The ACT has announced that at some point during the 2021-2022 school year, students may have an additional question type on the ACT Reading section: Visual Quantitative Information questions. These questions will most likely be found on one of the three Informational Reading passages, as opposed to a fiction passage.
What will these questions be like? Check out this link for some sample visual quantitative information questions. Unfortunately, until tests that have these questions are released, these appear to be the only official sample questions ACT has made available.
Why is the ACT adding this question type to the reading section? Most likely it is because the SAT has done so on the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing section, and the ACT would like to assess similar skills. This is yet another example of how the ACT and SAT tests have increasingly converged in recent years, making it easy for students to transition from one test to the other.
So, what should students who are concerned about these new question types do to prepare? First, go into the ACT reading section with a flexible mindset; if you come across a series of graph analysis questions, know that they will only test you on the information in the reading passage and the graph. No outside knowledge will be required. Second, practice with some SAT reading passages that have graph analysis questions. Each SAT reading section has about 4-5 questions of this type, so you will have far more to work with than the limited sample ACT has provided. Here is a link to several SAT practice tests that you can review.
Best of luck!
If you are planning on trying to earn a National Merit Scholarship and apply to highly selective colleges and universities, the following general test schedule might be a good fit for you:
- Take the SAT in August or October of your Junior year–this will help you be well-prepared for the PSAT in October of your Junior year. Since you have one chance to do well on the PSAT for National Merit Scholarship consideration, a “dress rehearsal” with the SAT will be extremely helpful. You may also want to try taking the PSAT as a sophomore for additional practice.
- Take the ACT in December of your Junior year. This test date has a Test Information Release available so that you can analyze your test questions and answers.
- Evaluate your PSAT scores and December ACT scores so that you can determine if the SAT, ACT or both tests would be the best fit.
- Take the ACT, SAT, or both in the spring of your Junior year. Most students improve the second time they take the test, so it is a no-brainer to try the tests at least a couple of times. Consider taking the March or May SAT because of the Question and Answer Service; you can get a copy of your test booklet and answers. Also consider the April or June ACT, since those dates offer the Test Information Release.
- Take the ACT or SAT again in the summer if needed. If your scores are not quite where you want them to be, try the July or September ACT, or the August or October SAT. Keep in mind that many schools superscore (take the best score from each test section), so you may want to try to improve your weaker test sections. Ideally, if you can have your testing complete by the time you start applying to colleges, you will be much less stressed.
Please keep in mind that the above timeline is a general suggestion, and many other factors should influence when you take the tests. Here are some other things to consider:
- Does your state offer in-school ACT or SAT tests? If so, you may want to focus on being well-prepared for those test dates. You will get to take the test during the school day in familiar surroundings, possibly giving you an enhanced opportunity to perform well.
- Is a certain time of year less busy for you because of decreased extracurricular commitments? If you are a fall athlete, perhaps you should focus your preparation on the winter tests. If you have a busy spring, try to get your testing done in the winter.
- Are you being recruited for sports? Coaches often like to have your test scores as early as possible. You may want to move your testing timeline up a bit if recruiters would prefer that you do so.
- Are you only applying regular decision? Many students want to weigh different financial aid offers and want more time to consider possible schools. If so, you do not need to have your testing complete until December or January of your senior year.
I hope you found this helpful. If you have questions about the best test-taking timeline for your particular situation, please reach out to us and we would be happy to help.
