higher than those who live in states with lower internet speeds. How’s that for new information?

 4. Positive Thinking

Many scholarly reports have been done on the power of positive thinking. It isn’t just a fluffy term your yoga instructor throws around. Thinking positive thoughts before you do anything, particularly take a big test, can impact how you end up performing. And on the opposite end of that, if you’re sure you’re going to fail, you probably will fail.

5. Reading

When Miami High School implemented a silent sustained reading program that required students to read for about an hour two times per week, students achieved steady gains in ACT reading scores. In fact, students raised their reading scores two points over four years. As a bonus, improving reading speeds and comprehension levels will allow you to work through all sections of the test faster and more efficiently.

6. Family Income

Research conducted by the ACT organization reveals that students from “low-income” families (defined as having a family income of less than $36,000 per year) don’t perform as well on the ACT as non-low-income families. Of the nearly 400,000 low-income students who took the ACT in 2012, only 10 percent met all four college readiness benchmarks in English, reading, math, and science, versus about 25 percent of non-low-income students meeting all four benchmarks.

My number one tip? After taking the ACT 4 times, I can say with surety that forcing yourself to stay calm and take the test one step at a time makes a tremendous impact. I once jumped 7 points in the science section by reading the questions one at a time and then referring back to the story—rather than reading the story first and then answering the questions. Like I said: one step at a time. You can do this!

photo (1)
Holly King is a recently graduated writer living in Salt Lake City, UT. When not scouring the internet for updates in business, lifestyles and technology, she is tending to her garden and trying to perfect the world’s best egg sandwich.

image credit:

Comments: No Comments »

Answers and Advice for Retaking Your ACT/SAT

affective_studentChances are if you are a current junior in high school, you have taken either the ACT or SAT this school year. Some of you may be anxiously awaiting your results, while others have already had the chance to review results and compare them to the admission requirements of the colleges you are applying to.

If you are worried about how well you did on your ACT or SAT and whether your scores are good enough, I can assure you that you are not alone. During my experience working with high school students, I found there were several common questions and concerns students and their parents had regarding tests used for college admission purposes. I’m here to hopefully address some of these concerns.

Q: How important is my ACT/SAT for getting into a college?

A: Ultimately this depends on the college to which you are applying. In some cases, colleges will not accept students with ACT/SAT scores below a certain number, while others take a more holistic approach to reviewing college applications (meaning they prefer to consider the applicant based on the entire application, and not just individual pieces). I encourage you to visit the websites of your prospective colleges and review their admission requirements carefully.

Q: How many times should I take the ACT/SAT? Is it worth retaking it at all?

A: I always encourage students to retake the college admission test at least once. According to, 57% of students who retook the ACT in 2013 scored higher the second time. The odds are in your favor. As far as a limit to the number of times you retake the tests, that is up to you. Two things to consider about retaking your test: timing (At which point do colleges no longer accept new scores?) and cost (If you are on the free or reduced-price lunch program at your school, talk to your high school counselor about receiving a fee waiver.). In my experience, many students don’t see increased results in their scores after taking it a third time, but I’m sure there are always exceptions to this.

Q: Why should I retake the ACT/SAT?

A: There are a few reasons you may want to consider retaking your college admission test. Apart from the probability that you will score higher your second time, achieving a higher score has its benefits. Having a higher ACT/SAT score may open the door to more colleges to which you can apply. Secondly, even if your current scores qualify you for admission to the school of your choice, having a higher ACT/SAT score may mean more merit-based scholarships. I once had a student retake the ACT, and by going up one point, her college offered her an additional $6,000 per year in scholarship money. For most students, that extra money would be completely worth the effort of preparing for and retaking an exam.

Q: Should I take both the ACT and SAT?

A: It is important to know the admission requirements of the schools for which you are interested in applying. Some colleges require the ACT, while others require the SAT. Many (if not most) schools will accept either test for admission purposes. If you are not yet sure which colleges you will apply to, try taking both so as not to limit your choices later.

Q: Should I take the writing portion of the ACT?

A: In case you apply to a college or university that requires the writing section, I strongly advise taking it. At this time, you are not able to take the writing section of the ACT by itself, so you would have to retake the entire exam in order to complete the writing section.

Q: What if I don’t do well on my ACT/SAT? Does this mean I can’t go to college?

A: Not at all! There are a few options for students who may not be good test takers but are prepared and want to attend college.

Option 1: Community college. If you want to attend college but aren’t qualified for admission to the school of your choice because of a low ACT/SAT score, you have the ability to attend a two-year school first and then apply to transfer to a four-year school. For many students this isn’t ideal, but it still provides you with the chance to attend your dream school. In many cases, once you establish yourself as a college student, when you apply as a transfer student, the college will be more interested in your experience in college student rather than high school, which means no ACT/SAT score requirements. (Bonus: Oftentimes, community colleges are less expensive, so chances are you’ll also save money in the long run this way.)

