ACT 101 from Someone Who Just Took It


by Anna Liu

The Juniors at Westlake had the chance to take a free ACT on Tuesday, February 27. They arrived at the high school, gripping their calculator and extra #2 pencils. Teachers directed them to their assigned room and where they sat in their assigned desk with an assigned smile on their faces. The proctors read the directions in a monotone voice, clearly wanting to be there even less than the students. After being told approximately seventeen times to put their phones away and turn them off, the timer was set. Slight rustling as the booklets were torn open and the steady scratch of pencils on the bubble sheets filled the room.

Why is there so much tension around this particular test? It might help to know more about the ACT. The ACT is the American College Test (cleverly named, I know) and the score is one of the first things colleges look at. There’s a lot of stress surrounding it, understandably. Here are some ways to prepare for this test.

It’s not the what; it’s the how.

Much of the ACT is basic knowledge split into five sections: English, math, reading, science, and writing. The writing section is not required to take, but the Westlake juniors were just so fortunate to have the amazing opportunity to take for free on Tuesday. These questions are based off of lessons you’ve had since eighth grade. What’s important is knowing how to take this test. Look up some strategies online or take prep classes. Prep classes can be expensive, but there are many free resources online. is a great website for practice tests.

No last minute cramming.

It honestly makes you so much more stressed out and it won’t teach you anything you don’t already know. The night before, do something relaxing and not school related at all. Face masks are a good option because they are calming and you exfoliate your face. Moral of the story: don’t study the night before. This isn’t a normal test.

Come prepared.

Bring a calculator and a #2 pencil. You can find lists of approved calculators for the ACT online, but I can assure you that the TI-83 and TI-84 are approved. That’s what most Westlake students have. Any kind of calculator that can connect to Wifi is prohibited. Sharpen your pencils. Eat breakfast. This is a long test. Bring a snack if you want, but you can’t eat during the test and make sure you take it out of your backpack beforehand because you can’t open that until the test is officially over.

Good luck, kids. You need it.