Category Archives: ACT

State Sponsored ACT in Ohio: Pros and Cons

Starting this year, the state of Ohio is paying for every Junior in high school to take the ACT. Most schools are requiring every eligible student to take the test during the school day sometime in the next month.  The ACT is now one of the simplest ways to complete testing requirements for graduation; one path to graduation involves receiving a 22 on the math, 21 on the reading, and 18 on the English. Free testing makes things very easy for the schools.  There is no longer any excuse for students not to have an ACT score for graduation or college applications! This is great for low income students who previously might not have been able to take the test due to cost! It is also great for students who have anxiety and want to take the test in a familiar environment. However, the way the state has set up the testing, along with the choices several districts have made, may actually have negative consequences on several different groups of students.

My biggest concern is that the state has chosen not to pay for students to take the writing portion of the test.  For students who cannot afford to pay for the ACT (the students who this is supposed to be helping) this is their only chance at this test. Many universities  require the writing portion, so these students will be cut off from applying! In addition, highly exclusive schools want to see a writing score for every test that their applicants take; students from Ohio may look bad to these schools because they were required to sit for an ACT without the writing portion.

Similarly, students who are very high achieving will most likely be applying to schools that require ALL test results be submitted. These schools generally don’t want to see students taking the test more than three or four times as it can begin to look desperate. These students will have to “waste” a test sitting on the in school test on which they may not do as well.

There are two main reasons that students may not do as well on the in-school tests as on regular Saturday tests.  First, students have been trained not to prepare for in-school standardized tests. Their teachers make them do small practice tests, but generally students do not study outside the classroom. Not many students took time out of their days to study for the old OGT or the more recent PARCC tests. The preparation given by the school was really all they did. However, students can benefit greatly by preparing for the ACT outside of school, they just may not think to do so if they see it as just the next in a long line of standardized tests they  have to take for graduation.

The secondary reason students may not do as well on the in-school tests is that many schools are only offering on screen ACTs.  Tests on computers have several setbacks. It is difficult to flip through the test, to go back and answer questions you chose to leave for the end.  It is impossible to write on the test; students will not be able to circle key words in questions or underline important parts of the reading comprehension test. In addition, computers have a myriad of problems associated with them, they can get unplugged, run out of battery, go offline, or crash. Finally, students will have to stare at a screen for four hours, straining their eyes and making them even more tired than they normally would be during this test. Schools choosing the computer option aren’t doing their students any favors.

While this in-school test may be a wonderful opportunity for many students, if it’s not good for you make sure you do something about it! If you think you may be adversely affected by these tests then talk to your guidance counselor! Explain your concerns and ask if you can be exempted from the test. If you have already taken the ACT they may be willing to allow it, especially if you have legitimate concerns which you explain respectfully. If your guidance counselor tells you that he or she “can’t make that call,” ask who can make the call and get in touch with them. Remember, you are the best advocate for yourself. Stand up for your rights and for what is best for you.

 

I hope you have found this blog informational! If you enjoyed it please consider sharing it with your colleagues or friends!

Michal Strawn

New ACT Accommodations for English Language Learners

The ACT has long been a test with which English Language Learners (ELLs) struggled. The test is based largely on the English language; even the math portion requires a thorough understanding of English. However, the ACT will soon allow for accommodations for students who are still learning English.  The ACT wants to ensure that the test accurately reflects the potential of the students who take it and so they will be allowing certain aids for students who are ELLs. These accommodations include

  • Up to time and a half on the test
  • A bilingual word to word glossary (not containing definitions)
  • Test instructions in the native language of the student (limited to certain languages)
  • Separate room testing

These accommodations will be available to students starting in the fall of 2017 to students who are enrolled in their school’s English learners program!

The July ACT

The ACT recently announced that they would be adding a new test date in 2018. The new date will be sometime in July. This is causing some students to ask “should I take important tests over the summer?” The answer to this question is multi-faceted.

