“Free ACT Test!”

The process of testing and applying to college is expensive, so I was excited when Ohio started offering a free ACT (or SAT) to all juniors.  With my oldest graduating before this program was instituted in spring 2017, 2 of my 3 boys will have the opportunity to take advantage of it. During my second son’s junior year, his prep plan included LEAP’s strategies class before fall testing then tutoring 2 months before the winter free state ACT offered at his high school.

We were both shocked when the school informed us only 6 days prior that the ACT would be administered in an online format instead of the traditional paper format he had practiced.  Our initial reaction was one of frustration, but we quickly jumped into action to determine how this might impact him on test day.

A quick search on the ACT website revealed a pamphlet to walk students through online testing.  This was helpful, but I recommend students test drive an online ACT by downloading TestNav.  TestNav offers a full ACT so students can navigate the test and get comfortable with the online testing features.

Notable Online Testing Features

  • Countdown timer in the upper right-hand corner of the screen tells the tester how much time is left – great for those kids who are trying to stay on track with pacing.
  • Bookmark feature allows testers to mark a question that needs to be revisited.
  • Review feature allows the tester to quickly see which questions have been answered, skipped or bookmarked.  Testers can click on a specific question and go right to that question.
  • Cross out feature allows testers to put a red X over an answer choice so that testers can visually see which answers should be eliminated; this can be removed if the tester changes his/her mind.
  • Highlight feature allows testers to highlight parts of the text in blue or pink – beware……the highlighting disappears when the tester advances to the next question!
  • When the tester finishes a section (or time runs out), they must “submit final answers” by clicking on a green button.
  • In the English test, a portion of the passage is highlighted as it relates to the question on which the tester is working –  this helps tester easily see which part of the passages goes with each question.
  • For the math test, testers have access to a built-in calculator – great for testers who forgot their calculator and/or the batteries die during test; however, I recommend using your own device (or practice using the built-in one) as the on-line calculator might slow kids down over using a traditional calculator.
  • For reading and science, testers will have to scroll through each passage, read it and find answers.  In addition, the passage defaults back to the beginning each time the tester advances to the next question.
  • Testers are provided with scrap paper on which to work – this is especially helpful for the math portion of the test.

Armed with the knowledge of how the on-line test worked, my junior went into his third (and final!) ACT test feeling fairly confident – reporting afterward he felt pretty good about the test.  He finished the entire test, which he attributed to the timer, but noted that the reading and science were harder to navigate than the paper test due to all the scrolling needed in order to read and find the answers in each passage.

While it remains to be seen whether more schools will start opting for this version of the test, I recommend families check with their teen’s high school in the fall of junior year to confirm the date of the free ACT AND in what format the test will be administered. For Greater Cincinnati schools who responded to our survey, LEAP has your state test date and format here then plan your test prep and dates.

As LEAP’s ACT-SAT Director, my boys each have a personalized testing plan; my three have very different plans based on who they are and their individual post-high school goals. Included in their plan is LEAP ACT prep prior to 2-3 test attempts. You, too, can request a free highly customized plan for your student here.

-Authored by LEAP’s ACT/SAT Director, Sheri Elmore, from the perspective of both a parent and professional. Want to talk directly with her on planning your ACT/SAT testing timeline and prep? Book a time on her calendar!