What is the ACT Aspire?

In April of 2014, the ACT released its first ACT Aspire exam. In June, it discontinued its ACT Explore and Plan assessments. As with the ACT Explore and the ACT Plan, the Aspire aims to prepare high school students to succeed on the ACT and to gain entrance to the college of their dreams - but what is the ACT Aspire? For students who will first take the full ACT Aspire battery during the 2014-2015 school year, it will be different from the Explore and Plan in several key ways. How? Read below for four changes to note:   

1. The ACT Aspire will utilize a computer format

Just as the 2015 revision of the ACT will offer a computer-based version of the test, the ACT Aspire will be an electronic assessment. Though the Aspire will still be available on paper for an additional fee, it is intended to be delivered on a computer. This shift reflects the increasingly digital nature of our society, as well as the importance of computer literacy in higher education and the workforce. The electronic format will include graphics, as well as interactive elements (see below) that its creators believe may further engage students. This is some great information on the ACT computer based test.

2. The ACT Aspire will draw on multiple question types

While the ACT Explore and the ACT Plan relied solely on selected response (multiple-choice) questions, the ACT Aspire will ask students to answer three problem types: constructed response, selected response, and technology-enhanced. Technology-enhanced questions will only appear on the computer version of the exam, but constructed response problems will be both frequent and important. With constructed responses, students must explain and justify their answer to a question, as well as compare, create, critique, etc.—in short, they must demonstrate the critical thinking skills that the ACT and college more generally require. Taking ACT practice tests can help you prepare for this.

3. The ACT Aspire will assess a student’s skill in writing

Like the ACT Explore and ACT Plan, the ACT Aspire tests elementary, middle, and high school students in English, math, reading, and science. However, the ACT Aspire also measures students’ aptitude in writing. Students must complete a 30-minute exercise in which they compose an essay in response to a single prompt—much like the ACT. Students must also utilize a specific genre, such as “analytical expository” (grade ten) or “reflective narrative” (grade six). This portion of the Aspire assists schools in determining whether students are prepared for the writing demands of the next grade level. This is some great information on the ACT writing sections.

4. The ACT Aspire will provide more data about academic potential

The ACT Aspire begins in third grade. Cumulatively, the ACT Explore (eighth and ninth grade) and the ACT Plan (tenth grade) readied students for the ACT and college over a three-year period. The Aspire, on the other hand, extends this timeframe to eight years. With its results in hand, guidance counselors, parents, and teachers may be better able to recognize gaps in students’ knowledge early in their academic careers. This may enable students to achieve greater success in elementary, middle, and high school—and ultimately, in college and beyond!