Take a summer test if:

  1. You’re busy during the school year.

If your school year is packed full of activities, trips, homework, work, and other obligations you may not have time to properly prepare! If the summer is less stressful, the July test may be perfect for you! You would have all of June and at least part of July to prepare, free from the stress of school.

  1. You have definitive goals.

If you know exactly what score you want, then the July test might be a good idea, especially if you’re a rising senior. Rising seniors should have already taken the test once and know what score they’re shooting for. The July test allows these students an extra chance to reach those goals. Rising juniors probably don’t have to worry about these tests yet and can wait until the September or October tests to start.

  1. You are applying early action or early decision and want an extra chance.

If you will be a rising Senior next summer and you know that you’ll be applying early action or early decision you may want to take advantage of the July test as if gives you an extra opportunity to raise your scores. Before, you would have only had the September and possibly October test to reach those scores before applications were due. Now you have an extra opportunity.

Don’t take a summer test if:

  1. You tend to forget things.

If you’re a student who forgets what they studied as soon as a unit is over, this test may not be for you. The July test will take place at least a month after you’ve left school for the summer so your English and math scores may suffer if you have a “summer brain.”

  1. You aren’t self-motivated.

Yes, the July test gives you all of June and part of July to prepare. However, if you’re the type of person who can’t self-structure study time then this test might not be your best bet. During the school year, you have a definitive schedule into which you can work some ACT prep. However, during the summer you have all free time so you may not feel as motivated to get that work done! Unless you’re on top of things, leave test taking until the school year!

  1. You’re not a “morning person.”

The ACT is a morning test. This, in general, isn’t great for teenagers whose circadian rhythms make them “night owls.” However, during the school year most teens are used to getting up early, even if they don’t like it.  If, once summer rolls around, you revert to nocturnal ways, this test may not be for you. Wait until the school year when you’ll be used to waking up early. That way, your brain can be operating at full capacity.

 

I hope you have found this article to be helpful! If so, please share it with your friends!

Michal Strawn

ACT Science Content

Although many people claim that the ACT Science test does not require any background knowledge, they are incorrect.  If you examine several ACT tests, you will find that you must have basic knowledge from these two high school courses:

  • Physical Science
  • Biology

They require you to have this background knowledge because high school juniors across the country should have taken these two courses, no matter the rigor of their individual high schools.  Expect to see just a handful of questions that involve actual background knowledge from these two areas.

If you have taken advanced science, such as AP Chemistry or AP Physics, that certainly won’t hurt you.  It will help in the sense that your general ability to reason through scientific charts and graphs will be stronger, not because you need to have specific knowledge from any of those areas.

The material they present on the passages can come from all sorts of general scientific areas:  physics, chemistry, biology, botany, zoology, astronomy, geology, and so forth.

The ACT Science Section has 3 types of passages:

  • Data Representation (38%). There are three of this type of passage, and each passage has 5 questions.  You will need to evaluate information presented in graphs, tables and figures.
  • Research Summaries (45%). There are three of this type of passage, and each passage has 6 questions.  You will need to analyze 2 or more experimental summaries, thinking about the results and the experimental design.
  • Conflicting Viewpoints (17%). You will only have 1 passage of this type, and it has seven questions.  It will present viewpoints from anywhere from 2 up to several scientists.  You will need to read a good bit here, although sometimes there is a graph or two given as well.  You will need to sharpen your ability to compare and contrast differing scientific explanations.

The passages are in a random order of difficulty, so just be on your toes to think critically at any point.

I hope you found this article helpful!  If you did, please share it with your friends.  Thanks, Brian Stewart

Reading Test Content and Material

The Reading Test always have the same four types of reading passages, and they will  always be in the same order:

  1. Prose Fiction–a short story or an excerpt from a longer fiction story.  Something you would typically find in your English class.
  2. Social Sciencesomething that a teacher from Social Studies would instruct, including history, economics, psychology and more.  This is basically, any non-fiction area that is not a “hard” science like physics, chemistry, etc.
  3. Humanities – This is about art, music, films, and other creations.  You’ll find first-person and third-person accounts of human creative tasks.
  4. Natural Science – Could be anything from the sciences, such as astronomy, geology, or physics.  You won’t have to have any specialized scientific knowledge – it will be material you can understand simply based on the passage.

