PLAN or ACT Tests? What Are They and When Do You Take Them? | Doing College | Elizabeth LaScala | |

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About this blog: I post articles to offer timely and substantive college admission guidance on important topics and issues. Originally from New York, I have a B.S. from Hunter College in NYC and advanced professional degrees from the University of...  (More)

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PLAN or ACT Tests? What Are They and When Do You Take Them?

Uploaded: Feb 6, 2012
Dear Dr. LaScala,

What is the PLAN test? My daughter's high school offers it to sophomores in the fall. And how does it relate to the ACT?

John B.

Dear John B.,

The PLAN test is administered to high school students in grade 10. It measures skills and knowledge in English, math, reading and science. The name of the test refers to the fact that it provides help and guidance for college readiness and college entrance exams. The test can indicate areas of strength and weakness, and help students plan possible majors and areas of interest to research further, especially as they begin to think about college.
Students who take the PLAN test and like its format often go on to take the ACT, a college entrance standardized test which virtually every college accepts nationwide, and some even prefer to the SAT. Originally, ACT stood for American College Testing, but in 1996 the official name of the organization was shortened to simply ACT. The company name and the test it offers to high school students in 11th grade share the same name. The ACT (the company) also offers many programs and services beyond college entrance testing.

Like the PLAN, the ACT measures a high school student's skills and knowledge in English, math, science, and reading. A good time to take the ACT exam is the spring semester of the junior year. Advantages to testing in the junior year are:

* Test scores and other information will be available in time to plan the senior year. For example, a student may decide to take an additional class in a subject in which the test score was low to improve knowledge and skills in this area.

* Colleges will know students' interests and scores in time to contact students during the summer before senior year. Many colleges send students information about admission, scholarships, and special programs at this time.

* Students have more information to guide the college search and selection process and make college visits better focused.

* There will be plenty of time to retake the test before applying to college if the student believes his or her scores don't accurately reflect ability. ACT research shows that of all students who took the ACT a second time, 57 percent earned a higher composite score, 22 percent earned a lower score, and 21 percent stayed the same. The decision to take the ACT more than once depends on each student's unique situation. If you are happy with the first round of scores, there is no need to take it again. If you think you will do better a second time because you have prepared by taking additional classes or studied content you were weaker in, go ahead and take the ACT again.

Visit, the official ACT website to see testing dates, register for the exam, take practice tests and learn more about the broad array of programs and services offered by ACT.

Elizabeth LaScala Ph.D. guides college, transfer and graduate school applicants through the complex world of admissions. She develops college lists, offers personalized interview and essay coaching, and tools and strategies to help students tackle each step of the admissions process with confidence and success. Visit or call (925) 891-4491
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