Just got my scores back from ACT and thought I’d post a quick reaction for those about to embark. As always seems to be the case, the thing I tried to prepare for the most — job knowledge — was least successful. Thankfully, that score was offset by much higher-than-expected for bio and essay. Here are some thoughts on what I did for each section and how it turned out.
I’m yet another transitioning lawyer in my early 40s (sounds like there are many of us) so my prep focus was on all those things that I knew much better when I was in college. I have always read the Times and listened to NPR religiously. On advice from the Yahoo! FSOT board, I subscribed to the Economist, re-read the Constitution, and reviewed a bunch of miscellaneous sources including Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, a summary of management-speak, the online geography quiz (http://www.sheppardsoftware.com/Geography.htm), and some historical atlases. I also did a bunch of practice tests from State’s FSOTpractice guide and an old ARCO guide that I bought used. The tests were helpful, but I felt they were actually harder than the real thing.
I ended up with a 57.75 which I guess is good enough for a pass (if you multiply by 3, it is higher than the 154 total score required), but I thought I’d done better based on how it felt at the time. I didn’t see anything on the job knowledge part that was wholly unexpected from the prep materials.
To prepare, I put together a chronology of experiences that might come in handy for quick reference. I’ve been practicing law for 15 years with an international focus over the past 4 so I have some stories that I thought would work for short answers. When taking the test, I felt my answers were VERY repetitive and superficial. This cannot be
avoided because of how much time and how little space is allowed to answer. I was not modest or boastful just honestly answered each question (think more boastful than modest). Having some recent experiences in mind really helped as I spent most of the allotted time making sure the answers read well rather than trying to think of
something to describe. I came out having absolutely no idea how I did on that section and was quite surprised to see it scored as a 67.67.
I was pretty confident of my writing and editing skills so I didn’t spend any time studying for this part, although Elements of Style and Elements of Grammar are probably all you need if you have concerns. I took the practice test sections from State’s FSOT guide which gave me comfort that this would not be the section that would be my undoing.
Be sure to time yourself when you take the practice exam as this part was challenging under the time constraints (particularly if, like me, you read slowly). The actual exam was very comparable to the practice guide so if you do well on those, you’ll do fine. I ended up with a 61.68 which looks to be a pretty common score from the Database
sampling of the November results.
I confess I fully intended to do some practice essays. I read the sample prompts on the FSOT board and thought about how I’d respond. I read the summaries of doing the 5-paragraph essay and other material on this site. I did not, however, do any timed practice essays. The actual test was as expected and, although I used every second to edit
and revise, finished without too much of a sweat. I’d recommend that you start typing as soon as possible. Think it through, but get words on the screen. It is much easier to edit sentences already written, than to write the whole thing in 10 minutes after thinking it through for 20. I did not think I did great on it at the time, but also didn’t think I failed either. I ended up with a 10 which, upon reflection, was better than I thought. (As others have said, this is a pass/fail so getting more than a 6 doesn’t really matter).