Beginning in September, ACTs will include a 20-minute, experimental section, located after the Science Test and before the Writing Test. Unlike the SAT, which only gives the experimental section to students who have opted out of the essay, ACT will require all students receiving regular time to complete the section.
The nice thing about experimental sections is that they don’t count against your score. Of course, the bummer about experimental sections is that they don’t count toward your score either!
ACT and College Board administer experimental sections for several reasons: to ensure individual questions aren’t broken (if the students scoring 34 on a section do worse on a question than those scoring 21, the question is probably broken); to gauge item difficulty level; and to check that tests aren’t incrementally getting easier or harder as years pass.
On the whole, experimental sections benefit all students because they make the tests more reliable. But for the individual, this extra 20-minute section can feel like a burden. This is particularly the case on the occasions when students are faced with an entirely new question type. In the lead up to the revised SAT of 2015, many students encountered strange new question types and formatting styles that became the norm for the new test. At one point, ACT tried out some radically different problems in the hope of translating them into new online question types.
Whether you get a section filled with the same question types you’ve been answering for 3 hours or a whacky new form of question, remember that these questions don’t count.
Our advice: take it seriously but not too seriously. You want to save your energy for the final essay.