Recent Changes to format of and increasing complexity of ACT

Based on other master tutors’ opinions shared in tutoring forums in which I participate, many of us believe that the ACT content has consistently become more challenging over the recent years. Further, the ACT has recently introduced minor changes in format of which students should be aware. The recent changes in format have taken place in the Reading and Science sections. The ACT has announced that it will be changing its essay in September 2015, but for the next two tests during this academic year, the essay will remain the same - a persuasive 30-minute essay prompt frequently on a school-oriented topic and sometimes on a broader theme.

Reading: The ACT introduced in its June 2014 test a Paired Passage format for the Humanities passage (Passage #3). This new Paired format has reappeared on all subsequent tests. Since I believe that students should have no surprises, they should plan for this. Since some of the Paired passages have presented with additional complexity, and a student may want to spend more time on this passage if so, a student may decide to flip to Passage 3 immediately and do this passage first. That way, if the passage were more complex and the student needed closer to 10 minutes to complete this passage with accuracy, then the student could subsequently attempt to increase her speed and complete the next two passages in under 8.5 minutes. If a student uses the technique of transferring answers to the bubble page only at he end of each passage, this re-sequencing of the passage technique may provide a student with higher performance on the Reading section.

Science: For both the Oct 2014 and the Feb 2015 ACT tests, the Science section changed in format by providing 6 passages rather than 7. The number of questions -- 40 in total – has not changed. I believe that it is likely that the Science section will continue to reflect this new format with the upcoming April test and beyond. The new format was organized with 4 passages of 6 questions each and 2 passages of 7 questions each. Only one of he 7-question passages was a Conflicting Viewpoints type. Pacing for this format will be slightly different to be able to finish within the 35-minute time constraint. I recommend that students aim to complete the 6-question passages in 5 to 5.5 minutes and the two 7-question passages in roughly 6.5 minutes. (For extended time accommodations, most students will want to continue with 7-minute 6-Question passages and 12-minute 7-Question passages for a 60-minute section.) This would allow a regular-time student to finish the section in 33 to 35 minutes. I recommend flipping to the end passage immediately to confirm if you have 6 or 7 passages. Further, I continue to recommend considering flipping through the section to locate the Conflicting Viewpoints passage and doing this first. Again, if a student transfers answers to the bubble page only at the end of each passage, this re-sequencing of passages should be handled easily and not present a risk of mis-bubbling.

Math: the Math section has become increasingly challenging over the recent past due to an increasing number of long word problems in the first 30 questions and due to more advanced topics in the final 20 questions. There is no question that a student who has had advanced trigonometry and pre-calculus is at an advantage for this test compared to a student who is currently taking Algebra 2. Some of the recent high difficulty topics have included:

• Synthetic division

• Vertical AND horizontal asymptotes

• Inverse functions

• Stem and leaf plots

• Co-terminal angles

• Graphing and graph shifts of trigonometry functions sine and cosine

• Increasing number of abstract number and operations problems that look like SAT problems and are well-suited to the Picking Numbers strategy

• Complex conjugates

• Recognizing Even and Odd functions as graphs

• Piecewise functions

• Law of Sines and Law of Cosines

• Inverse trig functions to solve for interior triangle angles

• Arithmetic Sequence Problems requiring you to create a Sum

Good luck to all of my students and everyone else who is taking the April 18th ACT!

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