Mar 23, 2016

ACT launches ‘PreACT’ for fall 2016

ACT announced yesterday the launch of PreACT™, a 10th grade multiple-choice assessment designed to help students prepare for the ACT® and provide early feedback on their potential performance on the exam. The paper-based test will be available to schools, districts and states starting in fall 2016 and appears to be filling a gap left with the 2014 departure of the PLAN test from among the suite of ACT products targeted to college planning.

“We developed PreACT to meet a need for a 10th grade measurement and guidance tool that can be administered easily and affordably and that offers fast, helpful results,” said Suzana Delanghe, ACT chief commercial officer. “The introduction of this new assessment is a direct result of ACT listening to what our customers are telling us and taking action on their feedback.”

While obviously hoping to offer better competition for the College Board’s new suite of assessments than the more problematic ACT Aspire, PreACT is patterned after the ACT—only shorter and with fewer questions. Unlike the PSAT, there will be no “national” test dates and it can be administered any time during the school year.

“We are still completing research to determine the exact length of PreACT, but testing time will likely be in the neighborhood of 2 hours,” wrote Edward Colby, ACT’s senior director for media and public relations in an email response to questions. 

Like the ACT PLAN, the PreACT will cover the same four subjects that appear on the ACT: English/language arts, math, reading and science. It will not include a writing section, which is optional on the ACT. The format and 1-36 scoring scale will be the same as the ACT in order to give students some idea what the test is like while suggesting how well they are likely to do the following year on a complete ACT.

“PreACT questions will come from retired ACT tests, so students who take it will experience actual ACT test questions,” added Colby. “Questions will be selected to predict ACT test performance.”

Similar to ACT reports, PreACT score reports will offer a broad view of students’ college and career readiness, identifying academic strengths and areas for improvement. They also potentially may be used by ACT to generate a data file on the individual test-taker starting in the 10th grade, which could in turn be sold to colleges always in the market for this kind of information.

Priced at $12, the Pre-ACT undercuts the per-test cost of the PSAT by 20 percent and offers a much more economical alternative to ACT Aspire.  According to ACT, fee waivers are not offered this year, but are being considered for the future. 

With the College Board anxious for an earlier entrance in the market by offering the PSAT 10 and the PSAT 8/9 in addition to the PSAT/NMSQT, the emergence of a yet another competing test targeted to high school sophomores has got to be a bit of an annoyance. High schools are now faced with the decision whether to stick with one product line or offer opportunities for students to experiment with both products by administering the PreACT in 10th grade and the PSAT/NMSQT in the 11th grade. 
But the PSAT still has the advantage of being linked to the National Merit® Scholarship Program, and this is a powerful incentive for schools to offer the test to juniors hoping to qualify for this opportunity.

And what becomes of the ACT Aspire, which a number of schools and school districts have already scheduled for this fall? 

According to ACT, Aspire is not going anywhere. A computer-based test, Aspire was designed for schools and states that want to assess and track student readiness starting in elementary school and moving up to high school, while PreACT is designed “only to help prepare 10th grade students for the ACT and get them thinking about what careers they might like to pursue.”

Colby explains, “PreACT is not a replacement for ACT Aspire. These are two very different assessments designed for different purposes.” 

In other words, schools and school districts are welcome to pay for and administer both.

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