ACT Academy: Friend or Foe
Brian Stewart and BWS Education Consulting are counted among our favorite tutor and test prep companies in the area. Brian is the best-selling author of several ACT, SAT, and PSAT test preparation books with Barron’s Educational Series. We’re excited to be sharing their guest blog with our At The Core family.
In 2018, the ACT released a new practice tool called “ACT Academy.” This is their response to the SAT pairing up with Khan Academy. The ACT realized they too needed to be offering free online prep or they would risk losing students to their main competitor: the SAT. Khan Academy is well known for having excellent review of concepts and for being one of the best free online instructors available. The ACT, however, in a rush to create and release this new product, has fallen short of that mark.
Khan vs. ACT Academy
The wonderful thing about Khan Academy is that it isn’t just practice tests. It offers comprehensive review of concepts through video and practice. The ACT has tried to duplicate this success. While the ACT’s practice tests are great resources which students should be using, the review process through video and practice has a few problems. The practice questions do not always reflect concepts and wording used on the test. In addition, the answer explanations are often brief. Sometimes, there is no explanation at all but merely a video which explains the concept but not that specific question.
In addition to the review (which I do not recommend) and the practice tests (which I do) there is also a section on strategy for the test. This section is by far the worst part of ACT Academy. The strategies appear to be written by someone who hasn’t taken the test since they were in high school twenty years ago. The suggested strategies include one that asks the students to compete a passage every 11/2 minutes. Anyone who has worked with students or taken this test recently will know that timing every thirty seconds is something most students don’t want to have to worry about during a high-pressure exam. The strategies page is also riddled with typos which indicates that not a lot of thought was put into its creation.
Rush to publish?
In short, while the practice tests on this website are a great resource, the review and strategies offered are not up to par with the ACT’s usually high standards. Likely this is because the ACT rushed to release the Academy more quickly than they should have. In all likelihood as time passes they will fix many of the issues, but for now it is best to stick to more tried and true methods of preparation such as taking official practice tests or working with an experienced and trusted tutor or instructor.
What’s been happening since 2018?
ACT Academy has made some small changes in the time since it was published. Many of the typos and mistakes have been corrected. However, much of the advice given is still not best for many students. Every student is different. Students should practice with the goal of finding out what type of strategies work best for them.
The real ACT tests offered on ACT Academy are a good resource for practice (though they are on a computer and not in the test day format). The best practice tests are still in the book The Official ACT Study Guide.
Originally published 5/2018
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