Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

Power up: Reading ACT Prep, Week 6

Laura Halstied, Michell Eike | Published: October 25th, 2023 by K20 Center


In this reading ACT prep activity, students practice using the ACT online test application. TestNav, to prepare for the upcoming online ACT test. Students explore the tools available to them during the ACT and practice answering ten ACT questions and potentially using the TestNav tools. This is the sixth activity in a 10-week "Power Up" series for ACT prep.

Essential Question

  • How can I increase my ACT score?

Learning Objectives

  • Understand how to navigate TestNav for the online ACT reading test.

  • Explore available tools for the online ACT reading test.

Materials List

  • Activity Slides (attached)

  • TestNav Tasks handout (attached; one per student)

  • Personal device with internet access (one per student)


5 Minute(s)

Introduce the activity using the attached Activity Slides. Share the essential question on slide 3 and the learning objectives from slide 4. Move to slide 5 and use the Preflections strategy to have students respond to the question: What tools do you think would be helpful for an online ACT test? 

Provide time for students to think about the question and talk to a student next to them before asking for a few volunteers to share. If students struggle with coming up with ideas, display slide 6 and review a couple of the tools that students can use on the online ACT.


25 Minute(s)

Pass out the attached TestNav Tasks handout to each student. Display slide 7 and have students use their personal device to navigate to or access the application on their device if the application is installed. Tell students to follow the steps on the slide to get to an untimed reading practice test. The options of Text to Speech and Screen Reader are not available during the actual ACT unless the student has accommodations. Direct students to “Reading - Untimed” for this activity.

Once all students have located the untimed practice test, move to slide 8. Give students 10-15 minutes to explore the TestNav features and complete their handout by taking notes regarding different tools. Display slide 9 and ensure that students have explored each of the tools available for the ACT reading test. 

After students have had enough time to explore each online tool, display slide 10. Have students move to question 31 of the untimed reading test. Tell students they will have nine minutes to read the passage and respond to questions 31-40. Explain that this provides time to use the online tools while responding to questions. Remind students that, when taking the ACT, they should spend approximately nine minutes on each reading passage and corresponding ten questions. Begin the 9-minute timer on slide 10 and have students complete the practice questions.


5 Minute(s)

Move to slide 11 and re-visit the question from the beginning of the lesson. Tell students to talk to a partner about the tools that are available for the online test. Ask for students to share one tool they plan to use during the test or a tool they do not think is valuable and do not plan to use. Remind students that the purpose of today’s activity was to become comfortable with the tools and learn how to navigate the online test so that they can pace themselves during the actual ACT.

Display slide 12 and inform students that they may access a new ACT practice question of the day through their ACT account. Directions for accessing the question are on the slide. Move to slide 13 and tell students they are making great progress towards increasing their ACT score. Remind students that a great way to increase their ACT reading score is to read for twenty minutes a day.

Next Step

Complete next week’s activity, “Power Up: Reading ACT Prep, Week 7,” which reviews inferencing and context clues.

Research Rationale

Standardized testing in high schools has long stood as a metric for assessing college readiness and school accountability (McMann, 1994). While there has been debate surrounding the accuracy of such metrics, as well as concerns regarding equity, many institutions of higher education continue to make these scores part of the admissions process (Allensworth & Clark, 2020; Black et al., 2016; Buckley et al., 2020). Aside from admissions, it is also important to keep in mind that standardized test scores can also provide students with scholarship opportunities they wouldn’t otherwise have (Klasik, 2013). Though the topic of standardized testing continues to be debated, effective test prep can ensure that our students are set up for success.

With several benefits to doing well on college admissions tests, it is important to consider how best to prepare students for this type of high stakes test. Those students from groups that may historically struggle to find success, such as those in poverty or first generation college students, especially stand to benefit from effective test preparation (Moore & San Pedro, 2021). The American College Test (ACT) is one option students have for college admissions testing that is provided both at national centers and school sites. Taking time to understand this test including the timing, question types, rigor, and strategies for approaching specific questions can help to prepare students to do their best work on test day and ensure their score is a more accurate representation of what they know (Bishop & Davis-Becker, 2016).