It's 2020, and standardized testing looks different than it ever has before. While testing companies, including the ACT, are working hard to make testing safe and accessible for students, the students themselves are in a state of uncertainty. Handling this anxiety can be a challenge, but there are ways to support your students through the coming changes due to COVID-19.
One of the hardest aspects of the current situation for students right now is uncertainty. ACT test dates are changing; and while the ACT has also added five additional test administrations for fall 2020, there is still a possibility that students' test centers may close or the date may not be offered in general, depending on public health conditions. Meanwhile, planned changes to the ACT—such as at-home testing and sectional retesting--have been pushed back to 2021 or later.
While it's important to acknowledge this uncertainty, it's also helpful for students to know that preparing for the ACT will keep their options open--and their preparation is within their control. Colleges are adapting to this situation. They know that every student applying to college in 2020 is facing the exact same environment. Some, like the UC system, are using test-blind or test-optional policies. However, by preparing for the ACT, students are opening themselves up to a wider variety of options in the future.
Yes, the uncertainty is disturbing, but the more students can keep a flexible mindset towards their test dates—picking backup dates, knowing that they have a Plan B and Plan C—the more in control they'll feel about their futures.
Students can't be sure that their test center will be open or that the ACT will even be offered on their preferred dates right now. However, with that said, there's plenty they can still do to take control of their own learning and test prep. All of Magoosh's ACT study schedules, for example, can be adapted and spread out over longer periods to make prep more manageable. Test-takers may find that studying in shorter bursts over a longer period of time feels doable when longer sessions don't. Similarly, they can keep their sessions the same length but do fewer a week, depending on what they need to do for their mental health in terms of resting and taking time off.
As students continue to prep, it will be important that they adjust to changes in testing, as well. When they take practice tests, it's vital that they practice in test-like conditions: in 2020, this means sitting down for several hours with a mask on. While some may find this uncomfortable at first, encourage them to experiment with different mask types to find one that works for them. Remind them, as well, that they will be in a public space but will still have to social distance from the test-takers around them. Washing or sanitizing their hands regularly (and avoiding touching their faces) will be key during the test-taking experience, and so needs to be part of their practice test experiences, too.
Again, you may encounter some pushback from students at first. However, the more that they feel both in control of the test-day experience and the more they prepare in advance to take the ACT in 2020, the better they'll do on the test.
More than anything else, students right now are feeling stressed. Because of this, some of the best test prep advice you can give them is actually stress-reduction advice. Even when tips seem basic (practice mindfulness, exercise), remember that even adults need to be reminded of these strategies right now, and they may not have occurred to students before. Journaling, listening to music, having deep conversations—all of these strategies help a positive mindset and create a more relaxed attitude to life in general—pretty key skills to have when taking the ACT!
A Final Note
Nobody envies students applying to college in 2020; they're facing a set of circumstances that are truly unprecedented. But creating a regular study schedule, adapting it to students' current mental states and calendars, staying flexible while preparing for testing as we anticipate it, and reducing stress can all help your students get through this time and achieve their goals.