As the pandemic has continued, the ACT exam has been cancelled in certain testing locations deemed unsafe, but many students have taken it, more or less, as planned.
An important part of most any preparatory plan is doing a full practice exam under timed conditions.
Full practice exams can serve at least two purposes: assess where a student is at before a tutoring regime begins and, after tutoring commences, help build stamina and cement test skills for the actual test day.
Various tutoring offices and schools offer proctored practice exams to students and parents.
However, under pandemic conditions many families do not want to send kids into a potentially less-than-perfectly-safe office setting to do a practice test.
That being the case, a home proctored test is very doable with a little prep and know-how. The idea is to mimic the actual test conditions so the student is accustomed to the test format and does not have to be surprised and potentially distracted on the actual test day
A few pointers....
1) Get a printable copy of a full exam and its key.
Some printable exams can be found online. Tutoring agencies (like ours) have many copies on hand. Try to make sure the test is done on hard copy--like the actual test-- and not through viewing a digital copy. Students can just circle their answer choices on the exam print out or, even better, print out an ACT "bubble sheet" (easily found online) so they can also practice filling their answers on the official form.
2) Set a date for the test.
If possible, select a Saturday morning for the exam because most ACT's are taken on Saturday mornings. This will mimic the real thing and help a student acclimate to that unfortunate aspect of exam--most high schoolers would rather not get up early to take a Saturday test. Try to avoid selecting a day that is near in time to stressful events or after late-night activities the evening before the exam.
3) Set up a quiet, comfortable room for the exam.
No internet, no phone, no family pet, no friends. no distractions! Just the student, a full test, pencils, clock, and calculator in the room.
4) Have someone (mom, dad or any trusted adult will do:) administer the test like any ordinary proctor.
The stand-in proctor should start the exam on time with the English section by briefly reviewing the time limit for this section, the number of questions and, if applicable, quickly reviewing the basic strategy learned in tutoring for the section. Write down the start and end times on a white board or a big piece of paper in marker so the student can clearly see them and manage their time against a clearly placed wall clock. Remember to have the student do the entire section in one sitting and remind them that they cannot ask for help. Let students know you will give them a five minute warning before time runs out in each of the major sections. Finally, remind them not to leave any question blank; there is no penalty for guessing!
Repeat this process for each of the remaining sections--Math, Reading and Science--and the essay if the writing section is going to be attempted as well.
5) Allow for a 5-10 minute break between the math and reading sections so the student can use the bathroom and/or get a light snack and drink.
This mid-test break also mimics what many test centers do on the actual test day. Before resuming the exam after the break remind the student that they are half-way done and encourage them to try and keep focus and finish strong on the final two sections (and essay if it is being taken).
6) Do a post-test debrief with the student and write down the responses.
Important things to note:
How far the student got in each section--if they did not finish--before time ran out?
What parts of the test seemed especially hard, easy or unusual?
Which passages in the reading section seemed hardest?
Which passages in the science section seemed hardest?
What math topics gave the most trouble?
Which strategies seemed to work well; which ones did not?
Was there any difficulty keeping focus and keeping alert?
Was there any trouble having enough energy to do the full exam?
What sections and skills one might want to work on before the next attempt?
7) Use the key to correct the exam to get the raw score, then calculate the 4 scale scores and then calculate the composite score.
Hopefully the test goes well and one can use the experience to build confidence, pinpoint weak areas to work on and move forward overall with the prep work!