The 3 ACT Changes You Need to Know About Before the September Test



What!? There are changes to the ACT, too???

Yep. And it’s come to my attention that not everyone who’s signed up for the September 12, 2015 ACT test knows about the 3 important changes that directly impact what score you’ll get on test day!

Why is this? I’m not totally sure. Perhaps some tutoring companies are lazy or don’t do their research? I mean, it IS hard to miss. You’d have to scour the website and countless test prep blogs and belong to tutoring and educational professional groups — like I do — in order the stay abreast of the news. And everybody has their hands full with staying on top of the Redesigned SAT that’s rolling out this Spring!

So, yes, there are ACT changes.

And these changes will be rolled out over the course of the next year or so. Most do not affect how you actually take the test — a lot has to do with reporting. So, do not concern yourself right now with the new way the scores are displayed, the new scores you’ll receive (like the STEM score, which will really only be the sum of your Math and Science scores) or that you’ll soon be able to take the ACT completely on a computer. They aren’t all happening yet. (And the ones that are have to do with reporting, not test-taking.)

However, as a test-taker, you only need to prepare for 3 changes right now.

And as your favorite test prep expert, I’m happy to walk you through them. If you know any Seniors who are about to take the ACT in September or Fall, please help them out and send them this article so they can quickly and efficiently prep for the test without slogging through the extraneous haze of information overload out there!

ACT Change #1: The ACT essay is totally different.

Instead of reading about an issue and improvising three reasons in favor of your point of view, you will now be required to:

  • Evaluate 3 different perspectives on an issue,
  • Create your own conclusion/perspective about how to handle the issue, and
  • Relate your own perspective back to the 3 that you already analyzed.

Okay, that sounds like a mouthful, and it is. However, if you think about it, you’ll be asked to do this for every essay from September on, so you already know how to organize your essay. You basically have to complete the three specific tasks that they asked of you — with your own analysis, good grammar, varied sentence structure, vivid examples, and elevated vocab.

Here’s the sample that’s posted on the website:



ACT Change #2: The ACT Reading section now has a Double Passage.

I know this sounds like I just turned off the Taylor Swift in the middle of your birthday party, but this change really isn’t as bad as you think. The reason? Unlike the SAT’s double passage that sent most of your friends screaming to the ACT in the first place, the ACT does a great job of organizing this double passage to where it’s actually MUCH more efficient and time-saving for you as a test-taker!

What do I mean? Well, here’s what I know for sure:

  • There will only be 1 double passage on the test.
  • It will be one of the non-fiction passages.

So it’ll either be Social Science, Humanities, or Natural Science. In other words, you’ll only have to deal with it on the 2nd, 3rd, or 4th passages. But only one of those.

  • They already organize the questions for you!!!!

The ACT actually divides the questions into three sections, the first about Passage 1 only, the second about Passage 2 only, and the third about both passages together. That’s the order you need to be reading them in anyway, and there’s no guesswork! No scrambling to see if you’ve read enough to answer a particular question.

ACT Change #3: The ACT Science section only has 6 Passages.

So, this was not a change that I read about or that I noticed an announcement about. However, through coaching my own students and studying the April 2015 and June 2015 ACT tests, I saw this trend, and I think it will stick.

Right now, you’re used to having 7 passages on the Science section, which gives you approximately 5 minutes per passage. This has been a huge issue for most students, simply for the timing issue that creates. After all, it takes a while to digest the prompt before answering the questions, and then quickly switching gears every five minutes. (Sedimentary rock layers? Genetics? Nitrogen levels by temperature and longitude in different types of bog soil?!?!?! Make it STOP!!!)

The new Science section breaks down its passages like this:

  • 2 Charts and Graphs passages, each with 6 questions
  • 3 Experiments passages, each with 7 questions
  • 1 “Fighting Scientist” reading passage, still with 7 questions

The main difference? The ACT took away one of the Charts and Graphs passages, and then it gave you an extra question in each of the remaining Charts and Graphs passages and in the 3 Experiments passages.

Interesting things to note are:

  • You now have more time per passage! 5:50 per passage, as opposed to the original 5 minutes per passage.
  • Over half the Science questions are based on Experiments passages (21 out of 40).
  • Charts and Graphs has fewer questions (12 out of 40, as opposed to the original 15 out of 40).
  • Fighting Scientists remains the same (7 out of 40).

So that’s what you have to look forward to! If you really think about it, most of the changes work out in your favor, timing-wise and organization-wise. However, I understand how shell-shocked you’d be if you weren’t prepared and walked into the testing center cold turkey, so I wanted to give you fair warning.

You’re welcome.

And remember, if you know any Seniors who are about to take the test this Fall, please do them a huge favor and pass this onto them. Sharing is caring 😉