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How Has the ACT Changed?

Frequently Asked Question:

Are the older ACT exams that can be found on line good for practice?

Answer:

Yes. The ACT has made some minor tweaks to the exam over the years, but any type of passage or question found on an exam from 2005 is a candidate to appear on a current exam. There have been some changes, but those changes haven't rendered the older tests obsolete.


Reading Changes:

Beginning around 2015, the ACT began including a dual passage as one of the four passages on the Reading test. The dual passage requires the student to read two passages related to the same subject. The student will then be required to answer questions about firsts passage, questions about the second passage, and questions about the relationship between the passages. The dual passage can appear in any of the four positions in the reading test: Prose Fiction, Social Sciences, Humanities, or Natural Sciences. Unlike the SAT, where the dual passages often present two sides of an argument, the dual passages on the ACT usually do not engage with each other directly. The older ACT exams won't provide practice for the dual passages.

Science Changes:

At about the same time that the dual passages on the Reading test were changed, the number of passages in the Science test was reduced from seven to six. The types of passages did not change, however, just the number of questions per passage, so the older tests are still good for practice.

Math Changes:

The mix of questions on the Math Test has gotten harder in the last few years. On the April 2019 ACT, a student could miss thirteen questions on the Math Test and still get a 30. In 2009, the same number of correct answers would only have netted a 27. However, the difficulty of the individual questions hasn't changed much. The hardest questions today aren't much different from the hardest questions ten years ago. It's the ratio of hard questions to easy questions that has changed.

Another thing the ACT has done over the last few years is to include more Statistics & Probability questions on each test. Since 2016, each exam has contained six such questions. Again, however, these questions aren't any more difficult than the ones that the ACT asked before 2016--there are simply more per test.

English Changes:

The section that has changed the least is the English Test. In 2008, the English Test stopped offering "OMIT the underlined portion" as an answer choice. Now, it says "DELETE the underlined portion" instead.

Changes to the Reporting Categories:

At the end of 2016, the ACT tweaked the way it classifies questions.

English pre-2016: Usage/MechanicsRhetorical Skills.
English post-2016: Production of WritingKnowledge of LanguageConventions of Standard English.

Math pre-2016: Pre-Algebra/Elementary AlgebraIntermediate Algebra/Coordinate GeometryPlane Geometry/Trigonometry.
Math post—2016: Numbers & QuantityAlgebraFunctionsGeometryStatistics & ProbabilityIntegrating Essential Skills. The first five categories are grouped together as Preparing for Higher Math. In addition, any of the questions may be placed in the additional category of Modeling.

Reading pre-2016: Social Studies/SciencesArts/Literature.
Reading post-2016: Key Ideas & Details—Craft & StructureIntegration of Knowledge and Ideas.

Science pre-2016: No categories
Science post-2016: Interpretation of DataScientific InvestigationEvaluation of Models, Inferences & Experimental Results.

These categories don't appear to have had any substantive effect on the test, and, therefore, do not affect the practice value of the older tests. 
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