The Phantom Fifth Test
Many recent ACT test takers have been wondering about an added section to the test that had not been on the official test, prior to this year. The section is what ACT officials call “The Fifth Test.”
The Fifth Test refers to an added, shorter section of the test which comes after the standard English, Math, Reading and Science sections — thereby rendering it a fifth section, before the essay portion. This shortened section is being used by the ACT to test out new questions for future tests. This fifth section is multiple choice and the subject rotates, meaning that it will either be composed of English, Math, Reading, or Science questions.
Most importantly to students taking the test, the Fifth Test has no effect on their composite score. Phew! ACT officials do, however, advise students to do the best they can on this added section so that they can more accurately test the validity of potential new test questions.
A statement released by ACT regarding the Fifth Test advises students to, “Please try your best on these questions because your participation can help shape the future of the ACT. The results of the Fifth Test will not be reflected on your reported scores.”
This added question-testing section recalls a practice that the SAT used prior to the March 2016 launch of the revamped SAT. The previous SAT had an added section as well that was used for testing new questions. The difference, though, was that it wasn’t disclosed to students which section it was so students couldn’t be sure if it was an official test section — or one that was being used simply to try out new questions. The fact that this question-testing section was not apparent perhaps did make the section a more useful means of testing the validity of questions. It did not, however, make the section any more popular with students.
Presumably, ACT officials wanted to avoid the kind of push back that the SAT encountered with their hidden section. Though there is transparency with the ACT’s question-testing section, all indications from my own students indicate that the transparency hasn’t made the section any more popular either. At least — it won’t in any way alter students’ composite scores.