ACT exam online

Taking the ACT Exam Online: What do parents need to know to prepare their children?

No parent likes this kind of surprise….their student has been practicing for the ACT on a paper form, doing all they should be doing to prepare for the live version by replicating the real-life experience. Suddenly, the parent discovers that the test will be online. What?! School districts are making the switch to online versions for their free exams offered to current juniors. Why the switch and what can parents do? How can our kids prepare well for this format shift to the ACT exam online? We don’t want you to be blindsided!

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Why the switch?

According to the New York Times, “Digital testing offers the potential for lower cost, instant results and more accurate scoring. Eliminating test booklets and answer sheets provides greater security from test theft, a serious concern after major cheating scandals in the United States and abroad. An increasing share of professional, licensing and postgraduate exams are digital-only, including the GRE, MCAT and GMAT.” Those are certainly good reasons to test online!

Is it impacting scores?

Yes and no. There is an adjustment to testing online. “When you change from one mode of test administration to another, scores typically drop — we know that for a fact.” Students are sometimes more comfortable with their phone than with their computer. “Though scores tend to rebound later.” However, “closer study has shown that scores drop only among students who do not use computers for everyday schoolwork.” School districts are using various data in their decisions to switch to an online format, and it’s very likely your kiddo has taken other forms of tests in an online format.

How does it work to take the ACT test online?

First and foremost, the CONTENT is no different. Your kiddo has prepared for this part of the process! The online format does, however, give the test a very different feel.

Your student is used to paper tests (booklet, pencil, eraser, scantron form). And, it’s because they have taken other tests in an online format, there is some familiarity with the platform. When your student uses the online version of the ACT, they will sit at a computer (mouse, keyboard) and can have the following items on hand: their approved calculator, scratch paper (supplied) and a pencil/eraser.

They will view all test content online and answer all questions online. The application they use to take the test (Called TestNav— supported platforms are Windows and MacOS. There is a Chromebook app as well.) has many features that allow the student to access tools like a highlighter, bookmarks, answer eliminator marking, etc. during the test.

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What should parents do?

A quick glance at the tutorial, and students will see the test will feel quite different. We recommend that students practice a bit using the online format to increase their confidence and familiarity with the platform.

If your student prefers to be prepared and may get a little freaked out by seeing a new format for the first time on the testing day, we urge you to have your student work on this! We highly recommend that every student take the time to download the TestNav app (supported platforms are Windows and MacOS. There is a Chromebook app as well.) to get into a practice test and to view the tutorial.

Parents, take some time to read this for all the details about how it works. Once a student navigates the practice test in the new format, he/she will feel so much more confident for what is ahead on their testing day! Best of luck to all of the testers this season!


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