Artwork by Eli Cantor: Extra time gives some students an advantage on the ACT.
Nothing in the world could have prepared me for Junior year. Things start to get real: classes get harder, grades get lower, and stress levels skyrocket. The once distant thought of college has suddenly become a reality. As I was brainstorming a college list and memorizing school mascots, there was another challenging element in the beginning of my junior year: I had to take the ACT.
The ACT is a “nationally administered, standardized test that helps colleges evaluate candidates.” The test consists of English, math, reading, and science sections, as well as an optional essay. The four sections are scored on a scale of 1-36, and are averaged together to create a composite score. The ACT is by no means the sole deciding factor in terms of admission, but it does play a significant part in a college application.
For some it comes easy; I have friends who scored in the 30’s the first time they sat for the test. For me, it did not. Time was not on my side; it was preventing me from achieving the scores I wanted. It’s only after months of studying and practice that I’m able to complete every question in the fixed amount of time. The ACT is a strictly timed test. Forty-five minutes for English, sixty for math, thirty-five minutes for reading, and thirtyfive for science as well. The whole purpose of the ACT is to perform adequately within the limits.
That said, I believe that extra time should not be permitted on the ACT. Extra time and test accommodations are given to examinees with chronicled disabilities. Only those who receive extra time in school due to a “professionally diagnosed disability” are qualified to apply for extra time on the ACT. This ensure that examinees have 50% additional time, or time and a half to complete the exam. Having extra time is an unfair advantage to the other students. The ACT is meant to test your ability to take the test in a certain amount of time. Time and a half can make or break someone’s exam. Having time to answer the last few questions could impact one’s score significantly. A fellow MHS Junior complained that, “by giving some students extra time, they are basically stripping away everything that makes the test the way it is.” She continued, “I understand people have issues that inhibit their ability, so if that’s the case then there should be a new test made that takes these issues into account. Otherwise it’s unfair to the other students.” Extra time should not be permitted on the ACT. The exam is meant to assess a person’s ability to absorb and process information in a suitable manner. The time allocated is a large factor; if you have more time to comprehend the information, you may eventually get it. Given an infinite amount of time, more people would be able to score a 36, which defeats the purpose of taking the test in the first place.
Though I stand against it, I understand how extra time is necessary for some. Examinees with learning disabilities and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) make up the bulk of teens seeking special accommodations. This paltry 4% struggles to get through the test in one piece. The extra time is a remarkable factor in the success of said examinees; it enables them to breathe and refocus, and finish the test with time to spare. Without extra time, students with learning disabilities and ADHD would not be able to achieve the scores they sought out to get.
Because of time constrictions, the ACT is not entirely reflective of what one can do. The purpose of the exam is to measure your ability within the limits. Of course kids struggling with disabilities could perform better with extra time, but so can everyone. Yes, I think a test taker’s condition should be compensated for, or at least considered. But, I don’t think that giving extra time on a standardized exam is the way to do so.
By Camryn Cohen