Option 2: Applying to colleges that are test-optional. If you are determined to avoid community college and attend a four-year school, but are afraid your test scores will prohibit you from achieving your goal, there is good news. There is a lengthy list of colleges and universities that do not require an ACT or SAT score to apply and be accepted. That’s right, the rest of your application will speak for itself, and your lower test score will not be counted against you. You can find this list of test-optional colleges, as well as more information here.

Q: Does it help to study? Should I pay for an ACT/SAT prep program?

A: This is entirely up to you. Most students do better if they have prepared in some way, but only you know which teaching/studying style you are comfortable with. There are plenty of test prep options out there, ranging from online websites to in-school and private tutoring. It definitely does not hurt to prepare and study for the ACT/SAT, but it is a personal choice of how you decide to do so. Check out our post here for additional tips on studying for the ACT/SAT.

Bottom line: Take your ACT/SAT seriously, but try not to stress to the point that it impacts your personal and academic life. Take a deep breath, do your research, and know there are options for every student that wants to pursue a college education. As always, we at Cappex are here to assist you along this journey.

Image credit:

Comments: No Comments »

Top 10 Best Study Tips of All Time

Exams can cause tremendous stress. Not knowing what to expect and how you’ll end up doing can be nerve-wracking. Have no fear! You will feel like you’re ready to take on anything after learning these study tips and tricks. Practice them and you’ll be ready to tackle that exam in no time.

1. Scent

Put a little bit of perfume, cologne, essential oil, body spray, body mist, or scented lotion on while you’re studying, and then put on the same scent when you’re going to take the quiz or exam. You may also try using a body wash or soap to achieve the same effect. The scent will trigger the memory that you stored in your brain when you were studying. For best results, try a scent that you don’t have a lot of association with already.

2. Flavored Gum

Chewing a flavored gum is another great trigger for your brain. The flavor and texture of the gum can help you retrieve information from your brain quicker. For best results, try a flavor that you’re unfamiliar with.

3. Candy Trail

gummy bearsIf you need a little motivation to read books or lengthy passages, try the candy trail method. Place a bite-sized piece of candy, such as M&Ms, Reese’s Pieces, Skittles, Junior Mints, or gummy bears, beside every paragraph on the page. Once you finish reading each paragraph, reward yourself by eating that piece of candy. Positive reinforcement is a great way to motivate you and help you learn. If you don’t have a sweet tooth or prefer to stay away from excess sugar, choose something else bite-sized that you enjoy, such as pieces of cereal, pretzels, dried fruit, nuts, or crackers.

4. Times New Roman

Make sure your typed notes are in Times New Roman font. This font is one of the best and easiest to read in, and you will breeze through your notes.

5. Color Your Notes

Try taking notes and doing homework assignments with colored pens, markers, and highlighters. The colorful notes will improve your visual memory and therefore allow you to access information from your brain during an exam faster.

6. Teach Your Friend

You may think that you have the exam in the bag, but what happens if during the exam you have difficulty finding a way to explain your answers or put your thoughts into words? By lecturing to a friend, you are training and preparing your mind to recall and express information on demand, putting it in a fast, accessible place. This technique is especially helpful if you need to prepare for a speech or presentation.

7. Listen to Recorded Lectures

Listening to recorded lectures is helpful, especially if you are reviewing the notes you took along with it. This is a great way to refresh your mind of the lessons you have learned. These records are helpful because it brings the original information to a more easily accessible place in your brain in time for the exam.

8. Instrumental Music

TWhile music is a great stimulant for our brains, some music can overwhelm and exhaust them. That said, not all music is bad for your brain. If you dislike the silence of a library or your roommate won’t turn the TV off, try putting in some headphones and jamming to some instrumental music while you’re studying. This will help energize your brain cells, making them happy and active, which will in turn make you feel more motivated to study.

9. Study Old Exams

If you have access to old exams, take advantage of it. Try re-taking old exams and treat them like the real deal. Studying old exams are also helpful because they can give you a good idea of how a professor phrases exam questions, the important ideas that may be included on the new exam, and what your strengths and weaknesses in the subject are. The better you do while practicing your old exams, the more confident you’ll be going into this new exam.

10. Outfit and Setting

If you can, study while wearing the same outfit you plan to wear on the day of the exam. By doing so repeatedly, your brain will associate your clothes with the studied materials so it will not appear new to you. Routine and familiarity are big keys in helping your brain retrieve information and from preventing your nerves from getting the better of you. These study tips are great for all types of exams. Although it is important to study hard, don’t forget that you should also take breaks to rest and recharge your eyes, body, and mind. Food fuels the brain, so don’t forget to eat healthy and exercise to send more oxygen to your brain. Stay hydrated and don’t over-stress yourself! Practice these study tips and you’ll have the confidence to take on just about anything.

image credits:,

Comments: 2 Comments »