What an Increasingly Difficult ACT Means To You: Scores 31+

In the previous blog post, we discussed how the ACT has been changing to become more difficult in recent years. These changes of course affect everyone, but the effects of the changes on a student’s score will vary from student to student. This post will discuss the effects and the magnitude of these effects on the students who score within the highest range (31-36) on the test.

The change in difficulty has to do with the change in the types of questions, not quantity of questions or time limit. These new types of questions take more time to answer than their ancestors back in 2006. If not careful, a capable student can fail to finish the test. In this score range, missing only 5 problems can put you underneath a 31, so if students were unable to finish and forced to guess on two questions, then out of the rest of the questions they completed, they can only miss three. This means that the new test leaves a student with less time and no proportional adjusted room for error, making it harder to score in the highest range and generating an inflated number of more average scores (26-29).

Students aiming for these high scores can expect to achieve the about the same level of accuracy as students in the past with more complex questions, which means the ACT’s evolution has significant negative consequences for this category. Students of this category will have little to no room for error on each section, so students will have to be even more rigorous with their pacing and test-taking strategies if they wish to maintain as little errors as possible on a increasingly complex test.

What an Increasingly Difficult ACT Means to You: Scores 27-31

In previous blog post we discussed how the ACT has been changing to become more difficult in recent years. These changes of course affect everyone, but the effects of the changes on a student’s score will vary from student to student. This post will discuss the effects and the magnitude of these effects on the students who score within the upper quartile range (27-31) on the test.

The main change occurring within the ACT is the amount of time it takes to answer a single question: Questions are taking more time but there are no less questions and no extension of time limits. This translates to an increase in likelihood that a student will not be able to finish the test, being forced to guess randomly or, worse, to leave questions blank. For a student aiming to score in the upper range, leaving seven or more blank means possibly getting a mid-range score. The new curve on the ACT, which allows for more questions to be missed to achieve the same score than in the past, is less helpful in this quartile as the curve has shifted more favorably for the mid-range score section than the upper section.

What this change means for this bracket is that the changing ACT is going to negatively impact results, but only slightly. As it becomes harder to finish the test, students will have less guessing room even within the new ACT score curve. Students aiming for this range may find themselves short a point or two with the harder test and will have to implement new pacing strategies to achieve a 28 on the modern test when slower pacing would have gotten a 28 on a test in the past.

What an Increasingly Difficult ACT Means to You: Scores 18-26

In the previous blog post we discussed how the ACT has been changing to become more difficult in recent years. These changes of course affect everyone, but the effects of the changes on a student’s score will vary from student to student. This post will discuss the effects and the magnitude of these effects on the students who score within the lower and median range (18-26) on the test.

The effects of the increasing difficulty are actually minimal in this score range, since the hardest questions are typically missed in this score range. Students within this range can have a high level of accuracy on the easier questions and guess on the more difficult questions, maintaining a steady and typical score despite the changes in testing format. On the December 2013 test, a student could miss 44% of the questions and achieve a 21 test score. For students who struggle to finish sections and typically guess on the remaining questions as time is called, this means that guessing on those seven left won’t kill you. You can miss some for the portion you answered thoroughly and the portion you guessed on and still achieve a score in this range. The new ACT score curve benefits this range as there is more room to miss questions, which means more room to guess on complex problems and gain points on easier questions.

What does this mean? It means this bracket is not negatively affected by the ACT evolution. Students in this bracket are not necessarily positively affected by these changes either. These students will score about the same on the 2015 test as they would have on the 2008 test.

Can the ACT get any harder?

Can the ACT get any harder? Most pressured high school students would say no, but the truth is the ACT can and has been getting harder. The ACT may not have revamped its test like the SAT has for 2016, but over the past three years the ACT has made subtle but significant changes to its testing format that significantly impact test takers.

The biggest change is the change in the amount of time it takes to answer each question. In recent years, questions have been growing in complexity, requiring more time to devise a correct answer. Since the ACT hasn’t increased the amount of time per section or decreased the number of questions, this movement toward more time consuming problems makes the test harder to finish than ever before. Another change is there is a new type of reading passage that is very similar to the SAT Medium Comparison passage format. The format includes two shorter passages followed by questions about the passages themselves and questions comparing and contrasting the passages. This type of passage format isn’t extraordinarily more difficult than an ordinary passage, but students’ scores may suffer from its inclusion in the test. Why? There is no released ACT practice exam with this type of passage included in the reading section, so prepared students who studied the exam and practiced the test format are blind-sided by the foreign passage structure.

While this may sound devastating to those trying to obtain a high score, all is not lost with a changing, more difficult test.As the test has gotten more difficult, the amount of questions that can be missed for each score has also increased with more generous test curves. This means a student who missed five questions in 2013 could get a 35 or 36 whereas a student who missed five questions in 2005 would have gotten a 32 or 33.

Blueprint Workshop

Blueprint for College Planning Workshop 

Lane Music in Franklin Square, 9648 Kingston Pike

Tuesday, April 15th from 7-8:30 pm

A message from Laurie Brandow:

Does your son or daughter have a dream college? Or are they even thinking about college? What’s the plan? Where do you start?

Let’s start with our workshop!

Along with my colleague Jesse Hedrick from Testing Solutions, we are holding the second annual “Blueprint for College Planning and Admission” workshop. We’ll give you the resources that you are looking for…

From Your-Personal-Statement-is-NOT-an-English-Essay, to Crafting the College List,  our topics and information will get you ready for it all. Learn about Demonstrated Interest and resources for Unraveling the Mysteries of Merit and Financial Aid.  Find out whether the ACT or the SAT might be a better fit for your student.

This year each of my 20 students received multiple acceptances from what we call ’right-fit’ colleges. My mantra: Organization and timeliness minimizes stress and maximizes smart decision making. In other words: Procrastinate Later!

Come by Lane Music at 9648 Kingston Pike in Franklin Square Tuesday April 15th from 7-8:30 pm to get the inside scoop.

SPACE IS LIMITED! So RSVP now by emailing either Jesse at jesse@helpmytestscore.com or Laurie at Lbrandow@collegiateblueprint.com.

The cost is $25 per family. We will be giving away door prizes of a Regal Cinema gift basket courtesy of Collegiate Blueprint Consulting as well as a tutoring package courtesy of Testing Solutions.