Each passage is approximately 700-800 words, and has 10 questions that follow.  You will have two subscores: The Social Studies/Sciences subscore is based the Social Science and Natural Science passages, and the Arts/Literature subscore is based on your performance on the Prose Fiction and Humanities passages.

This is the one section of the ACT where no background knowledge is required, other than having the skill of knowing how to read.

This test is extremely quick; if you want to finish the whole thing you must be a fast reader. You can improve your overall reading speed and comprehension by reading high quality books and magazines.

Hope you found this article helpful!  If you did, please share it with your friends.  Thanks, Brian Stewart

ACT Math Test Content

Before you take the ACT make sure you read the information they give you on each of the sections! Here is what the ACT tells us about the math, “translated” into normal English.

The ACT will always allot the Math questions the same way, with each type of math content having the same percentage of questions from test to test.  If you have taken Algebra 1, Geometry, and Algebra 2, you should be in good shape.  They do have some topics that are occasionally covered in pre-calculus, so you may want to wait to take the ACT until you have covered all the material.  No need to worry about calculus – that won’t be on the ACT.

Pre-Algebra/Elementary Algebra

  • Pre-Algebra (23%)
  1. Number Basics:  Fractions, decimals, integers
  2. Scientific Notation
  3. Square Roots
  4. Exponents
  5. Factors of numbers and expressions
  6. Ratios and proportions
  7. Percentage calculations
  8. One variable equations
  9. Absolute Value
  10. Simple statistics (mean, median, mode)
  11. Simple probability (dependent and independent variable problems)
  12. Simple interpretations of data graphs

 

  • Elementary Algebra (17%)
  1. Properties of Exponents and Square Roots (multiplying, dividing, adding, subtracting, etc.)
  2. Solving equations using substitution
  3. 2 variable equations
  4. Order of operations (Parentheses/Exponents, Multiplication/Division, Addition/Subtraction)
  5. Factoring of equations

 

Intermediate Algebra/Coordinate Geometry

  • Intermediate Algebra (15%)
  1. Quadratic Formula
  2. Equations and expressions involving radicals and roots
  3. Equations with Absolute Value
  4. Inequalities
  5. Sequences and Patterns (Geometric and Arithmetic)
  6. More complex systems of equations (usually no more than 2 variables)
  7. More complex functions
  8. Turning word problems into algebraic models
  9. Matrices (addition, subtraction, multiplication)
  10. Complex numbers
  11. Once in a long while – synthetic division, standard deviation

 

  • Coordinate Geometry (15%)
  1. Be able to graph equations in the x-y coordinate plane, including lines and parabolas.  (Don’t need to worry about Hyperbolas or Ellipses).
  2. Be able to graph a circle in the x-y coordinate plane.
  3. Be able to graph inequalities.
  4. Slope formula
  5. Slope-Intercept form
  6. Parallel and perpendicular line rules
  7. Distance Formula
  8. Midpoint Formula

 

Plane Geometry/Trigonometry

  • Plane Geometry (23%)
  1. Vertical Angles
  2. Supplementary Angles
  3. Complementary Angles
  4. Alternate Interior Angles
  5. Area and Circumference of a Circle
  6. Perimeter of Shapes
  7. Area of Square and Rectangle
  8. Area of Triangle
  9. Area of Parallelogram
  10. Area of Trapezoid
  11. Basics of Proofs
  12. Cylinder Volume
  13. Box Volume

 

  • Trigonometry (7%)
  1. Sin
  2. Cos
  3. Tan
  4. Secant
  5. Cosecant
  6. Cotangent
  7. Basic Trigonometric Identities
  8. Graph of Sin and Cos
  9. Basics of Unit Circle (i.e. knowing quadrants)
  10. Radian/Degree Conversion

The ACT English Section

So what is on the ACT English? The ACT provides great information on what is on their test; that information is often hard to understand. I’ve broken it down for you here!

