ACT Update – November 2014

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English, Math, Reading, Science, Writing (optional).  Curriculum-based.  University-ready test. (« Core curriculum » –  4 years Eng, 3 years of Maths, 3 years nat sci and 3 years social sciences)

English section  – punctuation, grammar, rhetorical skills, not spelling, not vocabulary or grammar rules.  75 questions in 45 minutes.

Math section  – 60 questions, 60 minutes – algebra, geometry, plane geometry, trigonometry – the latter being the differentiating questions.

Reading section – 40 questions, 35 minutes.

Science section – not curriculum based   reasoning skills.  Biology, Earth Sciences, Chemistry, Physics.  Prior knowledge of science not required, though if you have a good science background you’ll feel more comfortable. 40 questions, 35 minutes.

Writing – optional.  1 prompt, 30 minutes.  Issue – 2 points of view – student must write about their view on that issue.

Difference between SAT and ACT?

ACT – knowledge-based, SAT skills based. (reasoning).  ACT has science, SAT doesn’t.  ACT – maths goes to trigonometry, SAT to geometry.  ACT – writing optional.  SAT – writing obligatory.

Test dates – Sept, Oct, Dec, Apr, June.

Future developments – 

  • Still 1-36 score range
  • Beginning Nov 2015 – STEM score, Eng score, Career readiness and Text complexity scores.
  • Enhanced writing test – 4 domains (currently holistic)
  • Computer-based delivery

Stem score – overall performance on the science and Math sections.  Reporting change only.  Predicts future performance on the ACT national Career Readiness Certificate.  Eng-Lang Arts Score – combines Eng, Reading and Writing sections.  Reporting change only.

Enhanced writing test – ideas, development, organisation, language use.   3 perspectives given in separate boxes and the student must respond to these. (Looks complicated!)  Current version gives 2 perspectives, enhanced has 3 perspectives.  State and develop your own perspective.  Not huge changes!

Computer-based delivery – starts this coming April 2015 in US.  Paper-pencil will remain option for a certain amount of time.

Other education programs – ACT Aspire. See 

SAT & ACT Preparation

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We are happy to recommend Alpha Prep (see as our SAT preparation provider.

The company is happy to tailor their services to our needs, so individual tutoring by Skype is possible as well as running classes at school should enough students be interested. (Let me know and we can arrange this – see for an example).

AlphaPrep Private Tutoring Packages

When to take SATs and ACTS? What if EA is deferred?

From Peter van Buskirk’s blog

Dear Peter,
I just learned that I was deferred (Early Action) at my first choice school. What kind of email should I write to the university’s rep to show that I am still extremely interested?

Dear Eric,
Sorry to hear about the deferral. At least you are still in the running. It is important that you communicate your continued interest—brief and to the point—to the institution’s regional recruiter for your region. Don’t try to contest the decision or ask for an explanation. Just plan to let your performance over the next two months do the talking.


Dear Peter,
Do you recommend any particular timing for taking the SAT’s in the junior year? My son is considering taking them in January, then again in the spring or next fall. What about the ACT?

Dear Dennis,
I suggest that Juniors plan to take the SAT/ACT once in the early months of the year and once in the fall. If a third testing is desired, it might fit best in the late spring. If your son wants to sample the ACT, I suggest he do it as soon as possible. That way, if he chooses to pursue an ACT sequence instead of one with the SAT, he’ll have time to prepare accordingly.