So you have decided that you would like to sit the ACER examination in order to unlock scholarship opportunities for a school next year? That’s great and you should be proud of your decision!
Just like any examination, test or race, your preparation is important. By investing some time before the examination getting ready, you should see your performance improve. An improved performance should unlock more scholarship opportunities or the value of a scholarship that a school may offer you. Many schools make their decisions about academic scholarships based on your percentile (rank) on the ACER examination.
The ACER examination attracts some of the brightest students in the country. That means, you will be ranked against students who are traditionally at the top of their age cohort. Every mark will lead towards a better result and, therefore, a higher percentile.
There are four parts to the secondary examination. They are:
Test 1: Written Expression (extended response, 25 minutes)
Test 2: Humanities – Comprehension and Interpretation (multiple choice, 40 minutes)
Test 3: Mathematics (multiple choice, 40 minutes)
Test 4: Written Expression (extended response, 25 minutes).
So do you want some advice? Here are three tips that may help you ace that ACER examination for Test 1, Test 2 and Test 4.
- Read Widely and Allow Your Mind to Wonder
This tip isn’t about buying really wide books and reading them! When someone says you need to read widely it means that you need to read books from different authors, different genres and from different historical periods. By reading widely you open your mind to ideas, language structure and, most importantly, it allows you to wonder.
In the ACER examination, you will be required to compose two written expressions. Each written expression will be a different stimulus and therefore you need to be able to draw on a wealth of ideas in a short 25 minutes. By reading widely you allow your mind to exercise its natural curiosity and wonder, and this helps you generate your own ideas. There is nothing worse than spending a lot of time thinking about what you are going to write. Remember, you will have 25 minutes to plan, write and edit. You want this to be your best work, so having your mind naturally flow with ideas is important.
- Practise Writing
Writing is both an art and a science. It’s an art because it is personally expressive and reflects our individuality. Our ideas are generated from what we have read or been exposed to and this is what makes us stand out from others. Writing is also a science because there are a range of steps, procedures and structures that can be used for each of the genres. We can harness our individuality in our writing and apply the structure of a genre to create some amazing pieces.
For the ACER examination, you have 25 minutes to write your response. That means you want to ensure that you get the right structure with your amazing ideas. To prepare for this experience you need practice. You cannot expect to do your best piece of writing without practising this technique under timed conditions. Therefore, if you want your results to rank you higher, you need to practise writing without having too much time to consider what you are going to write about.
If you know that you have great ideas but suffer in the structure of your writing, get some help from someone at your school or online. There are lots of websites with information and video tutorials that can help you improve your writing structure.
- Think Critically
Thinking critically isn’t just thinking about the good and bad points of a topic or concept and writing down a list. While that is an important step, critical thinking is much deeper and more involved.
A critical thinker can improve the quality of their thinking by raising vital questions and problems, and gathering and assessing relevant information using alternative systems of thought, recognition and assessment to find solutions to complex problems. Critical thinking is often referred to as a ‘higher order skill’ because it requires effort to examine any belief or supposed form of knowledge, considering the evidence that supports it and the further conclusions to which it tends to extend. So, what does that all mean?
For your ACER examination, you need to be prepared for the comprehension and interpretation test and this is often when you are going to use your critical thinking skills. This is where you will be given all the information you need to answer the questions and you will be expected to answer questions that demonstrate whether you have comprehended the big ideas. You will also be required to analyse and interpret what you have read and some of the questions will require you to look for hidden meaning. To do this, you need to switch your brain from using the inferior frontal gyrus (the part of the brain that is predominantly used for creative thinking) and use more of the interconnectedness of the temporal lobe, prefrontal region and parietal lobe – see, you need three parts of the brain to develop detailed analytic skills!
The best way to do this is to practise reading information or a text you know little about and finding someone who knows a lot about the topic or someone who can ask you some challenging questions that make you think about what you have read. Don’t focus too much on telling them the main points or recapping the information – you need to think critically about what you have read. This may mean they need to pose some problems or challenges about the information you have read and you need to give solutions or ideas based on what you have read and what you know from other information you have stored in your memory. This helps you develop your critical thinking skills.
By now you have probably gained an insight that the best way to prepare for the ACER examination is practice! The skills that you will learn by practising for the ACER examination will also help you in your normal school activities and will help you develop into a more academic person.
I wish you all the best with your preparation and, remember, that provided you do your best, that is all that can be asked of you.