What on Earth is the ACT Aspire?

Do you ever feel, as a parent, that your child is exposed to endless testing? Do you feel as though many of these standardized tests have more of a business (I.e. money making component than actual academic assessment? Since the implementation of my professional career I have seen the SAT go from a 1600 top score to a 2400 top score with the addition of an essay and the breakdown of the verbal section to the Critical Reading and Writing sections. I have seen the beginning of the CAHSEE (California High School Exit Exam – we have tutors for that), used in CA and OR. The SAT is soon to change once again and the ACT went from an afterthought to widely popular (READ: “ACT Tips From a Private Irvine Tutor“).

ACT-tutoring-orangecountyPersonally, as a private Orange County test prep tutor, I would like to see more time for actual learning. Kids become tired very easily and I would prefer to see them use their mental energy on academics than filling in bubbles. Most teachers that I talk to would much prefer to teach, than to ‘teach to the test’. After all, we do not fill in bubbles in real life. We do, however, balance our checkbooks, make investments, write emails and read books (all components of math and English). So my first thought when I heard about the ACT Aspire was, why do we have yet another test?

To perform a well rounded critique, I have to go through it with a balanced eye and at least give it a chance. Bear with me and we can learn about it together.

1. What is the ACT Aspire?

Based on the summary content on the website, it is a test for 3-8 graders and early high school students that examines abilities in reading, writing, math, science, and English. It is 4 hours long and it meets common core standards (CLICK: “ACT Aspire“).

To me, this is not enough information. Don’t all standardized tests examine math and English (with reading and writing encompassed within it)? Doesn’t the ACT already cover science? Don’t all standardized tests meet common core standards? We definitely need to look further.

2. When did ACT Aspire first appear?

According to their website, ACT Aspire came into play around 2012. Since it’s so new, why is it better than its predecessors? ‘New’ is generally a neutral statement, it could be good, bad or have no particular meaning at all. Let’s look further still.

3. What is it all about?

Upon further investigation, I have discovered that the ACT Aspire replaces the ACT Plan and the ACT Explore starting in the 2014-2015 school year. In addition, the total testing time will vary between 3 hours and 50 minutes and 4 hours and 10 minutes, depending on the student’s grade level. On one hand, less testing means more time for actual learning. On the other hand, is 30 minutes of writing enough to determine if your third grader knows how to write? What if he or she zoned out for just that 30 minutes on that particular day but was paying attention the rest of the year? (READ: “5 Reasons Students Should Blog“).

4. What types of questions are there?

According to the website, the questions will vary between “multiple question types including constructed response, selected response, and technology-enhanced items”. To genuinely figure out how this test worked, I set out to take one 24-question section for myself. Excited to see how I did, I submitted my final answers. Unfortunately, I was redirected to the login page without a score. Either the ACT Aspire isn’t giving out scores or there are some substantial difficulties. The section that I completed was a multiple choice grammar and punctuation section and was very similar to the grammar correction sections on the ACT. So I suppose the ACT aspire will serve as a type of test prep for the ACT – if you want the best test prep in Orange County, look no further than our college educated ACT tutors.


The ACT Aspire offers both computer and pencil and paper based testing, which I would consider to be a good thing considering the difficult transition that schools are having with computer-based testing. (What if there are 35 computers but 40 students taking the exam? Not a good thing. What about mobile electronic devices where the keyboard pops up to cover part of the test? Frustrating.)

5. Bottom Line

I see this as a version of the PSAT (only in prep for the ACT). I don’t see it as particularly bad or good just yet. I would like to know what I got on that grammar section though.

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