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ACT Above-Grade-Level Testing

Assessment for Acceleration and Long-Term Planning

Grades 6 - 9

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Register with ACT for testing. ACT Site

Register Now

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In-Person test sites for ACT are available in the U.S. and select locations worldwide. See Find a Test Center for details.

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Test dates occur throughout the year. See the Registration Process, Dates, and Fees section below.

FEES:$75

30-minute CTD Assessment Consult: See Registration Process, Dates, and Fees section below.

Why Take The ACT Above-Grade-Level

CTD's above-grade-level assessment program, part of an approach known as academic Talent Search, helps parents, educators, and students better understand academic strengths and educational needs using assessments designed for older students. These assessments, including the ACT®, provide young students access to challenging content and use college and career readiness as learning benchmarks. Over fifty years of research and experience demonstrate that when these tests are given to younger students, they provide valuable insight into academic ability and potential.

What are the benefits?

  • Identify exceptional academic ability and areas of strength
  • Monitor growth over time and benchmark with high-achieving students in the same grade
  • Understand academic readiness for enrichment and acceleration
  • Understand programming and placement needs
  • Connect students to programs and opportunities designed to meet their needs
  • Set a course for a lifelong journey of achievement and fulfillment

Notes about testing sites and schedules

Please note that weather and public health concerns may impact in-person testing opportunities, which means test date and site availability is not guaranteed. ACT is responsible for establishing and maintaining national test sites, while local hosts make decisions about weather, health, and safety protocols or cancellations.

ACT continues to update its website with short- and long-term protocols and testing cancellations. If your child is scheduled for an upcoming test date, be sure to check with the testing agency and testing site for any updates or cancellations or with questions about testing location protocols. Last minute changes and cancellations are possible, so be sure you are familiar with test registration change and refund policies.

Reasons to Take the ACT Above Grade Level

Over 50 years of research and practice demonstrate that participation in an above-grade-level assessment program such as CTD's benefits advanced, or gifted, students in a number of ways. Students who have participated are more likely to continue their high achievement into high school, college, and beyond. They take more accelerated and advanced courses, earn more awards and honors, and have higher educational aspirations than other students.

CTD's proprietary interpretive materials give participants, their families, and educators a clearer understanding of academic strengths, including how students are performing compared to other gifted learners taking the same assessment, information about what content students are ready to learn, and recommendations regarding accelerated and enrichment programs.

In addition, practice and early exposure to above-grade-level testing builds confidence when testing for high school and college readiness or college admission (SAT and ACT). Students become more willing to take on challenges and they start to think more about what they can achieve not only in school but also in life.

Insights Provided by CTD

CTD provides families insights for planning as a result of above-grade-level assessment. After the test and providing CTD with the scores, registering for a 30-minute assessment consult will provide the following:

    • An explanation of sub-test and composite scores and what they indicate about learning readiness
    • Recommendations for academic programming in math, science, social science and the humanities based on students' scores
    • Statistical Summary of SAT and ACT score distributions and percentile ranks by grade based on scores received by CTD above-grade-level test participants; this allows educators and parents to determine how their students' scores compare to those of other high-achieving students at their grade level
    • Articles on parenting gifted students for families
About the ACT

The ACT is typically used for college admissions and as a state-level high school proficiency measure. Though designed for students in grades 11 and 12, talent search organizations like CTD administer the ACT to advanced students from grade 6 through grade 9 to get a more accurate picture of their abilities and readiness for accelerative programs. The ACT contains four multiple-choice tests: English, mathematics, reading, and science. It also has an optional writing test. The test takes approximately 4-4.5 hours to complete, depending on breaks and taking the optional Essay.

CTD Talent Development Consulting Bundle Option

Once you have your ACT scores, you can register for the 30-minute ACT Consulting Session with CTD. Use the consulting time to understand your student's scores and discuss approaches to enrichment and acceleration.

Our Center for Talent Development staff is comprised of experienced educators, leaders, advocates, and program developers whose mission is to help young people find their strengths and interests and create their unique talent development path. Consulting with CTD can help you achieve a variety of goals, including understanding your child’s abilities, planning for talent development, and getting the most out of educational opportunities.

Please note: CTD staff are not counselors and do not provide psychological or mental health services. Consultations with CTD staff members address academic programming and talent development best practices.

Registration Process, Dates, and Fees

Registration Process

Registration for the ACT and the consulting session are two separate processes: Step 1: Students register directly with ACT to take the test. Once you receive the scores from ACT, Step 2 is to register with CTD for the 30-minute Assessment Consult, reviewing scores, above-grade-level norms, and recommendations for educational planning. To register for the 30-minute CTD Assessment Consult after receiving your ACT scores, you will need to create an account in MyCTD, which is CTD's online application system, or login to your existing account. After you create a student profile or select a currently existing student profile, select the "Courses" tab, scroll down to assessments, and search for Assessment Consult.

