Persevering through ACT develops work ethic

Grace Shin, co-editor-in-chief

If you know me, you probably know that basically my entire life has been devoted to completing the ACT. Sure, everyone’s life was at one point. But when I say my “life,” I mean several years, not just a few months.

To give a little background on my history with the test, I remember taking my first ACT English test in middle school, at around sixth grade. Shocking, I know. If I were to compare my ACT experience to training for a marathon, I would say I was finding the shoes I would run the marathon in. Except, I didn’t know I would be running, and that it would take over a year.

The next year, I took an English class at a tutoring center geared towards teaching the ins and outs of English grammar. I wasn’t entirely upset about taking this class because I knew it would help me beyond preparation for the test. After a short break that let me adjust to high school, I began to take the real ACT classes that were focused on getting me a better score.

At this point, you may be asking why I started test preparation so early. But I don’t count the classes I took in middle school as ACT preparation; my training actually began my sophomore year. Most begin their prep junior year but my goal was to complete the ACT by the end of my sophomore year. It didn’t go as I had planned.

I officially started my ACT marathon the December of my sophomore year and continued to take two more tests that school year. My score increased from my first and second test but stayed the same on my third one. The increase was better than nothing but I wasn’t even close to the number that I, or the people around me, were satisfied by. I had to keep running.

As I was running to classes and tests, I developed a deep hatred for the ACT. Because of this test, I was forced to take hours out of my week and constantly practice. As I took almost every test offered to me during my junior year, my score increased but the ratio of time to score increase was too small for me to be happy. Then, at a certain point, I hit a wall.

I had taken so many test preparation classes and practice tests that it became hard for me to find a practice test I hadn’t taken. On all of the tests I took, I kept seeing the same number over and over again. I kept getting the same composite score on all the practice and real tests I took. I was tired of running this never-ending marathon and tired of being able to expect my score.

So I had to change my strategy. I stopped relying on the classes to get my score and started practicing on my own; it worked. My composite increased by two points from the number I was stuck on during the September test this year. A weight was thrown off my shoulders; I broke down the wall I was stuck behind and I was running again. But I still signed up for the October test.

I’ve heard my share of “You’re crazy’’s throughout my time with the ACT, but people were more shocked when they heard I was taking a test less than a week before the early college application deadline, since I had already reached my goal score. But I had to because I didn’t get a 36. The race wasn’t over.

I don’t expect myself to get a higher score on this test, but I’m okay with it. Maybe there wasn’t a point to taking this test then. But I wanted to take every opportunity I was given, including the very last one. If I was going to end my marathon with ACT, I wanted to end it with as few regrets as possible, regardless of whether I got a 36.

Why didn’t I get a 36 after all those tests? I don’t know. Maybe it was my lack of motivation. Do I regret it? A little. I probably could have gotten to where I am now a lot faster. But do I regret not giving up in the middle? No, not a chance. If I had given up at my wall, I never would have known that I would be able to break it down.

Running a marathon isn’t about finishing it under a certain time and isn’t about giving up when you run into a wall; it’s about perseverance and finishing it knowing that you tried your best.