Usage/Mechanics – Half of the ACT English Test

  • Punctuation (13%).  Primarily you need to know commas.  Also, review usage of semicolons, colons, and dashes.  It is critical that you don’t just know simple punctuation rules but that you also know how proper punctuation affects the meaning of sentences.
  • Grammar and Usage (16%).  Look at subject verb agreement – words that need to agree with one another will often be separated, so you’ll really have to pay close attention to context.  Watch out for vague pronouns, idioms, and proper adjective and adverb usage.  Basically, make sure that the intended meaning matches up with the actual meaning.
  • Sentence Structure (24%).  You have to be more than a proofreader – you need to be an editor.  Be certain that individual words and longer clauses are placed in a logical order.

Rhetorical Skills – The Other Half of the ACT English Test

  • Strategy (16%). You will need to examine the intent of the author, and pick answers that do what the author actually intended to do.  You will also need to see if phrases and sentences are relevant, or if they can be removed.
  • Organization (15%).  You need to know where sentences and phrases should be placed – rearrange things until they make sense.  Also, you need to connect paragraphs, sentences and phrases with logical transitional words, like “but”, “also”, or “because”, as demanded by the situation.  You’ll  need to be able to see what a sensible introduction or a conclusion would be based on the context.
  • Style (16%). This is big picture stuff. How do you make an individual sentence have the same tone as the rest of an essay?  Depending on what the goal of the author is, how do you pick the best wording to express what is wanted?  How can you be clear with pronouns?  How can you prevent needless repetition and wordiness?

Check out our full length practice test and see how you do!

What to expect on the ACT: Timing

 

If you’re taking the ACT, you’re in for a long morning.  You should arrive at the test center before 8 AM in order to find your room and check in.  You will then have a roughly 4 hour test in front of you.

The ACT is broken up into four sections with an optional fifth section:  English, Math, Reading, Science, and Writing.  To remember the order in which the test sections fall, simply remember that they go in alphabetical order!  

Here is the breakdown for timing of the test, and how you should pace yourself on the ACT:

English Test – 45 minutes, 75 questions, 5 passages.  You should take about 9 minutes per passage.

Math Test – 60 minutes, 60 questions.  Questions increase in difficulty so start out quickly and then slow down about half way through.

You then have a 10 minute break when you should have a snack!  Bring it yourself. 

Reading Tests – 35 minutes, 40 questions, 4 passages.  Take about 9 minutes per passage.

Science Test – 35 minutes, 40 questions, 6-7 passages.  Take about 5 minutes per passage.

If you are sticking around for the writing, you have a 5 minute break.  If you are not doing the ACT Writing, you can go home at this time. 

Optional ACT Essay – 40 minutes.  Spend about 5 minutes prewriting, and 30 minutes writing and 5 minutes editing.  They typically give you 4-5 pages on which to write.

 

As the tests go on, they become more difficult for most students to finish.  English is very easy to complete, and Science is quite tough.  Practice ahead of time so that you have a good internal feel for the pace at which you should go.  Also, by practicing, you will have a good idea of whether it makes sense to skip and guess on some questions.  Remember, there is no penalty for guessing on the ACT, so if you don’t complete all the questions, be sure to at least bubble something in for each question.

I hope you found this article helpful!  If you did, please share it with your friends.  Thanks, Brian Stewart

Schools that Superscore the ACT Test

Superscoring the ACT is when you take the best subscores from multiple test dates (i.e the best English, best Math, best Reading and best Science) and take a NEW average for the composite score.  Here is a list of many of the colleges and universities that superscore the ACT.  As always, double-check with the college directly to be certain as to their ACT scoring policy.