Test Dates 

Test dates, registration deadlines, and fees for the in-person ACT administered on national test dates are available on the ACT website.

Important Information about National, In-Person ACT Test Date Registration

Students who are taking the ACT on a national test date are registering directly with the testing agency. Questions and requests about the test registration must be directed to ACT. Students who are unable to test on their scheduled in-person test date may be able to reschedule for a later test date by calling ACTD directly. The testing agency will assess a change-of-date fee. CTD does not manage the test registrations and is unable to assist with admission tickets, accommodations, rescheduling, or refund requests.

  • ACT Contact Number – 319/337-1270

Fees

30-Minute CTD Assessment Consult is $75. (This is separate from the ACT test fee required for testing.)

Withdrawals and Refunds

CTD SAT and ACT Consult fees are not refundable and may not be transferred to a future academic year.

National Test Dates for College Board SAT or for ACT
Since you will submitting your test registration directly to College Board or ACT for your preferred date and location, please review the College Board and ACT withdrawal and refund policies in the application. CTD does not manage the SAT or ACT test registration process nor any of the withdrawal or refund policies.

Eligibility

Criteria for Participation

Once in grade 6 and through the grade 9 school year, students have the option to take the ACT through the test agency's Saturday testing program at a local test site. Registration for the ACT and the consulting session is a two step process: Step 1: Students register directly with the ACT to take the test. Once you receive the scores from ACT, Step 2 is to register with CTD for the 30-minute Assessment Consult, reviewing scores, above-grade-level norms, and recommendations for educational planning. Students who are most likely to benefit from above-grade-level testing on the ACT are those who meet at least one of the criteria listed below.

Past Participant:

Students who qualified for and participated in a talent search (above-grade-level testing) in a previous year qualify to participate this year and are encouraged to take the same test to measure academic growth and/or experience a different test for practice (see suggestions by grade level below).

Participation in a school gifted program or advanced academic services:

Students who receive gifted or advanced academic services (advanced or accelerated courses) at school are encouraged to register.

Recommendation by a parent or teacher:

To be recommended, students should

  • demonstrate advanced aptitude in verbal or mathematical reasoning,
  • consistently demonstrate a high level of performance on academically demanding course work,
  • often request more challenging learning experiences,
  • be comfortable with the idea of taking a test designed for older students (willingness to take on the challenge).

Meet grade-level assessment criteria in either verbal/reading or math on a nationally normed or state achievement test:

Nationally Normed Tests

The percentiles of verbal, math or composite scores or subscores from a nationally normed, standardized grade-level achievement, aptitude, or abilities test can qualify a student. Scores from tests taken in previous years may be used to qualify. Examples of nationally normed tests that may be used to determine eligibility for above-grade-level testing include but are not limited to:

  • Cognitive Abilities Test (CogAT)
  • ERB Tests: Comprehensive Testing Program (CTP), Independent School Entrance Exam (ISEE)
  • NWEA Measures of Academic Progress (MAP), MAP for Primary Grades
  • STAR 360
  • I-Ready
  • Stanford Achievement Test
  • Terra Nova
  • Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS)

Depending on the test, the naming of scores or subscores may vary:

  • Verbal scores may be called Total Reading, Verbal, Reading Composite or Verbal Ability.
  • The Verbal subscore may be called Vocabulary, Comprehension, Reading Comprehension or Reading.
  • Math scores may be called Total Math, Quantitative, Math Composite, Quantitative Ability or Math Composite.
  • The Math subscore may be called Math Concepts & Applications, Problem Solving/Reasoning or Problem Solving.
  • The Composite score may be called Total Battery, Composite, Total Aptitude, Core Total, Complete Battery or Total Score. 
State Achievement Tests

Students may also qualify for ACT testing if they score in the top category or highest level (exceeds, beyond, mastered) in at least one category or subcategory of verbal/reading, math or composite on a state achievement test. For specific criteria and descriptions of your state exam, please visit your State Department of Education Website or consult with your school system. Scores from tests taken in previous years may be used to qualify.

Test Score Recommendation
Grade 7
First-Time Testers
If grade-level test
results* were:
≥90th percentile
Should take: SAT and/or ACT, CogAT Level 8
Subsequent Testers
Considerations: Take both/either test(s) or the test not taken in grade 6
Should take: SAT and/or ACT, CogAT Level 8
*verbal/reading, mathematics or composite

 

Grade 8
First-Time Testers
If grade-level test
results* were:
≥90th percentile
Should take: SAT and/or ACT, CogAT Level 9
Subsequent Testers
Considerations: Take both tests or the test not taken in grade 7
Should take: SAT and/or ACT, CogAT Level 9
*verbal/reading, mathematics or composite

 

Grade 9
First-Time Testers
If grade-level test
results* were:
≥90th percentile
Should take: SAT and/or ACT, CogAT Level 10
Subsequent Testers
Considerations: Last opportunity to take both tests as part of Talent Search
Should take: SAT and/or ACT, CogAT Level 10
*verbal/reading, mathematics or composite

 

If you think your student may be an exception to the guidelines provided above, please do not hesitate to e-mail us at ctd-assessment@northwestern.edu or call us at 847/491-3782.

