Time and half on the ACT may seem like a blessing to some, but for others it might be a curse. One of the most commonly granted accommodations for the ACT is “time and a half” on one day or National Testing Standard time with Accommodations/Extended Time. As an educator, I agree with granting extended time for those who demonstrate that they need it, but the way the ACT offers it through this accommodation just doesn’t make sense to me. Students who already have time management, executive functioning, attention and/or anxiety issues are asked to create a timing plan on their own accord. In my mind, the proctor hands these students the test, and says “Go! You have five hours (six hours if you’re writing the essay portion). Bring it back when you’re done.” What? I would be overwhelmed by this task if I didn’t have the guidance of someone telling me when to take breaks or how long is prescribed for each section. Think about it: you’re about 16 years old, you have to take five or six hour test, and you have some sort of a learning challenge (ADHD, among others), anxiety disorder, or executive functioning difficulties. Don’t you want to know when you should take a break? When your time is up and it’s suggested that you move on? That there is a plan in place? At least some sort of guidelines should be offered to these students so that they can figure out how to chunk the experience.
I’ve also heard first-hand from students who have tested this way that they become more anxious when they see that their peers might be moving on to the next section. Sometimes they’re distracted by other students getting up and taking breaks, and find the opening and closing of the door annoying. I would, too!
I am a fan of the ACT over multiple days (Special Testing) with prescribed time and a half per section. I also like that the College Board offers the SAT with time and a half and the students are told when to move on from section to section and to take their breaks. Why the ACT has formatted their Extended Time in its current state was presumably with good intention: the ACT company probably wanted to allow students to spend more time where the students felt they needed it. But if a student hasn’t been practicing on his or her own or working with a tutor to outline a game plan for the test, he or she could walk into a disaster. I think that prescribed time and a half per section, even on single day testing, might be the best way to go. And certainly a student could do that even in the current format of the ACT Extended Time, but he or she must track his or her time (probably not with any of the commercial “ACT” watches because they usually don’t account for extended time–see our blog). The student must have self-discipline, confidence, and a tried and true test timing plan to self-pace. If your child is taking the ACT under National Testing Standard time with Accommodations/Extended Time and would like to meet with an Ivy Ed tutor to set up a timing plan, please reach out to our offices. This is what we do!