Westside Tutoring & Testing Services: The ACT is Upon Us and You’re Ready!

Westside Tutoring & Testing Services' How to Earn a 36 on the ACT


You know the test inside and out. You only need apply what you’ve learned to earn a superior score. That being said, you are already a winner in my book. You have worked so hard and I am very proud of you and of all the work you’ve done. You have come such a long way in a short period of time!

This is your ACT Action Plan…a Roadmap to a 36!

If you apply the things you’ve learnedslow down, let that big brain of yours do its work, and relax, you will achieve your goals…all of them!

1) Supplies: Take an adequate number of pencils and erasers.

2) Calculator: Make sure your batteries are fresh!
3) Eat a decent complex carb dinner the night before and a good breakfast with complex carbs Saturday morning (that doesn’t include Captain Crunch or Trix!). This is an extremely important point…don’t skip breakfast and take a light snack and a beverage with you (e.g., Gatorade, Powerade, etc.).
4) More Supplies: Take a 6″ ruler with you for the Science Reasoning section.
5) Throughout the ACT: Do NOT leave anything blank. With 5 minutes to go, if you haven’t finished, fill in all the remaining blanks. Then, with the time you have left, begin to work on the questions one-by-one, changing any answers that are incorrect.
6) Throughout the ACT: Process of Elimination (POE) - Use it actively and aggressively. Get rid of the answer choices that are just plain wrong and limit your choices. Then choose wisely grasshopper!
7) English: Pay attention to tense, voice, context, and chronology. Ask yourself: Is this redundant?
8) English: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! Is this sentence grammatically correct? Again, does it fit the context? Is it accurate?
9) English: Does this sentence flow? Do I need a pause (comma) here?
10) English: Remember the Down and Dirty Semicolon Rule: Do these phrases stand on their own?
11) English: Remember the rules for the proper use of a colon: a) List (to include, the following, etc.); b) Punctuation used to make an announcement; c) The colon only follows an independent clause and introduces a word, phrase, sentence, or group of sentences (Note: you aren’t likely to see the “group of sentences” condition on the ACT – but watch out!).
12) English: Watch for a hyphenated clause! It must either end with another hyphen, as in the body of a sentence, or close the sentence. If it doesn’t satisfy one of these two conditions on the ACT it is probably incorrect (like 99.999% of the time).
13) English: Is this answer choice concise? The most concise, grammatically correct answer is always the best!
14) Critical Reading and Science Reasoning: Ask yourself, “Do I know this?” Based on what you have read or appears in a passage, study, description, experiment, table, figure, or graph, can I support this answer choice?
15) English, Critical Reading, Science Reasoning: What is this question asking, precisely?
Example: Given that all the choices are true_______________. Identify what they are asking for in the question! Underline it and watch out for traps. Be critical! Am I reading into this my own likes, dislikes, emotions, etc. or can I support this based on the information in the passage?
16) Critical Reading and Science Reasoning: Get active in searching out the answers based on the techniques you’ve learned. Can you identify the exact phraseword-for-word or paraphrased, that answers this question? If not, keep looking!
17) Critical Reading: Have you read the questions and identified the answers, in context? Have you underlined and/or made notes in order to set your schema? Did you identify the answers based on the reading, even before going to the answer choices? You should have an answer choice prepared prior to looking at the answer choices offered! Does yours match theirs? Are you close? Keep looking!
18) English and Critical Reading: Pay close attention to context and chronology when reading. Does this follow from what I have read so far?
19) Mathematics: Plug in! Plug in! Plug in! We are doing ACT Mathematics and the only answer that matters is the correct one. So, when you have to, wing it!
20) Mathematics: Watch for transposition errors. Check to make sure you have the correct sign (i.e., positive or negative). Don’t give away points because you’ve made a “simple mistake!”
21) Mathematics: Remember your rules, theorems, formulas, etc (see below). The Pythagorean Theorem is your best friend. Don’t forget a^2 + b^2 = c^2!
22) Mathematics: Draw out your figures and identify the parameters…always! Lines, squares, triangles, even graphs. Especially graphs! Draw, identify, label, and solve (DILS).
23) Mathematics: Remember your 30:60:90 and 45:45:45 rules, theorems, basic mathematical rules (e.g., lowest common denominator, similar triangles, area of circle, area of square, area of triangle, area of trapezoid, perimeter of circle, perimeter of square and rectangle, and so on).
24) Mathematics: Break down your figures into smaller, more manageable figures and work from there. Use the same technique for functions: Work from the outside-in.
25) Mathematics: SHOW YOUR WORK! If you don’t show your work, you can’t check your work. Always check your work. Don’t lose points because you failed to check your work!
