The ACT has announced that, starting in September, it will no longer allow students to self-pace themselves on the test with extended time. The time allotted per section will be as follows:
There will also only be one break of 15 minutes after the Math section (as opposed to the ability to take breaks after each section and for any duration). With the break included, the ACT with extended time will take 4 hours and 45 minutes, compared to 5 hours now.
If students are taking the ACT with writing, they will be given a short break after the Science section and, same as now, be given 60 minutes to complete the essay.
Impact of changes:
- The ACT is taking away some of the benefits to extended time. Currently, students have the ability to self-pace, which allows them to allocate time on the test as needed. For example, most of our students with extended time do not need the extended time on the English section, so they take the extra 22 unneeded minutes from that section and use it for the Reading and Science sections. They also take 5 minute breaks after the English, Math, and Reading sections, instead of English and Math all at once for 2 hours and 40 minutes, then a 15 minute break, and then 1 hour and 50 minutes straight for the Reading and Science sections. Taking a break after each section is more beneficial. Finally, the test duration will also be 15 minutes shorter overall. In summary, the benefit to extended time on the ACT is reduced because there will be no self-pacing, only one break, and less time overall to complete the sections.
- Taking the ACT over multiple days will be much more appealing than it is now. When students take the test over multiple days, they lose the ability to self-pace and are limited to 70 minutes for English, 90 minutes for Math, 55 minutes for Reading, and 55 minutes for Science — the exact same time they will have in September per section when taking the test all on one day. Very few know this, but students who have been granted extended time can take the test over multiple days (technically they need to “apply” to take the test over multiple days, but 100% of my students with extended time who have applied for multiple day testing in the past have been granted it without any hesitation or issue). There will be no reason to take the test on one-day, except that they will get the test over with in one day and get their scores back faster (students who take the test over multiple days have a 3 week window after each national test date to complete their exam, and their results usually take 2 to 4 weeks to come back after they have completed the test). Multiple day testing allows students to take each section of the ACT on a different day and thereby to take each section fresh, without fatigue, with less stress than that from a long test, and usually at better times (there are no set times when they need to take the sections, so they can take them in the late morning or afternoon if they are more focused at those times than in the early morning when the ACT is normally given).
- The ACT will no longer be better than the SAT for all extended time test takers. Currently, virtually every student with extended time is better suited for the ACT for two reasons: First, the SAT already is not as difficult to complete in the allotted time, so extended time is less necessary or less of an advantage. Second, if students were given unlimited time on the SAT, they likely would not do much, if any, better. The SAT decreases students’ scores through tricky questions and testing knowledge of topics, not by giving them too little time to complete the sections. In contrast, the ACT primarily decreases students’ Reading and Science sections scores by giving them little time to read the passages and answer the questions. The Reading and Science sections of the ACT are actually relatively easy: most of the answers are accessible, but students struggle to find the answers within the regular time. The SAT, unlike the current ACT, already limits students to 50% extended time per section. In September, the ACT will lose its overwhelming advantage of self-paced, optimally allocated time and will start limiting students to the roughly 50% extra time per section, just like the SAT.
For some students with extended time, the 57% extended time in the Reading and Science sections on the ACT will not be enough. They will either be rushed to finish or unable to finish those sections (essentially they will encounter the same struggle that students taking the ACT with regular time currently experience if they do not do test prep). For these students with extended time, the ACT will then offer no advantage.
However, the ACT will still likely remain the preferred test for extended time test takers. Most students with extended time will still not need all of the 57% extra time on the Reading and Science sections, so the hardest part of these sections (the lack of time to complete these sections) will continue to be a non-issue, or these sections will at least be easier to complete within the allotted time than under regular time for most test takers.
In short: Even though the advantages to the ACT with extended time will be diminished, it will remain the optimal test for most students with extended time, particularly if they opt to take the test over multiple days.