December 30, 2009
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I awoke that morning to the sound of my buzzing alarm clock radio. As the blurring of my vision subsided, I glanced at the time; it was seven in the morning. At first, I thought it was a typical Monday, and I rose with the intentions of going on with my usual routine. I suddenly realized, however, that it was Saturday. The reason I was up—and everyone knows I wouldn’t have been otherwise—was to finally take the ACT exam; The A-C-T exam. Yes, the phrase that I’d heard repeated at least a thousand-and-one-times up to this point. I had taken the prep course, paid for the review text, and taken several practice tests all in anticipation of today.
The ticket that I’d received after paying the fee for the exam highlighted the location, time, and necessary materials for the exam. A calculator was optional (yeah, right) and certain calculators were banned entirely. The required materials consisted of your admissions ticket, a number two pencil, and a photo ID. As I scrambled to gather the aforementioned materials, I tried to take steady breaths and not freak out as much. It seems the more I try to not forget something, the more likely I am to forget.

My mother is prepping herself for the car ride. I dig through the kitchen in an attempt to put together some sort of breakfast. After a few unsuccessful scans of the fridge and cabinets, I decide McDonald’s is better prepared for the morning than I am, and gather my shoes and jacket. In the garage, the car is hugging itself against the truck with almost no room to squeeze in. I open the passenger-side door and key the ignition from there, backing the vehicle, cautiously, out of the garage.
On the way to McDonald’s, my mother is going on about college, money, jobs, and the like. I’m completely zoned-out, and just nod in affirmation. All I could think about was the test throughout the whole drive. I pull into the McDonald’s parking lot and start thinking about what I might order. I’m too nervous to deal with the drive-thru, so I order inside. At the register, a young couple—probably in their teens—was trying to decide what they wanted. It gave me enough time to decide that I wanted. After getting my food, I exit the restaurant still thinking about the ACT.

After arriving at my school, and eating the meal I had purchased, I sat back in the driver’s seat observing everything that was going on around me. Cars were pulling in and parking across the lot. I noticed that the majority of kids had their own cars, or at least weren’t accompanied by an adult. I even recognized a few kids’ faces, but not anyone I knew personally. The time at this point was around seven-forty AM. I decided I’d better head in and get psyched.
Inside, the noise of talk and laughter was loud, but not to a degree that disallowed the hearing of your own thoughts. I recognized someone I actually did know personally and appropriately acknowledged him. I found out that he himself had taken the ACT before, and that this was his second time through. I felt a little behind the pack, as most people I asked admitted to having already taken the exam prior to today. I was nervous, and almost forgot to check my room number listed at the front of the commons. I realized that I was in need of a restroom, and started on a hunt, which turned into a quest, for a restroom. Most restrooms were locked off, and there were arrows directing students upstairs towards the available restrooms. I made it back with a little under ten-minutes to spare.
My room was downstairs in the history department, so I was pretty familiar with the location. I believe I had even spoken with the teacher, who was proctoring the exam, before and felt a little more at ease. Students were lined up outside the door as the proctor took admissions tickets and checked for ID. I was one of the last few kids to check in. I took my seat and waited for the prompts that the proctor was required to give. After filling out the demographic info and going over the rules and regulations of The ACT ®, we finally started the test.
The first section was English consisting of seventy-five questions with an allotted time of forty-five minutes. That gave me less than a minute per question, and averaged out to be thirty-six seconds per question. The first few questions were pretty standard grammar and punctuation. The latter questions were focused more on sentence structure and content. I was doing well all up until about the half-way mark, when the proctor announced five-minutes remaining for the test. At this point I took the advice of The Princeton Review and bubbled in the rest of the answers with a guess, giving me at least a shot at getting the points for those questions.
I was already discouraged. The math section was next. This time we were allowed sixty-minutes to complete sixty questions. A minute per problem was all I had. I had forgotten all the techniques that I had read about earlier. I seemed to just freeze. I had to snap myself out of it every once and a while and continue on. I hadn’t bothered with bringing a calculator (and I wasn’t the only one) as the instructions stated that all problems could be completed without the use of a calculator. This was a mistake, I realized. It’s true that the problems can be completed without a calculator, but the use of one does significantly speed up the basic calculations required for a lot of the problems. I spent what seemed like five-minutes completing a pretty basic percentage problem due to lacking a calculator. I was furious at myself. The proctor finally called five-minutes, and I realized I hadn’t even gotten through half of the problems. I began bubbling in my guesses.
I was done with the longest half of the exam, and also brutally disappointed in myself. The ten-minute break was next. I slowly scampered out into the commons and found Ryan, the gentleman I had talked to in the morning. I stated that the test was boring, and he agreed. I observed the chatter and movement of the other students. Couples were hugging and wishing each other luck. I was already hungry, and didn’t have any money to get a snack (another mistake on my part). The ten-minutes finally came to a close, and I made my way back into my room and seat. Last two sections were fairly short. Reading was next. I didn’t think I’d have any issues with this section, but as soon as I started reading the passage I forgot all of the rules that I had read about in the help books. I started zoning out and even looked up at the clock for a couple of minutes. I tried to refocus, and I did for a while. The same thing happened, though; I got half-way through and was forced to bubble in guesses for the remaining questions. Was so burnt out at this point I was ready to just completely guess on the next section, which was science.
I realized that it’s really hard for me to focus on one thing for four hours straight. The science section did not go well at all. I probably guessed on about two-thirds of it. I didn’t care at this point. I laid my head down on my desk for the remaining few minutes, not even bothering to go back over my answers. The proctor finally called time, and went on with collecting our packets and answer sheets. He dismissed us after doing so, and I quickly exited the room. In the commons, I panned my gaze in search of anyone I knew. Unsuccessful, I began texting and was grateful that the whole ordeal had finally ended. It was then that I realized what a crock the ACT exam was; it was just another standardized test of conformity.
The proctor had informed us that we would receive our results within three-to-four weeks. I was sure I had bombed it. The review manuals I had read for the ACT all stated that the exam was intended to measure your level of success in college, but that it did a horrible job of it. It doesn’t measure intelligence, supposedly, and only actually measures how well you take the ACT. My advice would be to never waste money on an ACT prep course, as the only thing you’ll be paying for is the crash course booklet you’ll, or at least should, receive. Filling out practice exams will give you the best prep for the test.

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