Tough ACT to follow

Tough ACT to follow

After earning a perfect score on his ACT in March, Mahomet-Seymour High School junior Griffin Megeff decided to take the same exam again in April, mostly because he'd already paid for it. When he got the results a few weeks later, Megeff was shocked to see another 36 at the top of the page.

He shared a few of his secrets with staff writer Nicole Lafond, chatting about what it takes to earn the coveted perfect ACT score — twice.

Here's six exam-taking tips from the ACT whiz kid himself:

1. Do a 'trial run'

The March and April exams were not Megeff's first rodeo. Back in October he took the test as a "trial run."

While Megeff earned a 33 on his first attempt at the college entrance exam, he encourages every junior to take it two or three times. It not only calms your nerves but gives you a better idea of how to study next time around.

"If you take it early enough, you'll know you have other tests to make up for it if you don't do the best. You can look at it as a trial run," he said.

Early time frames Megeff recommends? October or December, and then of course, once or twice in the spring.

2. Forget about the time limit

No matter how many times he takes the ACT, Megeff says he will never get used to the anxiety the second-by-second countdown on the timer — often a large digital clock looming at the front of the room. His solution? Try to ignore it.

"It's good to have a solid basis of where you're at, and know how many minutes you have left to finish, but sometimes you need to put it out of your mind, pretend like there's no time limit and just go forward," he said. "Still go as fast as you can, but just keep moving forward."

3. Avoid 'miss-bubbling'

When in doubt, pick a letter. For Megeff, skipping a question without filling in a bubble is one of the biggest mistakes students make on the ACT because chances are you'll either mess up your Scantron, or you'll forget to come back to it.

"If you have absolutely no idea, just pick a bubble to fill in. You can always come back to it, but there are studies out there that show which letters or bubbles have the highest probability of being right," he said.

While Megeff didn't use this particular approach, he says he's a big fan of guessing; there are plenty of ways to make educated estimates.

"Usually, there are two answers that are exactly the same, so you can cross those off. A lot of times, there are answers that just don't make any sense, so you can just narrow things down for yourself," he said. "That's one of the most important things you can do — process of elimination."

4. Study for math and English

For Megeff, those are the "easiest" portions of the exam. Not because he's particularly good at either subject, but because those are the only sections you can truly study for, he said.

"There aren't as many wild cards. It doesn't vary as much from test-to-test. There's just basic concepts you have to nail down."

In his ACT prep class at MSHS, a course all juniors are required to take, Megeff said his math and English teachers spent a lot of time going over the range of material included on the exam, like algebra 1, geometry, algebra 2, trigonometry and English grammar concepts.

"It's something you can really prepare for, whereas science and reading are the biggest time crunches and they vary in the way they're structured. Those sections can be different every time," he said.

5. Be consistent

On average, Megeff spent no more than 30 minutes a week this semester prepping for the ACT outside of class time. And — he's adamant about this — that's all it takes.

"Weekly, you just need to go over each section a few times. It doesn't take that long if you take a practice-test each week, like we did in our class. Outside of that, go over the concepts you can study for on a consistent basis and you'll be fine," he said.

For those students whose schools don't offer an ACT prep course, Megeff strongly recommends getting involved in a private class. But it's not necessary to go over the top. "Our prep course was sufficient for me," he said. "It gave me all the materials I needed to study off of."

6. Chill out

Despite his ACT success, Megeff doesn't think he took his studying any more seriously than his classmates.

"It's all about putting in small bits of extra work," he said. "That can really make the difference."

But even though he felt confident in his prep work, he said it was really hard for him to relax afterward.

"I'm the most anxious person there is, but you just have to do your best to put the whole thing out of your mind," he said.

And for Megeff, eating was the best distraction. Because of the way the exam is scheduled, it's usually lunchtime when he finished.

"I always go right out to lunch with my family — just the little things that can keep you from stressing too much."

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