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.

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