What are they? Well, these are tests based on the ACT, but meant for 8th-9th graders (EXPLORE) or 10th graders (PLAN). The tests are shorter than the ACT, and help you and your student see how he is doing in four areas: English, Math, Reading and Science.
Our experience: Well, Connor (age 12) is a bit tired of doing tests after the SAT review course and the various college and career planning resources we have reviewed. So my normally cooperative child really didn't want to do these.
He had to anyway (mean Mom!!), though I only had him do the Explore test at this point. The test consists of four 30 minute sections, and there is guidance in the back of the book to help you score the tests. This helps you to correct the test, get a raw score, convert to a scaled score, and figure out how that compares with 8th or 9th graders.
We did learn a bit. #1 -- a child who is not motivated and has distractions present is going to score horribly. Especially when he is too distracted to even answer most of the questions. #2 -- this particular child will still manage to blow away the reading and science sections, even compared to 9th graders. #3 -- if we are going to have him take either the SAT or ACT this year, we really should choose the ACT.
Going forward, Connor will be doing the PLAN test in the first week or so of January. Then we'll decide if he should take the ACT this year. The reason we are considering the SAT or ACT is that the standardized tests we do to meet state requirements really tell us nothing. 99th percentile is great and all, and I'm not knocking that. But we're just at a point where doing out of level testing sounds like it would actually give us useful information. Maybe just doing the PLAN test is actually going to give us enough and we won't have to go further. But if he is scoring at the 95th percentile and above compared to 10th graders, well... we will know that we want more, and he will be doing the ACT for real.
Bottom line: I think this is a great in-home way to accomplish a couple different things. One is what the test was designed for -- to get some early indication of how your child is likely to do on the ACT. The other is to be able to do some above level testing of a child who is topping out the grade-level testing in an informal setting.
At $23 per test, it is not terribly expensive either. And it is certainly less stressful than registering for tests in an unfamiliar setting.
Bottom line: I'm glad to have had the chance to use ACT Advantage with Connor. It is something I will use with the rest of my children too.
And you can check out what my fellow crewmates have to say about various ACT products at:
Any questions? I'd love to know what you would want to know in deciding whether or not this is something you want to purchase.
Disclaimer: As part of the TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I did receive both the EXPLORE and PLAN test packets from ACT Advantage. The fact that I received a complimentary product does not guarantee a favorable review. It does guarantee a review. A fair review. But I am not going to praise something unless I think it deserves the praise. If I don't like it, you'll hear that. And hopefully with enough detail as to why so you can decide for yourself if what I hate about it makes it perfect for your family. For more about my take on reviews, visit my blog post here.