I am a certified Pilates instructor. The Comprehensive Certification Program (Level 1) required 200 hours of intense, grueling work. My body hurt, my mind was overloaded, and my emotions were fragile. But the harder that certification process pushed and punished me, the more I pushed and prodded back. I set my mind. I decided that not only was I going to pass my physical and written exams, I was going to crush them.

I was over 40. I was learning something completely new and I was challenging my body in a way I never had before. Apparently I did inherit something from my athletic father: enough coordination to systematically move, a competitive will, and the audacity to believe that I actually could succeed.

The ACT is not that much different. I’m even older now and I am entering my 5^{th} year of studying standardized tests. I’ve had flashbacks to high school. I am thankful to Mrs. Chic Clemons who taught me to diagram sentences and to Mrs. Lucy Brown who taught me to FOIL. I know grammar and I know algebra.

Yet, for some reason I never learned Coordinate Geometry or Trigonometry. Science always seemed a little scary and out of my reach. But you know what? Not anymore. We live in the Age of Information and we can learn anything. We can teach ourselves. We can teach our children. Our children can teach us.

So …what of Pilates? This is what I know. Learn the basic order first. Practice it over and over. Smooth out the rough parts. Become stronger. Practice it again. Move faster and with flow. Find your rhythm. Celebrate the order and structure of the movements. Since you know what’s coming, practice it everyday.

Once you have mastered the basic order, add in one intermediate exercise. Practice everyday. Add in another. Practice. Once you have mastered both the basic and intermediate order, add in one advanced exercise . Practice. Get stronger. Get faster.

So…what of the ACT? Start with the subject you like best. Answer the questions you can and skip the rest. Assess. What do you know? What do you need to learn? Practice the easy questions first. Forty-five percent of the math problems test pre-algebra and Algebra I. However, the questions are presented in confusing ways; the unpracticed test taker will miss many of them. But not you. Learn the basic order. Practice. Get stronger. Get faster.

Standardized test preparation is a million dollar industry, yet most students don’t see significant results. We buy their books, but they don’t deliver. Why? We are working backwards. We need to START with one actual ACT test. ACT, Inc. is kind enough to sell them to us. Stay on that ONE test for months if you need to. Learn the basic order. Add in intermediate problems and then the advanced. When you can teach that test to others, move on to the next one.

Learning something new is challenging. It takes time. It takes commitment. It takes practice. Start early and enjoy the ride.