June 1, 2018, by

No More Self-Paced Extended Time

The ACT recently announced that extended time students will no longer be permitted to split their time between sections as they wish.  Instead, students will get 50% extra time on each section, with a hard stop at the end of each one. This change comes into effect starting with the September 2018 ACT.  The June 9th and July 14th ACTs will not be affected, but extended time students might want to take them before the change goes into effect. Students receiving 50% extra time will take the test under the following time limits:

English – 70 minutes (compared to 45 minutes standard)

Mathematics – 90 minutes (compared to 60 minutes standard) 

15 minute break

Reading – 55 minutes (compared to 35 minutes standard)

Science – 55 minutes (compared to 35 minutes standard)

5 minute break

(optional) Essay: 60 minutes (compared to 40 minutes standard)

The current system of extended time is better for students, but easier to game.

The ACT provides numerous types of special accommodations to students with documented disabilities, including extra breaks, large print, extra time, and others.  Extended time is the most common accommodation, and the most common version is “National Extended Time,” which allows students to take the ACT in one day with 50% extra total time.

Until the new policy takes effect, students can self-pace, deciding how long to spend on each section and on each break between sections.  This flexibility helps students allocate their time in a way that gives them the best shot at doing their best on the ACT.

However, because the timing of some ACT sections is more difficult than others, students are often coached to allocate their additional time strategically, usually using more for the Reading and Science and not as much for English.  Students previously did this with the essay as well until the ACT took away self-pacing just from the essay section last year.  Students were given 5 hours to complete the English, Math, Reading, and Science sections, and 1 hour to complete the essay.

This change will cause problems for students and test centers.

Students taking the ACT with extended time will find managing breaks significantly more difficult.  Prior to this change, students could take breaks of any length between sections, but this time came out of their overall 5 or 6 hours.  Under the new rules, students will spend 2 hours and 40 minutes testing before their first break.  Including instructions at the start of the test, and students will be looking at almost 3 hours before their first bathroom break.

As a result of these changes, there will be little benefit to seeking National Extended Time over Multiday testing.  Multiday testing has the same section timing as the new National Extended Time, but allows students to take each section on a separate day.  Proctoring multiday testing is logistically challenging for schools, and the significant increase in the number of students requesting and probably being granted this accommodation will be difficult for schools to handle.

Bottom line: We recommend that going forward all students seeking extended time accommodations request multiple-day extended time (Special Testing). If you or your child is getting a psycho-educational evaluation done, please ask the tester if it you might be a candidate for multiple-day testing. Since the ACT will start receiving many such requests, we recommend that students who need accommodations begin the process early.

Contact us with any questions about  preparing for the ACT or to schedule a FREE practice test, and bring on summer!

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