A major advantage of the ACT's computer-based test is that students have access to several on-screen tools to help them work more effectively. These tools include a highlighter, answer eliminator, answer masker, line reader, magnifier, and flag button.
Knowing when and how to use each tool can significantly boost a student's performance. It's important to practice ahead of time—using materials that mimic the format of the actual CBT—so that you can have a plan and save time on test day.
Here are some of the CBT tools you should use to your advantage on each section.
You can highlight words and phrases while you read. The highlighting tool can be especially helpful on the English section, where you can highlight independent clauses or other sentence pieces as you answer punctuation questions.
Note that your highlights will “stick” with a particular question, so the highlighting won't show up when you move on to other questions, but if you return to the question later, you can see what you had highlighted.
The answer eliminator lets you cross out answer choices as you narrow down your options. This tool comes in handy on every section, so you should always turn it on whenever you begin working.
Eliminating answer choices on the screen can save you a lot of time on Math questions in particular. As you test the answer choices and plug in numbers, cross off the options that don't work. When you want to eliminate an answer, click the “X” next to the answer choice.
The answer masking tool lets you hide the answer choices so you can predict the right answer before getting distracted by traps. On the Reading section, it can sometimes be helpful to answer a question in your own words before looking at the answer choices. This approach gives you something to aim for when you go to the answer choices.
Don’t focus on anticipating the perfect answer. Instead, think of this approach as a way of focusing yourself to avoid being led astray by wrong answers.
You can flag questions to review or answer later. The flag button can be especially useful on the Science section: even though it's generally time-consuming to skip around on CBT sections, some students perform better when they leave a specific Science passage for last. For example, the Conflicting Viewpoints passage—which presents multiple theories on a topic—can be the most difficult for many students, who save it for the end.
When you get to the passage you're planning to skip, flag the first question. Then, use the navigation bar to jump ahead 5 questions or so to the start of the next passage, and continue answering questions in order. When you're ready to complete the last passage, use the navigation bar to go back to the flagged passage you've saved for last.
Practice makes perfect
The key to mastering CBT tools is to work with actual CBT materials as much as possible. That way, you can experiment with different tools and strategies, practice implementing tools in an efficient manner, and perfect your plan for each section.
ArborBridge students also have access to CBT-style lessons and practice sections that teach them how to make the most of CBT tools. Students learn ACT content and strategies while continuing to master the CBT format itself—through clickable radio buttons, highlighted text, and more. Here's an example of a lesson a student might cover with her tutor:
In this way, a student can work on targeted skills during her tutoring sessions while continuing to strengthen the CBT-specific habits and strategies that will ensure her success on test day.
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