You are? Well, hold the phone then because we have some important, up-to-the-minute information for you!
First of all…
What have we learned from the February 2015 ACT and the April 2015 ACT?
A lot of students have been reporting that they think the ACT is getting harder. In my opinion, this belief has some justification. Passages and questions in recent years have been, in fact, more complex and sophisticated than much of what is in the official released tests in The Real ACT Prep Guide, 3rd edition. (Check out our review of The Real ACT Prep Guide.) There have been some formatting changes to the Science and Reading sections that do not appear in the “Red Book”; English passages seem to be a bit higher-level as well. It’s understandable that students who think they know what to expect can feel a bit panicked on the real thing.
However, it is important to remember that these changes are relatively slight in the grand scheme of things (even if they seem to be exponentially magnified by the pressures of the test administration). Nevertheless, it’s important to be prepared for them. Here are some things you could potentially expect on the June 2015 ACT based on recent tests and information released from the ACT:
A Comparison Reading Passage
Recent tests have included a comparison Reading passage as one of the four texts on the Reading test. Frequently, this has been on the Humanities passage, but this may not necessarily be the case. If you see a dual passage, be prepared for questions that ask you to compare how the respective authors feel about a certain topic or how one author might feel about the other. Thus far, there have only been 2 or 3 questions that apply to both passages. The rest apply to one or the other and are no different than any other Reading question type. You can check out an example comparison passage from the ACT here.
A Science Test that Does Not Follow the Standard 7-Passage Format
Many students have prepared for seven passages on the Science with a certain number of questions per passage (3 Data Representation Passages with 5 questions each, 3 Research Summaries Passage with 6 questions each, and 1 Conflicting Viewpoints Passage with 7 questions, to be exact). This hasn’t been the case on recent tests, so don’t necessarily expect it. For more information, you can check out my extended analysis of potential scenarios and strategies for the “new” Science test!
Some Changes in the Essay Question (Maybe)
This one is definitely a maybe. The format of the ACT essay is supposed to change in the fall of this year, but there hasn’t been much information released on it yet. There’s no reason to expect that there will be drastic changes to the essay on the June test, but it’s possible that the question might be a little more like the new essay type if the ACT wants to test out how students respond. Currently, the ACT essay presents students with a situation (such as “Should students be required to wear uniforms?”) and asks them to agree or disagree and explain why. The new essay (coming this fall) will present students with multiple perspectives on an issue and ask them to both evaluate these perspectives and present their own view. It’s not incredibly different, but the new essay puts more weight on analysis than on opinion. Once again, I don’t think that the ACT will surprise students with the new essay format in June, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there were slight shifts in the question in preparation for the fall.
Is the June ACT Harder or Easier than Other Months?
There are a lot of myths out there about certain test dates being easier or harder than others. These myths are generally the result of insufficient data based on personal experience (“I did terrible on the April ACT, but amazing on June, so you should take the June test!”) or hunches about who takes the test when (“The super-smart seniors applying Early Decision ruin the curve in September. December is when the procrastinating slackers take the test.” etc. etc.).
When you look at a large enough sample pool, however, you’ll find that there is no such thing as an easier or harder month. In fact, many tests are recycled and given again. For example, a test that was given in February may be recycled again in June a couple years later before being retired. There is also no evidence that certain months have a harder or easier curve from year to year. The curve does vary a bit between tests (for example, 5 questions wrong on the math might get you a 32 on some tests and a 31 on others), but there is no data to suggest that the curves follow an annual cycle of being easier in one month and harder in another.
Is There Any Advantage to Taking the June ACT?
As long as you are prepared for it, then, yes, I think there are some serious advantages in taking the June test. For one, you’ve likely just finished your school year. Your math knowledge is fresh in your mind from your final review; you’ve been reading and testing a lot. The “summer slide” is real–it can be harder to get back in the swing of things in the fall.
In addition, assuming you are a junior now, you are going to have a lot more going on in the fall (namely, completing your college applications). If you can knock out your testing in the spring, or at least get in a solid first go so you are more prepared for a fall retake, you will be in much better shape headed into your senior year!
And if you need some help with last-minute prep and test-day tips for the June ACT, we’ve got you covered!
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About Kristin Fracchia
Dr. Kristin Fracchia makes sure Magoosh's sites are full of awesome, free resources that can be found by students prepping for standardized tests. With a PhD from UC Irvine and degrees in Education and English, she’s been working in education since 2004 and has helped students prepare for standardized tests, as well as college and graduate school admissions, since 2007. She enjoys the agony and bliss of trail running, backpacking, hot yoga, and esoteric knowledge.
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