College/University Name If BLANK, they superscore the ACT. If they do something different, the policy is clarified.
Albion College
Amherst College
Babson College
Baylor University
Bates If a student chooses to submit ACT scores, we look at the highest composite score and  highest scores in each subsection.
Beloit College
Boston College
Boston University The Board does not superscore the ACT; however, if you send in scores from multiple test dates, the Board of Admissions will consider the scores from each of the subcategories, noting the highest scores achieved for each.  For this reason, we encourage applicants to submit scores from all ACT test dates as well.
Bowdoin College Applicants also have the option to select some test types and not others for review (for example, a student might choose to include SAT Subject Test scores but not an SAT score). These choices are communicated via the Bowdoin Supplement.

Bowdoin will not review selected sections of an SAT or an ACT score (for example, just the Science portion of the ACT). If an applicant chooses to include scores for a specific test type, Bowdoin will review the complete score for that test type.

Brandeis University
Butler University
California Institute of Technology When we review your application we have all of your test scores available to us. We will look at all of your scores, paying particular attention to the general pattern of scores and emphasizing the highest score for each individual exam.
California State University System Does not include the University of California, but the other schools in the system.
Colby College
College of Charleston We do not superscore the ACT for scholarship purposes.  However, we do want all ACT scores to be sent to us so that if superscoring would help the student in the admissions process, we can determine that.
Colorado College Yes, we do superscore the ACT and/or SAT (both by subject and overall score).

Regarding our testing policy, we require that applicants submit either the SAT Reasoning Test or ACT test, or elect a third option (the Flexible Testing option) including three exams of the applicant’s choice chosen from a list of acceptable exams:

 

Three Flexible Testing Options

  1. The College Board SAT Reasoning Test

or

  1. The American College Testing (ACT) Assessment Test

or

  1. Three exams of your choice, which must include at leastone quantitative test from Category A, at leastone verbal or writing test in Category B, and a third test of the student’s choice among those tests listed in Category C.

 

Connecticut College
Denison University
DePauw University
Dickinson College For the ACT, the composite score is given the most weight.
Drexel University
Duke University For students who choose to submit the ACT with writing, Duke will consider the highest composite score and highest subscores on each section, regardless of test date, but will not recalculate the composite score. Students who take the ACT are not required to submit SAT or SAT Subject Test scores.
Duquesne University
Eckerd College
Elon University
Florida Atlantic University
Florida State University
Georgia Tech We use all three portions of the SAT and/or the three equivalent parts of the ACT, as outlined below. We do not use the ACT Composite score nor the Science or Reading score.

  • SAT Critical Reading = ACT English
  • SAT Math = ACT Math
  • SAT Writing = ACT Combined English/Writing

Only your highest section scores from either test will be viewed in the evaluation process. Additionally, your highest combination of scores may come from tests taken on different dates. For example, your high test scores may include SAT Critical Reading from March, ACT Math from October and ACT Combined English/Writing from December. Each time you submit new scores to us, we will update your record with your highest scores.

Gettysburg College
Hamilton College Our applicants are best served by being provided with a variety of ways to meet our standardized test requirement.  They include:

  • The SAT Reasoning Test; OR
  • The American College Testing assessment test (ACT); OR
  • Three exams of your choice, which must include a quantitative test, a verbal or writing test, and a third test of student’s choice.  The following tests satisfy Hamilton’s quantitative and verbal/writing requirements:

Acceptable Quantitative Tests:  SAT Math; SAT Subject Tests in Math, Chemistry, or Physics; AP Computer Science, Chemistry, Economics, Math, or Physics; IB final exam results for Chemistry, Computing Studies, Economics, Math, Physics, or Physical and Chemical Systems

Acceptable Verbal/Writing Tests: SAT Critical Reading; SAT Writing; ACT Writing; AP English Language and Composition; IB final exam results for Language (A1, A2, or B English); TOEFL or IELTS (for International students ONLY)

Note:  It is Hamilton’s policy to select the testing options that will serve you best.  We strongly encourage you to submit all of your testing to Hamilton and we will choose the best scores for you.

