View Full Version : The ACT

06-01-2015, 05:49 PM
Why are test scores like the ACT/SAT important, particularly for homeschoolers?

Because they’re independently given at testing centers. They provide the “proof” that the kids have the skills sets represented on their transcripts. Given the prejudices faced by many homeschool families (of course you have all A’s, your mommy graded you)….a really stellar ACT score gives your transcript punch and credibility.

We picked the ACT instead of the SAT (you can do either, or both) because all 11th graders in Michigan take the ACT. Most colleges accept either.

What’s on the ACT?

English: 75 questions – 45 minutes (punctuation, grammar and usage, sentence structure, strategy, organization, and style. Basic writing mechanics)

Mathematics: 60 questions – 60 minutes (pre-algebra, elementary algebra, intermediate algebra, coordinate geometry, plane geometry and trigonometry. I think there are only a couple of trig questions…no calc)

Reading: 40 questions – 35 minutes (Read the passage, answer the questions. Hint: if you read the questions first, you’ll have them in mind as you’re reading)

Science: 40 questions – 35 minutes (biology, chemistry, physics, and the Earth sciences are used in examples…..but this test is less of an evaluation of general knowledge in these subjects….and more of an evaluation of analysis, evaluation, reasoning. You’ll be given data in charts, graphs, passages, conflicting viewpoints, articles…and asked to draw conclusions from your understanding of them)

Total: 215 questions
Writing: 1 prompt – 30 minutes http://www.act.org/aap/writing/pdf/educator_guide.pdf <---really cool teaching guide for the writing prompt.

Do prospective Community College students need to take the ACT? Typically...no. Community Colleges will have their own placement tests (like the Compass or the Asset). Does acceptance to certain community college programs require the ACT/SAT? Yes. Allied health programs and other competitive programs commonly require the ACT/SAT as part of their ranking system for admission. Check with admissions.

If I have a really bad test day, I was sick, distracted, emotional that day..... can I take it again?

Yep, you can take the ACT up to 12 times. Many people take it multiple times to try for better scores and to desensitize themselves to test taking jitters. You are in control of which scores are sent to the colleges of your choice. If you have a really bad test, you don't have to show it to anyone, if you don't want to.

When should your student take it?

My feeling on this one...is late in their Junior year. Kids typically are sending their college applications in the fall of their Senior year....they want their test scores complete and ready to send by that time. Getting testing done toward the end of Junior year works very well. If they need to retest, they'll still have a chance over the summer or early fall.

What's a good score?

A perfect composite score is 36. The national average is 20-21.

06-02-2015, 12:10 AM
Thanks, Crazymom, for bringing this subject up. Going into 10th grade next year, so I thought we'd start practicing and getting ready for the SAT or ACT, even though DS doesn't know if he wants to attend college. He is a clever kid, but hates math with a zeal I've not encountered before :). Getting ready for the math portion should provide much entertainment for us. I remember dreading the ACT, but did just fine on it. There's plenty of time to desensitize him to the process, so might as well get started.

I looked at an example Accuplacer test for our local community college and am glad to see that he could pass that without much difficulty. I may give him the example test as a starting place this summer.

06-02-2015, 07:15 AM
Excellent points.

I had my kids take both the ACT and the SAT, and my (only partially home-schooled-he's been in a private school the last few years, which is why I haven't been around here so much) son got accepted (with a scholarship) to the university of his choice. When I sent an inquiry to that college about homeschooling admission requirements, part of the response I got was this:

We offer admission to many home-schooled students each year however, since one student’s home-school experience is much different than another’s, it is very difficult to determine a distinct admissions policy for all home-schooled students. If your children take courses through a centralized home-schooled organization or other educational institution, we will only require official transcripts. If they do not take courses through an official organization, we will need to see a copy of the curriculum including course descriptions, text books used, and marking schemes. In these cases, we would also like to see test/exam samples as well as writing samples. As we do require a common standard in order to calculate scholarship offers, it may not be a bad idea to write the SATs or another standardized test if she isn’t able to procure an official transcript of marks. SATs and other standardized tests, though not required, will only add to our understanding of your children’s academic potential which may help us in determining scholarship offerings.

Neither one of my kids are great test takers, but I'm happy we did standardized testing throughout their education, even though not required by our state, and that they both have done the SATs and ACTs (actually had them do both twice). Both of mine did better on the SATs than the ACTs though. Not quite sure why. (My daughter will graduate next year.)

06-02-2015, 10:47 AM
E. took the ACT (no writing) in 7th grade as part of the Duke TIP program. He's a good test-taker, but even so, he did much better than we expected on it. It really helped his confidence about those types of tests in the future, and he is planning on taking the ACT for college. Interestingly, several of the larger schools in our area are no longer requiring the writing portion of the ACT...

My younger son is not as good of a test-taker, although he is improving. We have done the Stanford test with both boys every year since second grade (independently proctored), for two reasons: so that they would have experience with that type of test, and so that if anything ever happened to me, my husband would have something that a school would understand and therefore have some hope of placing them appropriately in school.

06-02-2015, 11:58 AM
Shoe, the homeschool info your son's college sent sounds pretty typical.

Each college/university will have a different set of hoops for homeschoolers to jump through for admissions. This is particularly true of schools with highly competitive admissions. The more info you can give them third party, the better the scholarship/funding odds.

I would highly recommend investigating the homeschool policies of all potential target universities as early in the game as possible (middle school, if possible). Particularly, if you have a STEM-bound student....science classes with labs can be contentious. Many colleges won't recognize science labs taught at home....and are much more comfortable seeing these credits from community college.

Even schools that profess not to require standardized tests....will often ask for third party documentation from homeschoolers.

It's also worth mentioning that college admissions don't care about documentation before high school. K-8, you lived in the jungle and did your math in the mud? Can't remember the names of curriculum or what was taught? K-8th, they don't care.

What you did freshman year? They want details and proof. (if you took classes in 8th for high school credit, they'd be interested in those, too) It's all about the high school transcript.