Should a student take the ACT, SAT, or both? In general, it is advisable for students to try each test at least once to see how it goes. This table outlines the most important similarities and differences between the ACT and SAT so you know which might end up being a better fit.
|Format||Four Sections: English, Math, Reading, Science|
Optional Section: Writing
|Both take about 4 hours to complete||Four Sections: Reading, Writing & Language, Math Without Calculator, Math With Calculator|
No Essay Section
|Scoring||Scored between 1-36. Composite score is an average of the four individual sections.||Both tests are graded on a curve.||Reading and Writing & Language Section is half the score, and Math is the other half. Each section is scored between 200-800, with a total composite score between 400-1600.|
|Timing||Need to read about 200-250 words per minute to complete Reading section. Need to do each math question in about a minute.||Both tests offer extended time accommodations to students who qualify.||Need to read about 100-150 words per minute to complete Reading section. Need about 1-1.5 minutes to complete each math question.|
|Content||Has a stand-alone science section. Important to memorize math formulas, and from a broader array of topics, like matrices and logarithms.||Both test reading and grammar skills, math through pre-calculus, and graph analysis skills.||Has evidence-based questions on the reading. Some math formulas are provided. Math focuses more in-depth on the fundamentals of algebra and problem solving. No science section, but graph and data analysis throughout the test sections.|
|Who Prefers?||Students who are able to complete the ACT typically prefer it. Also students who have extended time are usually able to comfortably read all the material. Students who have performed well on the Pre-ACT.||Students who have good reading comprehension, grammar knowledge, and math skills tend to do well on both tests. Colleges throughout the United States will accept either the ACT or SAT.||Students who like more time to complete their work. Also, students who prefer more in-depth analysis questions (like word problems and evidence-based questions on the reading). Students who have performed well on the PSAT.|
The ACT is a test that is currently used by colleges and universities across the United States to judge students’ college readiness. It is one of many criteria used by admissions officers to decide who will be admitted. It is also a graduation requirement in some states and school districts. The SAT is a similar test that is used in a similar way. Colleges and universities that require an admissions test will accept either the ACT or the SAT so students can choose which one is the better fit for their skills.
The ACT is always quick to remind students that there is no guessing penalty on the test. Fill in every answer, they assert. But it’s more complicated than that. After all, every question is worth the exact same amount. It’s not like in school where a tough question might be worth four points while a simple one is worth one. On the ACT, regardless of difficulty, every question is worth the same. Given that it is a timed test, students should focus on completing the easy questions first so as to maximize their score potential. Then, if you are running out of time, all that you have to guess on are the difficult questions, questions you might have missed anyway, questions that would have taken a lot of time. Leave no easy question on the table! All you need to know to implement this strategy is where the easy questions are on the test!
The English section is the place where it is more difficult to tell the difference between easy and hard questions. In general, there are two types of questions: those that ask about nitpicky details and those that ask about the big picture. Do a practice test and try to see which ones you do worse on. Then, save those for the end of each passage. Fewer people run out of time on the English section than any other section of the test, so it’s okay if you aren’t sure. There is a good chance you won’t need to use this strategy on the English.
The math section is the easiest to remember. The questions start out at a fairly easy level and get progressively more difficult throughout the test with the last ten questions being by far the most difficult. If you routinely run out of time on the math focus on crushing 1-30, completing 30-50, and just guessing on 50-60.
On the reading, timing tends to be tough for just about everyone. The questions are in no particular order of difficulty so you need to learn what tough questions look like. Start on each passage with questions that tell you where the answer is. If a question says in line 27… then that will be a question that you likely can answer quickly and efficiently. Next, try to answer and questions that are brief and to the point or have simple answers. At the end of every passage answer long and complex questions that ask about big picture ideas and complex feelings and emotions. Since you get about nine minutes for each passage make sure you incorporate a few seconds at the end for guessing. Then, move on to the next passage where there are more easy questions.
Finally, the science has a fairly predictable pattern. Each individual passage starts out with simple questions and progresses to more difficult questions. The simple questions generally just ask for basic scientific knowledge or for you to read a graph or chart. The more difficult questions require you to make connections and apply scientific principles to specific scenarios. If you need more time on the science consider guessing on the last question of each passage.
Remember, while it is good to guess on questions you don’t have time for, it is even more effective if you ensure that the questions you guess on are the ones you would have struggled with anyway. Make sure that you practice this strategy before test day to ensure that you’re comfortable with it and happy testing!