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s/o Freshman ready to take ACT (to meet annual reporting requirement for state)?


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I am tossing around the idea of my freshman (15) taking the ACT this year. Normally we take the IOWA.  We have to either submit a standardized test score or a letter from a certified teacher saying he/she has reviewed our portfolio.  A friend is doing the portfolio review and a practice ACT at home. 

How do you evaluate if a kid is ready for the real ACT? Even if it is just for "practice" to give them the experience and check a box? I don't want to stress him out. What should I consider?? TIA!!

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Posted (edited)

I found this old thread from 2015. I am curious if anyone's take on this has changed.  

It appears that the major considerations are: will the kid become discouraged by doing poorly on the exam (because they have not learned some of the material yet), will it cause anxiety, etc.

Has anyone done the Aspire test mentioned in this old thread? It sounds like I would need to connect with a public school for that. ETA: it looks like our local school does it in October, so that won't work.

 

Edited by cintinative
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1 minute ago, fourisenough said:

I replied on the other thread. How much math has your DD had? I think it’s best to have Algebra II at least started, if not completed.

We are still doing Geometry. I expect him to finish by May-June. So he won't really have started it, unless there is a summer ACT date (I will confess I don't know).

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Sorry, DS! I have four girls, so I’m always projecting DDs on people! 
 

Looks like there’s are June and July test dates planned: https://www.act.org/content/dam/act/unsecured/documents/pdfs/Test-Date-Schedule-National-2020-2021.pdf

I think I’d give some timed practice tests and see how it goes, then decide from there. My DD has raised her science score a total of 10 points (5 point gain on each of two tests after it really clicked in her brain). I guess that didn’t set off any ‘alarm bells’, so I really wouldn’t worry about the concern that a big jump in scores will trigger concerns over validity of scores. Again, maybe that was my concern and I’m projecting?! 

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11 minutes ago, fourisenough said:

so I really wouldn’t worry about the concern that a big jump in scores will trigger concerns over validity of scores. Again, maybe that was my concern and I’m projecting?! 

I hadn't really thought of that as an issue (the score jump). That is something to think about.

Maybe I would be better off doing a portfolio review and practice tests (set up to simulate the actual test) at home.  

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We did ACT in 8th grade as part if a talent search. We alway just thought the out of level tests were a good way to gauge  year-to-year how much they’ve improved, not to compare to the Juniors and Seniors. 
 

The Science section is weird. It has very little to do with science knowledge and is purely about reading charts and graphs in extreme timed conditions.

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The score jump thing is sort of a concern... ACT is difficult to appeal and if they decide your score jump was too high within too short a time frame, they'll invalidate your kid's results as having cheated. Just... don't have her take it for a baseline, then do a ton of prep and retake it a few months later. A jump over the course of a year should be okay?

I can't personally imagine sending a kid into a testing site full of strangers for that prolonged period of time when there are at home testing options to use for the legal requirements. In a different year, sure - if she's ready and you have to do a test anyway, nice to get a baseline. But this year? I mean, you have to make the call for your family, so that's up to you. I just don't see the benefits outweighing the risks.

 

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6 minutes ago, Farrar said:

The score jump thing is sort of a concern... ACT is difficult to appeal and if they decide your score jump was too high within too short a time frame, they'll invalidate your kid's results as having cheated. Just... don't have her take it for a baseline, then do a ton of prep and retake it a few months later. A jump over the course of a year should be okay?

I can't personally imagine sending a kid into a testing site full of strangers for that prolonged period of time when there are at home testing options to use for the legal requirements. In a different year, sure - if she's ready and you have to do a test anyway, nice to get a baseline. But this year? I mean, you have to make the call for your family, so that's up to you. I just don't see the benefits outweighing the risks.

 

 

This is such a good point. We are basically locked down because my parents are vulnerable health-wise. I don't even know for sure that they will be vaccinated by the time of the next ACT, and even if they are, is it worth it to risk my son's exposure to check a box?  I think I got so caught up in the idea that we were all going to be vaxxed by summer that I forgot to update it to account for the current rate of things.  

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DD is a sophomore and took the SAT as an 8th grader just so I could get a sense of where she was score-wise. At that point she had only completed Algebra. It was fine. I had planned for her to do it again last year but COVID. She’s signed up to do it again in June when...possibly...we’ll be vaccinated. She hasn’t done any real prep yet and may never. If she’s happy with the doors opened by her scores, I’m happy.

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All four of my kids take (or did take) the ACT or SAT each year to meet the Florida homeschool requirement. I've been doing this for ten years with four children and I've never had any issues.

ETA: I start them all taking it in the 7th grade.

Edited by Melissa B
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Ha! I did post on it; I wondered! 

I don't regret early testing with my first. My second didn't take it until fall of senior year (Covid cancelled her spring & summer junior year tests). Different kid.

Third was supposed to take it at the same time in the spring but now will wait. Again, different kid. Different times.

I wouldn't send them to take it now unless it was necessary  (which it was for college class placement & scholarships for DD#2). 

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Due to the pandemic, I would wait a year. It's going to be hard for the next year to get a space for testing, what with the pandemic cancelling of so many ACT/SAT test dates over this past year. There is a backlog of older high school students who really need to test.

Since you're student is younger, and you're not looking at needing the ACT for entrance into a special program, college admission, or scholarships, no need to push to get in this year. 😉 

What you might consider instead this year for your required standardized test is to have your student take either the PSAT-8/9 or PSAT-10 (the pre-PSAT-NMSQT tests). A high score on the actual PSAT-NMSQT, taken in 11th grade, has the potential for big scholarship $$$ -- the National Merit Scholarship is only a one-time $2000 award, but many colleges hand out BIG 4-year scholarships to those National Merit Finalists.