26) Mathematics: Identify the range and get rid of answer choices outside your answer range (i.e., ballparking).
27) Mathematics: You are not infallible. Your calculator is not infallible. Double check your entries and your work before moving on.
28) Mathematics: Remember PEMDAS, FOIL, difference of squares, factoring, SOHCAHTOA!
29) Mathematics: Break down word problems by writing everything out, step-by-step and then check your work. Examples: “is” represents = | “of” represents multiplication | “and” represents + | and so on.
30) Mathematics: a) Circle questions begin by drawing a (360 degree) circle; b) Straight lines are 180 degrees and the points on the line are collinearc) Triangles are 180 degrees; d) Squares, rectangles, parallelograms, and rombi are 360 degrees.
31) Mathematics: Proportionality calls for cross-multiplication in almost every instance on the ACT.
32) Mathematics: Distance formula, midpoint formula, slope-intercept formula, slope formula, etc (see below). And don’t forget that d = rt.
33) Science Reasoning: The Science Reasoning section is a READING section! The answers are there. Whether it is in text, tables, figures, graphs, charts, or whatever…the answers are there! Take your time, identify the answer, and score big on this section!
34) Science Reasoning: Pay close attention to italicized words. They are usually important and are often definitions you must know.
35) Science Reasoning: Identify the X & Y axis and the dependent and independent variables. Additionally, watch for the differences in experiments (e.g., differences in temperature, mass, velocity, volume, etc.). The experiments will usually have a constant variable in one experiment, while varying the same in the next. Identify the control and the experimental design (i.e., What are they manipulating? What are they trying to accomplish? etc.).
36) Science Reasoning: Watch for the traps in the alternative hypotheses sections (i.e., 2 Domain vs 3 Domain Hypothesis for Archaea). Identify your answers! The answers are always there, although often paraphrased.
37) Science Reasoning: Use your 6″ ruler and draw your answers out based on the questions asked and answer choices offered. Mark it up! If you can see it, chances are very good that you will get the right answer!
38) Science Reasoning: Don’t get bogged down in the minutiae. Meaning, don’t get bogged down in a section with a lot of dense material. Most material is extraneous and completely unnecessary.
39) Science Reasoning: You have one goal: 40/40 on the Science Reasoning section!
40) Writing: To master the ACT Writing section all you need to create is a solid first draft. ACT graders are not looking for the Great American Novel, they are looking for a fundamentally sound draft.
41) Writing: Begin by stating your position based on the prompt. The easiest way to create an opening sentence is by restating the prompt in the form of a statement, either for or against.
42) Writing: Pick two or three good examples that will support your position. The examples can be from reading, coursework, personal experience, or some combination of the three.
43) Writing: The opening paragraph should accomplish these three things: a) State your thesis, your argument (see #40); b) Introduce your examples (see #41); c) Then, write a transitional sentence to close your introductory paragraph and move into the body of your writing sample and the first paragraph (Note: this paragraph should be built around your first example).
44) Writing: The third paragraph must support your second example and the fourth paragraph must support your third example…if you have one.
45) Writing: You do not need three examples to score a 5 or 6 on the Writing section, but it helps. If you only have two examples, make sure they are good ones and that they are well written. Sometimes, less is more.
46) Writing: The conclusion must restate the thesis statement and the examples. You need to accomplish three things when writing your ACT Writing sample: a) Tell them what you are going to say; b) Say it; c) Tell them what you said.
47) Writing: Remember, all you need is a solid first draft. You are not expected, nor do you have time to write, the Great American Novel! The ACT graders are looking for a solid opening sentence and paragraph, two or three examples in the body of the work, and a conclusion that restates your position as fact. Do that and you will earn a perfect or near-perfect score.
48) Writing: The ACT Writing section is often scored by part-time graders who are scoring (up to) several hundred exams in a day. They are going to give your writing sample 3-5 minutes, tops. They do not have time for a poorly written sample. So make sure you write a position statement (for or against) that is grammatically correct, as free from spelling errors as possible, and easy to follow. Do not stray off topic or restate the same sentence over and over again. Redundancies will poison your writing sample and your score will plummet. Keep your sample clean, direct, and to the point. Again, less is often more. A writing sample that has a solid position statement (thesis), two great examples that are supported in the body of your work, and a conclusion that supports your position will earn a better score than a writing sample that is long, rambling, and ends up at a destination that is somewhere other than where you started from.
49) Mathematics: Formulas (below)