 

Harvey Mudd College
Haverford College
Hawaii Pacific University
Hendrix College
Hollins University
Indiana University Bloomington
Ithaca College
Kalamazoo College
Kenyon College
Kettering University
Lafayette College
Lawrence University
Loyola University in Maryland
Middlebury College
MIT They do superscore the ACT. All applicants must complete one test from each category:

 

  1. SAT or ACT with writing or TOEFL
  2. Math Level 1 or Math Level 2
  3. Science SAT II Subject Test: Biology, Chemistry or Physics

 

Millsaps College
NCAA Clearinghouse
New York University We do not super-score the ACT, but we will see the individual subscores in addition to the overall composite. We can also see test scores from multiple test dates, so while your highest composite is ultimately what we will use to evaluate you, we can see whatever you send us.
Northeastern University
North Carolina State University
Pepperdine University
Pomona College Consistent with the ACT standards for acceptable use of ACT test scores, the admissions office will record the test date reflecting the highest composite score. We will consider all sittings and having all test scores from all dates permits the admissions deans further consideration of peak or higher sub-scores from other test dates as skill sets and performance are evaluated in our review process. Please be aware that Pomona requires a full testing history, so if you have taken any components of the SAT and the ACT, you are required to submit the results from all test dates.
Purdue University If you submit multiple ACT tests that you have taken, we always take the highest score from each of the sections and we take the highest composite.
Regis University
Rhode Island School of Design They do superscore although they do not refer to it as such.
Rice University Rice does not superscore the ACT. We only record the composite score. That being said, we do ask applicants to send all of their ACT test results. The reason for this is that we consider subscores in our admission committee discussions. If a student has received high subscores on any of the ACT tests they have taken, we will discuss those higher scores in our discussions. It is to the applicant’s advantage to submit all ACT test results.
Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology
Scripps College We take the best overall composite score as the student’s “official” score and review all the subscores.
St. John’s University
Stanford University For the ACT, we will focus on the highest Composite and the highest Combined English/Writing scores from all test sittings. We will also consider individual subscores.
Swarthmore College
Syracuse University
Trinity College
Trinity University
Tufts University
United States Naval Academy
University of Arkansas For admission purposes we do superscore. (Check with Arkansas with respect to scholarships).
University of Chicago
University of Colorado – Boulder
University of Connecticut We encourage students to take the SAT and/or ACT more than once. We will accept the highest scores from your combined test dates.
University of Dayton
University of Delaware
University of Denver
University of Georgia
University of Illinois We do what I like to call sub-super scoring where we take the highest overall composite and each highest individual scores even if it was on a lower composite exam. We will always use this to the students advantage. This is why we ask all scores to be sent to our office.
University of Louisiana – Lafayette We only take the highest subscore from each test to determine your eligibility.
University of Maryland
University of Mary Washington We do not superscore the ACT, however we will see all of your scores.
University of Massachusetts, Amherst
University of North Carolina
University of North Texas For admissions requirements, we do superscore. Now for scholarship requirements we do not.
University of Pittsburgh
University of Puget Sound We consider the Composite, English, and Math sections of the ACT, and we do Superscore.
University of Rochester
University of South Florida
University of Tampa
University of Tennessee
University of Vermont
Valparaiso University
Vassar College 
Virginia Commonwealth Unviersity
Virginia Tech
Wake Forest University Wake Forest will only consider the highest score in each category, regardless of when it was achieved.
Washington University – St. Louis
Wellesley College Does not superscore but recommends that students submit all scores so that they may see best subscores.
Wesleyan University
Wheaton College
Williams College
Xavier University

 

 

New Concordance Tables for SAT and ACT Score Conversion

The College Board has just released updated concordance tables so that students can compare scores from the ACT to the SAT.  Students can also use the tables to compare scores from the old SAT to the new SAT.  Here is a link to the new tables:

https://collegereadiness.collegeboard.org/pdf/higher-ed-brief-sat-concordance.pdf

The college board has also created an app for smart phones that converts scores among these different tests.

Use these resources to compare your scores to determine whether the ACT or SAT is a better fit.