Recommendations for Retesting

Above-grade-level testing can be used to track students' academic growth over time. If a student plans to retest, please follow these best practices and guidelines:

  • Test once per year and preferably during the same period of time each year (spring to spring, fall to fall, etc.).
  • It is possible to test in the early fall and again in the late spring or early summer (or two times per year), but test administrations should be far enough apart for instruction and exposure to programming to have had an impact.
  • Retest using the same test or an aligned test.  
  • Prepare for taking the assessment, but CTD does not encourage or endorse taking test prep courses for above-grade-level testing, which may result in recommendations that are not representative of students' instructional readiness levels. 
Financial Aid for CTD Assessment Resources

Financial aid is not currently available for CTD Assessment Consults, but please e-mail our office at ctd-admissions@northwestern.edu to discuss payment options.

What to Expect from Start to Finish

Start of Testing Year (August/September)

Registration begins and continues through June.

In The Weeks Preceding Test Day

Be sure to

  • Review the test details provided by ACT.
  • Review practice questions.
  • Print out and complete the Student ID Form.

Students should not take a commercial test preparation course.  But, they should understand the format of the test, be familiar with the types of questions and be aware of the time limits for each portion of the exam.

Frequently Asked Questions About Test Day

Will my child be overwhelmed?

Your child probably finds grade-level achievement tests relatively easy or at least not too stress inducing. An above-grade-level assessment may be the most difficult test your child has ever taken. They won't know all the answers. That's okay. The tests are designed to assess knowledge and skills generally learned at higher grade levels. They're supposed to be harder, and your child is not expected to know everything on them. Discuss this with your child in advance, so he or she can take the test with realistic expectations and simply do his or her best, and may have to guess on some of the questions.

Will my child be nervous about the testing environment?

For in-person ACT testing at national test sites, the testing room serves younger students taking the test above-grade-level along with older students testing for college admissions. While some younger students may be concerned about testing with high schoolers, most do just fine. Test administrators are trained to ensure a quiet, respectful test environment where all students can do their best work. Talk with your student about what to expect.

At Least One Week Before Test Day

Students should receive an admission ticket directly from the testing agency, which contains information on when and where to go and what to bring on test day. If the student has not received the admission ticket a week prior to test date, call the testing agency to ask for the student's registration number and the test center assignment.  Please note that CTD staff do not have access to admission tickets and cannot request one on your behalf.

  • ACT—319/337/1270

Test day

Students should arrive early at the test center with their admission ticket and other items by 7:45 or 8:00 a.m., depending on the test. The admission ticket will state what time to arrive and what to bring. Students should also bring required identification (see third bullet above under “In the weeks preceding test day” above). It is important to note that late students will not be allowed to enter the test center. There are no exceptions, so please plan accordingly based on the weather and traffic in your area.

After Test Scores Are Received

Register with CTD for your 30-minute CTD Assessment Consult.

A note about scores: ACT does retain scores, but parents need not worry. The testing agency will not report a particular score to a specific college or university unless your child directs them to do so.

For additional information about testing agency score-reporting policies, please refer to the website: http://www.act.org/content/act/en/products-and-services/the-act/scores.html

Some parents are concerned that there are a limited number of times their child can take the ACT. There is no limit to the number of times a student may test.

CTD has participated in above-grade-level assessment for over 40 years. It is a research-validated approach to identifying students’ academic needs and potential, with the added benefits of providing practice on the ACT, demonstrating a trajectory of growth, and taking on academic challenges. If you have questions about scores and reporting, we encourage you to reach out to ACT. Also, we encourage you to communicate with admissions officials at colleges or universities of interest to learn exactly how they make use of test score information.

Find Test Center

Visit the College Board ACT Test Centers page to search for test sites across the U.S. select locations worldwide by city, state, test, and date.

Additional Programs and Services for Families and Educators

Bring above-grade-level assessment to your school or assess younger students. 

CTD works closely with schools and families to provide the information and resources they need to meet the needs of their advanced learners. From school-based assessment to tailored consulting for families and educators to early assessment for young learners, CTD's expert staff are ready to help.

"Your program opened doors for tremendous advancement in my schooling, and I’m so thankful for you."

- Former CTD Assessment Participant

2023 © Northwestern University Center for Talent Development