It gets a little tricky here. The ACT’s own resources point to two different websites for you to test out sample testing interfaces.
- ACT® Academy™ (which is referred to in the FAQ document), has a pretty simple view with not too many bells and whistles. The screen is split into two sides - the left shows the passage and the right shows the question (or, in the case of the Math section, the left shows the question and the right shows the answer choices). You can select your answer choice or skip to move on to the next question, but that’s pretty much all the interface has to offer.
- TestNav, on the other hand, which the ACT refers to on its Online Testing Information for Examinees, has a lot more tools for test takers. The general view shows you not only what question you’re on out of how many questions in total, but also how much time is left. There’s also a five-minute warning that pops up right on your computer screen, so you don’t have to worry about your proctor forgetting to give you a heads up when the section is almost over. You can skip questions, bookmark ones to come back to, and pull up a Review Questions view that allow you to easily go back to those dúvidas before time is up.
Some other cool tools on the TestNav interface include an answer choice eliminator (which allows you to cross off answers that you know are incorrect), an answer masker (which allows you to hide the answer choices when reading the question), a line reader (which allows you to display only one line of text at a time), and a magnifier (which allows you to - you guessed it - magnify the text or figure within the magnifying window). In the English and Reading section, questions that refer to specific lines also highlight the relevant text in the passage, making it easier for you to find and go back to that information.
So which site is more similar to the one that you’ll see in September? The representative I spoke with informed me that that ACT was still “putting the final touches” on the test-taking interface for students and that it would release more information about what the actual format looks like (along with practice resources for students) “later in the summer.” So basically, stay tuned until more information is released.
What does this mean for me as a test taker?
Well, some of your strategies will need to change. You won’t be able to write on the physical test, for one, which can make the Reading and the Science passages harder (since you can’t underline the text or draw on the tables and figures). It’ll also be slightly more difficult to scan through questions in a given passage to quickly identify which ones look easy or which ones have line references since each question is displayed individually. That means that any strategies involving the order in which you answer the questions may be somewhat less valuable time-savers than they would be on the paper test.
On the other hand, there are some things that the computer-based test might actually help you with. I find that some of my math students are more accurate when I put math problems on the screen and ask the students to solve using either the table or scratch paper in front of them. These students actually end up writing out more of their work when the question is on a surface they can’t write on, which leads them to make fewer careless mistakes. The lesson to learn here is to use your scratch paper - a lot.
The Writing (aka Essay) section is another section where the computer-based format will actually be helpful. I know that most of you reading are with me in that you also type significantly faster than you write on paper, so timing will probably be less of an issue with the computer-based test. As far as other features go (such as the ability to cut and paste text from one section of your essay to another)… they might be available to you, but don’t count on them. The ACT representative I spoke with seemed to think that the word processor in the testing interface would not include these abilities, but I know that other standardized computer-based tests, such as the GRE, do. If I were to venture a guess, I wouldn’t be surprised if the ACT were to follow suit.
Long story short, when you take the ACT on a computer screen, some things will be easier and some will be harder -- practice will help you to smooth out the challenges. I had some experience with computer-based standardized tests when I took the GRE a few years ago. I definitely found some things frustrating - like not being able to mark up the physical test - but with practice, you do learn to adjust.
So how do I practice?
Number 1 - keep doing the paper tests. The most important thing about the test - the content - is not changing, and all the same preparation you’ve done (and will do) on paper will still be relevant to the new format.
Once the ACT finalizes the computer-based format, it promises to “provide a tutorial and practice questions” in the style of the real test. Like I said before, this will probably be released in late June or July, so stay tuned.
In the meantime, the ACT does have some practice resources you can play around with -- they just might not be the exact format that you’ll see in September. The ones I mentioned before -- ACT® Academy™ and TestNav -- are free, and there’s also ACT Online Prep, which is available for purchase through the ACT website.
And rest assured -- we’ve got you covered. Those of you who have already worked with LogicPrep know that we have always been dedicated to the continuous development of our proprietary software to support our students’ growth. We'll guide you through the new strategies every step of the way.