Taking the ACT (Antiquated Competence Test)

I think a fun experiment would be to make educated adults take the ACT test and see how they do.
And by “fun” I, of course, mean painful and eye-opening and embarrassing.
Because, although both my husband and I hold master’s degrees and graduated with honors, helping our daughter study for her second go ’round of the ACT has made us question our intelligence.
And by “question our intelligence” I mean question the damn ACT — because we are brilliant.
Our framed degrees say so.

Thing 1 took the ACT for the first time in April, and without a tutor or study course of any kind procured a very respectable score. A score that will satisfy the requirements of any college she’s considering applying to.
But, because she wants to prove that she can always improve and is always trying to better herself  we want to see how well she’ll do if she actually studies for the thing, she’s taking it again today to see if she can get even closer to the illusive, magical “36”.
And this time, she studied.
And this time, she (occasionally) needed our help.
Which, sadly and surprisingly, we couldn’t always give. 

I consider myself a writer — a wordsmith, if you will (I’m in a real book so it’s pretty legit).  One who has a firm command on the written word and one who is fairly, if not advancedly*, familiar with basic as well as advanced constructs of grammar, spelling and punctuation.
*As is obvious.
So when the cry for help on the English section came, I may or may not have thrown the laundry I was folding Oreo I was eating down and leaped across the room to the aid of my first born.
That B.A. and M.A. in Elementary Education ‘twern’t for nothin’, you know.
And then I read the question that was….well, in question.
So I read it again. Aloud.
So I read it again, aloud, but this time with hand gestures.
Wasn’t doing anything for me.
Let me ask you this question — other than to offset a list, when in the hell are you supposed to use a colon and when in your entire lifetime of writing have you ever used one?
Thank you.

Listen, I get the irony of it.
I’m a “writer”.
But I write a blog for Steinbeck’s sake! Everyone knows that a blog isn’t real writing!
I write conversationally, which, if you’ve ever heard me speak, means I write in many, many run-on sentences that often make no sense and go on and on and on for seemingly ever (in a related note, I apologize to all my friends who have to listen to me speak).
And I can pretty much guarantee that anyone in the business world who writes documents or legal letters or press releases or magazine articles or proposals doesn’t really need to know how the colon or the semi-colon should be used in a given sentence, but instead just needs to know these 10 characters —
I mean, seriously, in this age if you can get to GrammarGirl.com, you’re set! Surprisingly (not surprisingly), it’s one of my most used bookmarks! And I have a master’s degree! (But in my defense, it’s in Elementary Education, and I’m not real sure colons and semi-colons are fully covered until at least eighth grade.)
I think the real test should be to see how well high school juniors can navigate Google.
I’m serious.
That’s real life.
I know.
I live it. 

And I’m not the only one.
Last night my daughter had a math question she’d saved to ask my husband for help on (she’s known better than to ask me for math help since she passed 4th grade — which is what I used to teach). And I felt a great sense of satisfaction when I overheard him talking out loud to himself trying to figure it out. The man got the highest score in the state of Arizona on the CPA exam (back in the day), has an M.B.A., is a CFA and has over 15 years of finance experience.
The damn ACT question stumped him.
In fact, she figured it out and moved on to the next one while he was still sitting at the table, scratching and erasing formulas on his paper.
Pretty sure it had something to do with a triangle or something else no one will ever in their lifetime need to know. 

That test is archaic.
It needs to be more relevant.
Let me give you a few examples of what I think that test should look like: (note proper use of colon…ignore most likely improper use of italics)

It was over 100° outside, I thought I might pass out from the heat.
       B. outside; I thought
       C. outside: I thought
       D. GOOGLE it, dumb ass

56.  The distance, d, an accelerating object travels in t seconds can be modeled by the equation d=1/2ar2, where a is the acceleration rate, in meters per second per second. If a truck accelerates from a complete stop at the rate of 15 meters per second and travels a distance of 75 meters, about how many seconds did the truck travel?
A. Between 1 and 2
B. Between 3 and 4
C. 5
D. Who the f*ck cares? I’m goin’ to a state school. 

71. Sally got a job in the marketing department. The Director of Marketing asked her to compile the data on the new product. Sally should:
A. Check Facebook
B. Send out a Tweet about how the man is coming down on her
C. See if Pinterest has any good ideas
D. Compile the effin’ Market Research Data and then send out a Tweet about how the man is coming down on her

I’m telling ya.
If questions like these were on the test, the future of ‘Murica would be infinitely better prepared. 

And last night when Thing 1 finished her practice test and scored it and shouted out that we both got our questions right, I might have jumped up, thrown a few fist-pumps in the air and yelled, “Yeah! SUCK IT, ACT!” because I felt such a huge, inexplicable sense of pride (i.e., validation). 

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to Google “When to use i.e. vs. e.g.”

This +1 button tells Google you liked what you’ve read. Thanks!

Back to Top Subscribe by RSS Subscribe by Email Email Post
  • Dyanne @ I Want Backsies - The ACT? GAHHHHHH! I’m glad my son didn’t need any help on that (although I understand semicolons and I’m not afraid to use ’em). I, too, was an Elementary Ed major. They were busy teaching us how to square dance and to play the recorder in case we needed to accompany our children in song and to make ridiculous folder games that we would NEVER use.

    So, yeah, I got a high enough score to get into my *cough* state college. I have absolutely no idea what it even was, nor do I care (although for $37 plus a $21 archive fee, I can find out, which I wouldn’t do with a gun held to my head because it undoubtedly was lower than my son’s was when he took it in 7th grade).ReplyCancel

  • Ashley Chandonia - i.e. = that is
    e.g. = for example

    One of the few things my three years of high school Latin has helped me with…it also did help me improve my SAT verbal score by 200 points.ReplyCancel

  • Ashley Chandonia - i.e. = that is
    e.g. = for example

    One of the few things my three years of high school Latin has helped me with…it also did help me improve my SAT verbal score by 200 points.ReplyCancel

  • Rachel - I actually think the ACT was designed specifically for people with my type of brain. I took it five years ago and scored in the top 1%…and every standardized test since then has been much the same matter. I seriously think some brains were build for standardized tests and some were not. I’ve always done well on such tests, and I swear it’s because I have the completely random gift of being a good guesser. Many of my friends would prefer an essay test any day over a multiple choice, but I love multiple choice, because you only have to guess!

    As to whether the skill of good guessing or any ACT information is actually useful in the real world…not likely.ReplyCancel

  • Sloppy Copy Mommy - Coming from a teacher of high school students, this was great. Honestly, I think many tests are being adjusted to account for some of the points you bring up…The world works differently than it used to, and the critical thinking skills required to search for answers to questions are more valuable, in many cases, than some of the things kids have to know to pass the test. It’s interesting to me that states are requiring more and more tests of students in an effort to “really” prepare them for the real world when our real world works so differently than what’s assessed on those tests. And then they try to adjust the tests and use portfolio assessment and offer different types of “interactive” questions, and before you know it, you’re in the middle of one huge testing MESS!

    Anyway, all that to say that I liked this, and I laughed hard at your answer choices for your updated test. You should turn that in so the ACT can consider making those changes. 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Alison Sommer - lol. I hated those tests even if I did well on them and I really dread my kids’ turn in taking them. I think I’m more nervous for them than I was for my own test score.ReplyCancel

  • Amy FunnyIsFamily - Punctuation is hard. Math is even harder.ReplyCancel

Your email is never published or shared. Required fields are marked *



T w i t t e r
F a c e b o o k