Saturday, April 9, 2016

I took the ACT today

The ACT has made 4 big changes to the test in the last two years.  They have only announced one of them.  Their new practice book reflecting these changes is long overdue, and won't be published until July.  We have a real shortage of representative practice tests, and that's an issue for a test on which timing is critical.  I signed up to take this test partly for the experience but mostly to get the test booklet:  I paid extra for the question-and-answer service.

Here are my brief impressions:

First, I have been timing my students incorrectly.  I have timed them at my dining room table, or I have allowed them to time themselves at home.  I have not set the timer and had them complete the test while perched before a desk the size of a large clipboard trying to juggle their extra pencils, test books, answer sheets and calculators.  And it makes a difference.  Especially on the ACT where timing is a big piece of your performance.

This was not my first big test as an adult.  A few years back I took the SAT Math 2 subject test.  The desks at that high school were quite a bit larger.  In the future I will take desk size into account when choosing a testing site.  Meanwhile, if anyone is looking for a research topic for their PhD in Education, this might be interesting to study.

The English section went well for me, but hats off to Erica Meltzer!  On more than one question I can credit my correct answer to The Complete Guide to ACT English.  It's my go-to grammar workbook.  There's a link to order it below.

The math section went well for me, but HO.LY. CRUD.  The ACT folks really upped their game in the conic sections category.  Unless there was something I missed, you had to write the equation of a ellipse from the graph and then use that equation to find the y-coordinate of a point on the ellipse. Yikes.  Most of my kids haven't looked at the standard equation of an ellipse at all, ever.  My treatment of them up til now has been fairly cursory.  I guess that will have to change.

I thought the reading section was a tad bit easier than usual.  There was only one question on which I disagreed with all of the answer choices.  Usually there are more.

I thought the science section was a tad bit harder than usual, and the tiny table issue didn't help.  I wonder if you can apply for a Larger Desk accommodation.  Fortunately most of my kids taking this test have already banked respectable science scores.  They should be ok.

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