Should a 9th grader take the ACT or SAT?

My daughter, Faith, is in 9th grade.  NC requires we administer a nationally recognized test each year, which has been either CAT or Woodcock-Johnson. However, it had been recommended that I use the ACT from here on out to familiarize her with the test in hopes of achieving the highest score for possible scholarship opportunities.  But yesterday, while actually in the midst of composing my email to you, I hear her crying.  She was  finally getting into the test prep material I had bought for her and she was so upset about the prospects of doing poorly on the test.  Is this a bad idea? How did /or would you handle this? Any suggestions would be so appreciated.
~ Laura

Dear Laura,

I think it's a bad idea to give the ACT in 9th grade.  It is intended to measure 11th grade skills. The test does include some algebra and some geometry.  For that reason, taking the test early may only cause frustration.  If the student simply CAN’T score well, because they don’t have the requisite math, then the test will only be an exercise in frustration.  You don’t want to put your child into a situation where they will feel badly about a test they will need to take next year or the year afterward.

In schoolwork, particularly in a homeschool based on mastery of concepts, children are only exposed to tests where they might score 100%.  If they are faced with the SAT, PSAT or ACT early in high school, it may not be possible for them to score well.  If they miss all the questions they have not covered yet, and a few "normal" questions that are difficult as well, they may only get a much, much lower percentage of questions correct.  Taking the test very early can backfire and cause test anxiety that may make their scores worse in the long run.

Instead of practicing test prep to take the ACT test, I suggest that you teach individual skills that are measured by the test.  Teach quick essay skills, vocabulary, and math at their level.  That's wonderful preparation for the test.  Once your children are in 10th grade, you can slowly introduce test prep at home, and have them take the test when it will help them.

There is an alternative to the ACT, called the PLAN.  It is intended for 10th grade.  It is similar to the PSAT, because it's intended to be taken earlier in high school as preparation for the college admission tests. Notice that they still recommend it for 10th grade, not for 9th grade. You can get more information here:

For more information, I have a class called "High School Testing."  That class is included as a bonus with the Total Transcript Solution and the Comprehensive Record Solution.  It is also part of the Convention at Home Kit.

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