The battle between the ACT and SAT for state-wide testing contracts has been brewing for several years now, causing both the ACT and the College Board to make changes to their tests so that each assessment more accurately aligns with the Common Core State Standards. It was no surprise, then, that the ACT developed the PreACT, a practice test designed to compete with the PSAT—the SAT’s precursor exam—to help students prepare for the ACT. Here’s everything you need to know about whether the the PreACT is right for you:
1. It’s great practice for the ACT.
The PreACT is extremely similar to an actual ACT; it uses the same types of questions, the same four-section format, and the same 1-36 scoring scale as the ACT. The only real difference is its length, as the PreACT is an hour shorter than the ACT. Thus, the PreACT is a great pretest for students who plan to take the ACT in their junior or senior year as the PreACT will essentially provide them with a “before score” and help them pinpoint their areas of weakness. Students also get to keep their test booklets, which will provide powerful review and preparation for the official ACT. So if your state has contracted to provide the ACT to all students, the PreACT seems like a necessary addition to your school’s suite of tests.
2. It’s a stress-free test.
Unlike the PSAT, there are currently no scholarship competitions associated with the PreACT. The PSAT is connected to the National Merit Scholarship Program and a few other organizations that use the test results to bestow merit-based financial awards, so some students experience pressure to perform well and will actually study for PSAT. There is no reason to do so for the PreACT; in fact, we recommend that students who take the PreACT do so without any preparation so that they get an accurate view of their strengths and weaknesses and can develop a more appropriate study plan for the actual ACT.
Of course, this suggests that elite scholars in ACT-prevalent states should also take the PSAT, even if they have no intention of taking the SAT, in order to potentially qualify for the National Merit Scholarship Program.
3. It’s intended for sophomores.
The PreACT is specifically for sophomores, while the PSAT is designed for juniors (even though many schools encourage sophomores to take the PSAT as well). At this time, the PreACT is only available to students if their high school is offering the test. Students cannot take the test at another local high school.
4. It can be administered anytime between September and June.
Unlike the PSAT, which has a set testing date in October, the PreACT has a very flexible testing window. The guidelines allow high schools to administer the test any time between September 1 and June 1, making it a much more convenient option for busy schools.
5. It will include several reports to help both you and your school.
The PreACT will include an interest inventory which will generate suggestions for college and career choices for each student who takes the test. Students, parents, and counselors can use this information to tailor academic itineraries or to explore prospective colleges. In addition, the school score report will provide teachers, counselors, and administrators with data to help identify areas of strength and weakness in the curriculum.
While most students will be hesitant to add another standardized test to the cadre of assessments already in place, the PreACT fills a void and should be considered by students in schools and districts where the ACT is mandatory or by students who are focusing solely on the ACT. This new pretest provides valuable practice for the ACT without the stress and pressure surrounding other college admissions tests, while also supplying valuable data to help students prepare for “the real thing.”