Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

Power Up: Reading ACT Prep, Week 9

Laura Halstied, Michell Eike | Published: November 28th, 2023 by K20 Center


In this reading ACT prep activity, students practice pacing and using TestNav as they take an online practice ACT. This is the ninth activity in a 10-week "Power Up" series for ACT prep.

Essential Question

  • How can I increase my ACT score?

Learning Objectives

  • Practice and reflect on pacing to increase the number of questions answered on the reading portion of the ACT. 

  • Navigate efficiently through TestNav during a practice test.

Materials List

  • Activity Slides (attached)

  • Pencil

  • Paper

  • Student devices with internet access


Introduce the activity using the attached Activity Slides. Share the essential question on slide 3 and the learning objectives from slide 4 to the extent you see fit.

Show slide 5 and have students get their device out. Provide each student with a piece of blank paper. They are allowed scratch paper on the actual ACT. 

Display slide 6 and direct students to either navigate to or open the TestNav application on their device.

Spend 2-3 minutes transitioning through slides 7-11, directing students through the steps to get to their practice test.

  1. Navigate to the ACT practice test through TestNav.

  2. Click “Practice Test.”

  3. Click “Reading.”

  4. Click “Reading - Untimed.”

  5. Read the directions.

    • These are directions and advice about the test and about using TestNav.

    • Students can, but do not need to, enter their name.

    • Students do not need to write final answers on a piece of paper.

  6. Press the “Start” button.

  7. Read the directions.

    • These are directions and advice about taking the online reading test.

    • Students do not need to write final answers on a piece of paper.

  8. Press the “Start” button.

  9. Read the directions.

    • These are directions and advice about taking the reading portion of the ACT.

    • Encourage students to read the directions now so they do not waste time on the real exam.

    • Let students know that they will have 27 minutes to answer the first 30 questions, and if they can answer more in that time, they should try.

  10. Press the “Next” button to begin the test.


Display slide 12 and direct students to begin.

Once students start their practice test, write the starting and ending times on the board. Use the hidden slide 13 as a reminder and example.

After 22 minutes, announce that students have 5 minutes remaining and that now is a good time to guess. Remind students not to leave any questions blank. Direct them to go ahead and select answers for all 40 questions.

After the last 5 minutes, tell students to stop and put down their pencils. Display slide 15 and have students navigate to the “End of the Section” and click the “Submit Final Answers” button.

Show slide 16 and have students take a moment to look at how many they answered correctly and remind them that they were only given enough time to answer 27, not all 40, questions.

Before you dismiss the students, show slide 17: You Powered Up! and have students reflect on how well they paced themselves during the practice test today.

Next Step

Complete the following week’s activity, “Power Up: Reading ACT Prep, Week 10,” where students will reflect on strategies gained during the previous weeks and apply them to ten practice questions.

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).


  • Allensworth, E. M., & Clark, K. (2020). High school GPAs and ACT scores as predictors of college completion: Examining assumptions about consistency across high schools. Educational Researcher, 49(3), 198-211.

  • Bishop, N.S. & Davis-Becker, S. (2016). Preparing examinees for test taking: Guidelines for test developers and test users. 2nd edition. Crocker, L. (Ed). In Handbook of test development (pp. 129-142). Routledge.

  • Black, S. E., Cortes, K. E., & Lincove, J. A. (2016). Efficacy versus equity: What happens when states tinker with college admissions in a race-blind era? Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 38(2), 336–363. 

  • Buckley, J., Baker, D., & Rosinger, K. (2020). Should state universities downplay the SAT? Education Next, 20(3).

  • McMann, P. K. (1994). The effects of teaching practice review items and test-taking strategies on the ACT mathematics scores of second-year algebra students. Wayne State University.

  • Klasik, D. (2013). The ACT of enrollment: The college enrollment effects of state-required college entrance exam testing. Educational Researcher, 42(3), 151–160.

  • Moore, R., & San Pedro, S. Z. (2021). Understanding the test preparation practices of underserved learners. ACT Research & Policy. Issue Brief. ACT, Inc.

  • TestNav. (n.d.). Home.