What High Schoolers Need to Know About the PreACT

Today’s article was submitted by Erica Cirino.

This March, the ACT announced its plans to unveil a new standardized test for high schoolers this fall: the PreACT.

“PreACT will provide valuable insights on college and career readiness to students, educators, and schools while students still have time to make adjustments and improve,” said ACT Chief Executive Officer Marten Roorda. “It’s an affordable tool to help empower students and educators with information they can use to better prepare for the ACT and the future.”

So what is the PreACT, what will high schoolers get out of the exam, and how can students prepare? Read on to learn more:

What is the PreACT?

Intended for students in the 10th grade, the PreACT is an optional, paper-based, multiple-choice test designed as practice for taking the ACT college entrance exam, which 3 million American high school juniors and seniors take every year.

Like the ACT, the PreACT will follow a structured test format and will be administered by schools, districts, and states at a cost of $12 per student. Schools, districts, and states may administer the test at any time between September 1, 2016, and June 1, 2017.

The PreACT uses the same type of test questions, format, and score scale as the ACT, but with fewer total questions. Like the ACT, the PreACT will be divided into four sections: English, math, reading, and science. Unlike the ACT, the PreACT will not include an optional writing section. Overall, the PreACT will take less time to administer than the classic ACT—about two hours opposed to about three hours for the classic ACT, or a little more than three-and-a-half hours for the ACT Plus Writing, according to Edward Colby, ACT’s senior director for media and public relations.

Besides the scored academic content of the PreACT, the exam will also include a free, optional ACT Interest Inventory test. This test will ask students about which academic disciplines and career paths are most attractive to them. ACT will analyze students’ responses, then distribute to students—as well as parents or guardians and academic counselors—personalized insights into college and career possibilities that are likely to align with their interests.

“We developed PreACT to meet a need for a 10th grade measurement and guidance tool that can be administered easily and affordably and that offers fast, helpful results,” said Suzana Delanghe, ACT chief commercial officer. “The introduction of this new assessment is a direct result of ACT listening to what our customers are telling us and taking action on their feedback.”

The PreACT is also different from ACT’s existing ACT-prep and college/career readiness exam, the ACT Aspire, which is a set of exams administered by schools and districts annually to students from third grade through 10th grade. The ACT Aspire is scored on a different scale than the PreACT, and unlike the PreACT, it doesn’t emulate the format and style of the ACT.

What will high schoolers will get out of the PreACT?

Students who take the PreACT will receive predictive ACT scores on a scale of 1 to 36 (just like the regular ACT) in each of the classic exam’s four subjects: English, math, reading, and science. This allows students to use their scores to identify the core subjects in which he or she excels and those in which he or she needs to pay additional attention to, giving the student time to seek academic assistance from teachers and tutors, and to develop a smart plan for studying.

For students unsure of what academic field and career path they would like to take, ACT Interest Inventory scores may give them a starting point from which they can begin searching for suitable college and career options. Students who already have begun considering college and career options may learn about possibilities they hadn’t considered. Also, students who have a very good idea of the academic and professional directions they would like to take, might find reinforcement in their ACT Interest Inventory results.

The results of the ACT Interest Inventory are also easily be shared with parents, guardians, teachers and counselors. This gives the adults closest to students the opportunity to help guide the college and career decision-making process. The ACT promises to deliver students’ PreACT scores and results of the ACT Interest Inventory quickly, within two weeks of taking the test.

Another possible benefit of the PreACT is the potential for earlier discussions about college and career. By looking at students’ ACT Interest Inventory and PreACT test scores and the actionable advice provided by ACT, students, parents, guardians, teachers, and counselors can sketch out students’ future goals and plans. Some topics of discussion may include high school and college course selection, career plans, possibilities for postsecondary study, and scholarship opportunities.

Yet, unlike the College Board’s PSAT, the SAT-prep test designed for underclassmen, the PreACT will not offer scholarship opportunities directly. (Students who score high on the PSAT can earn a National Merit Scholarship.)

How should high schoolers prepare for the PreACT?

According to Paul Weeks, senior vice president for client relations at ACT, high school students shouldn’t stress over prepping for the PreACT. The best prep, he says, is to take classes in English, social studies, science, and math—which are all fields tested on the PreACT and classic ACT. If students feel comfortable with the challenges in more advanced classes, they should enroll in them, as doing so can be the best prep for the standardized exams.

Of course, taking the PreACT is, in and of itself, excellent prep for the ACT. Students can use their PreACT scores to uncover their academic weaknesses and refine strengths, which can best help guide their prep.


Erica Cirino is a contributing writer for Varsity Tutors, a live learning platform that connects students with personalized instruction to accelerate academic achievement.