So, you are ready…so relax and enjoy the experience. Seriously! You can always take the exam again, so don’t put a lot of pressure on yourself. Remember to take a deep breath in between pages, passages, and sections. Deep breathing now and then will help you relax and stay sharp.

Again, good luck! I hope you will let me know if this helped you focus your thoughts on exam day. I wish you all the best and may all your effort pay off in an ACT Composite Score of 36!

Professor John P. J. “Jack” Zajaros, Sr.
Serving the Students of NE Ohio for More than 3 Decades!
Lakewood, Ohio 44107
216-712-7004 (office)

Note: Spend some time on the less familiar formulas today, tonight, and tomorrow morning. It will pay off!


Westside Tutoring & Testing ACT/SAT Math Formulas

Prepare for the ACT Today!

Westside Tutoring & Testing Services
Serving the Students of NE Ohio for More than 3 Decades!
216-712-7004 (office)


The Do’s & Don’ts of Studying for Finals: Part I

Westside Tutoring & Testing Services: How to Study for Finals 101

All-Nighters: A Recipe for Failure

As we move closer to finals week and SAT, ACT, and LSAT dates, the temptation is to stay up later, get up earlier, study in marathon sessions, skip meals, and avoid showers (unfortunately). In point fact, pulling your hair back and into a ponytail often serves as the next-best thing to a shower…for guys and girls!

Westside Tutoring & Testing Services' How to Survive Finals Week 101

Unfortunately, this strategy, or series of strategies, has a real downside…over and above the obvious one!

Almost everyone has pulled an all-nighter at one time or another, myself included. It was one of the most grueling experiences of my academic life and one I wouldn’t want to live through again. My all-nighter came before a Social Psychology final taught by Professor Brian Blake at Cleveland State University. And yes, I got an A on the final and for the course.

But would I do it again?


If you have several exams over the course of a week or two, coupled with an all-important ACT, SAT, or GRE, adhering to the above-mentioned strategy or set of strategies will do more harm than good.

Instead of going all Kamikaze, here is a strategy that works:

  • Begin at once!
  • Set up a schedule and stick to it.
  • Study in 45-60 minute blocks, depending on how dense the subject matter is.
  • Take a 5-10 minute breaks and then resume.
  • You can keep that up for 4-6 hours (4-10pm) and still get a decent night’s sleep (weeknights).
  • Study in 3-4 hour blocks over the weekend. Remember to take breaks every 45-60 minutes. You will be able to study longer (3-4 blocks) and retain more.
  • Don’t skip meals “because you just don’t have time” or you’re “just not that hungry right now.”
  • Make sure you eat a decent breakfast loaded with complex carbs on exam day(s).

NOTE: Your brain is a voracious consumer of carbohydrates and you must replenish your body’s stores every day…several times a day during exam week. Think of yourself as a marathoner and carbohydrate loading a necessity.

Load! Load! Load!

Westside Tutoring & Testing Services Recommends Carb Loading

No Kidding!

More to follow….

Please leave a comment. I’d love to hear your thoughts and strategies you use that work.

Professor Z

Professor John P. J. “Jack” Zajaros, Sr.
Westside Tutoring & Testing Services
Serving the Students of NE Ohio for Over 3 Decades!
Lakewood, Ohio 44107
216-712-7004 (office)
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