The PSAT-8/9 really varies when it is given -- sometimes fall, sometimes spring. The PSAT-10 is usually given sometime in Feb-Mar, so now is the perfect time to track down a local high school that is giving the test and sign up. A few links to info:

PSAT-8/9 Testing Dates
PSAT-10 Testing Dates

School Search - engine for finding a location giving one of the College Board tests near you:
1. enter your City, State, Zip (skip the school code box), then click on "Search"
2. a list of locations will come up; go to the box that says "View All Administrations" (on the right of the page, just above the "Assessment Date" column)
3. click to expand that box into the menu of options
4. click on the test option you are interested in -- it looks like the PSAT-8/9 and PSAT-10 are offering a digital version, so you might be especially interested in that one, if it allows for testing at home! 😄 

Edited by Lori D.
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My sons's school requires that all 9th-12th students take either the ACT or SAT annually.  My 9th grader took the ACT in December.   He did zero prep, had not taken geometry (his school does Algebra II first), and still managed a respectable math score.   

There were questions about current grade and high school courses completed on the registration form.  I hope ACT considers the responses to those questions when looking at jumps in scores.   

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2 hours ago, Lori D. said:



School Search - engine for finding a location giving one of the College Board tests near you:
1. enter your City, State, Zip (skip the school code box), then click on "Search"
2. a list of locations will come up; go to the box that says "View All Administrations" (on the right of the page, just above the "Assessment Date" column)
3. click to expand that box into the menu of options
4. click on the test option you are interested in -- it looks like the PSAT-8/9 and PSAT-10 are offering a digital version, so you might be especially interested in that one, if it allows for testing at home! 😄 

Nothing is showing up on here for my area. It could be they are not scheduling any. 

 

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I think the crowding/canceling/covid issues are probably very location specific.  We signed up for the SAT 2 weeks before the deadline for the December test and had no problems with the facility already being at capacity.  They followed the same masking and seating policies that the schools are using and it didn't seem to be a problem (in our area schools have been mostly open since August).  

As to how to know when they are ready - we've done the SAT, not the ACT, but I found that the practice tests were accurate for predicting my student's score.  My umbrella would have been willing to accept a self-administered practice ACT in 9th grade, but that's dependent on who you have to submit to.  There is a pre-ACT test like the PSAT, but you can't do it yourself.  We have local public and private schools that give it, but they will only let students in the correct grade take it with them (I don't remember what grade they give it to).  We considered it and then decided that the Dec. SAT fit our schedule so we went ahead and did that.  

My kids have never been stressed about standardized tests - they may find them tiring, but not stressful.  I think you'd have to judge how it would affect your student and decide what might be stressful and what they need to practice.  Are you worried about specific content, a test above their level (intended for jrs, taken by a freshman), the timed test, the group setting...?? 

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14 minutes ago, Clemsondana said:

Are you worried about specific content, a test above their level (intended for jrs, taken by a freshman), the timed test, the group setting...?? 

Other than the COVID aspect, which I had a brain lapse about, I think I am most concerned that he will try really hard, feel discouraged to not know much, and come away feeling defeated, even if I tell him not to worry about that because I know he won't know a lot.  He doesn't tend to be anxious, but he pushes himself hard.  

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From that perspctive, I don't know if it matters if you do a practice test at home or an official one - feeling defeated if you don't know answers would happen either way, although there is less pressure if it doesn't count for anything.  If you self-administer something, you could also decide that it isn't a good fit after one section and choose to do something else.  If you're going to get/check out an ACT prep book anyway then you could have him work some problems in the 'study' section (not a practice test) and see if it looks like a reasonable fit for him. 

Edited by Clemsondana
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23 minutes ago, cintinative said:

Other than the COVID aspect, which I had a brain lapse about, I think I am most concerned that he will try really hard, feel discouraged to not know much, and come away feeling defeated, even if I tell him not to worry about that because I know he won't know a lot.  He doesn't tend to be anxious, but he pushes himself hard.  

I worked really hard to depress expectations. It was just a ‘do your best exercise’ to see if DDs scores would get her into the schools she wants to attend and see if there is any extra work necessary to get where she wants to go. It helps that my DD is extremely easy going. It was/is important to me tho that she be familiar with the actual testing conditions and format.

Edited by Sneezyone
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My oldest took the SAT or ACT every year starting in 8th grade. I figured I'd rather use it to fulfill our end of year requirement than the Iowa (which we use and find not really that helpful other than as a box checker). I thought at least having him practice taking a test that he needed to take eventually would be good. I just made it very clear the first year that he wouldn't know all the Math (he was doing AOPS Algebra but hadn't had Geometry) and that I didn't really care how he did. I will say I knew that he was a good test taker. 

I planned on having my second son do the same thing, even more so because he is not a good test taker. He has ADHD and gets distracted and also way overthinks every question. He is an outside the box thinker and I have had to tell him so many times that standardized tests are about the NORMAL answer, not the "well, maybe in this weird circumstance" kind of answer. So he just needs to learn to take a test that he finds boring and stupid. He wasn't able to do it last year due to Covid and I'm not sure if I'll do it this year. I wouldn't if it was now. We'll see in June. 

As for the score jump, I always just hoped that colleges would be able to see that if a kid took a test in 9th grade and then again in 10th grade you would expect their score to jump due to learning more stuff. 

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I am very glad DD had taken the ACT at the end of her 8th/9th grade year, because it ended up being the test she applied to colleges using. The plan had been that she would take it again at the end of her junior year, one last time, but COVID intervened.

The other reason to do one early in high school is that most academic summer programs, DE, etc, require scores. It is also good to have them if there is any chance that your DS might want to go to a traditional high school or do a virtual charter down the road, because they're scores schools understand. 

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