Tuesday, July 30, 2013

How to use extended time on the ACT

I was shocked and surprised to realize that my son did indeed get extended time on the ACT!

After we sent in a huge box of an documents that could support the fact that he currently gets extended time on tests (and more importantly, NEEDS extended time on tests) -- including a copy of EVERY SINGLE IEP for every year since kindergarten, I called the ACT board to inquire about my son's extended time. I was fully intending to give somebody a piece of my mind about the fact that he wasn't currently approved for extended time.

THAT'S when I realized that, as I was looking at his most recent admission ticket from the ACT, up in the upper right-hand corner in small type was written "extended time."  I realized this just as I was hearing from the person on the other end of the phone that, yes, my son was receiving accommodations.  She could probably hear the "click, click" sound of the wheels in my head finally registering that, uh, duh, yeah -- we got what we wanted from the ACT board.  I said to her "well, I guess this phone call was totally unnecessary then, eh?" and she kindly laughed...

I was REALLY jazzed.  So sending in all of that documentation honestly WORKED???

Then, my son took the test.  Argh.  Not exactly a successful situation -- but one that can be dealt with.

The problem is that, yes, you get 50% MORE time than the regular population when you receive extended time.  I tried very hard to get information online to see how this 50% time worked.  With the regular population, this is how things work:

English section - 45 minutes - 75 questions
Math section - 60 minutes - 60 questions
Reading section - 35 minutes -- Four ten-question passages
Science section - 35 minutes - 40 questions

For the regular population, a test-moniter tells the students at the end of each section that it is over, and that they should put down their pencil.

THIS DOES NOT HAPPEN FOR EXTENDED TIME.  The extended time population has a total of over 4-1/2 hours to take the test, but it's up to THEM to figure out how much time to spend on each section.  I had mistakenly suggested that my son do the English section for maybe an hour, and then go on to the next section, etc.,  and then at close to the end of the test COME BACK TO each section to finish whatever questions were left.  I looked and looked online to see if anything talked about the structure of the test when extended time is given, and there was NOTHING.

As it turned out, my son couldn't go back to sections that were unfinished.  He knew that at the beginning of the test, so he just tried to finish each section.  That meant that he spent too much time on sections (Reading) that he couldn't do well, and by the time he got to the science section (where he would have excelled) he only got a few questions answered before he ran out of time.

So, what this teaches us is that in preparation for the next try at the ACT, we need to have my son take multiple trial tests in advance, to see how long he usually takes for each section.  Then, we need to have him get used to timing himself, and limiting himself to only spending a certain amount of time on each section.  It's very important that he has enough time for the sections that he does well in (math and science) and not spend too much time on the section where he will have problems (reading).

I was taken by surprise that the extended time population is given the least structure while taking the ACT.  Initially this bothered me.  These are the very students who need MORE structure, not LESS.  But, after thinking about it, I realized that it allows for the opportunity to spend more time on areas where a student can excel, and spend less time on the areas that a student struggles with -- therefore manipulating the test a little bit so that students can increase their chances.

I'll let you know how the next test worked in October.

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