Some 10 and 11-year-olds are already taking the A-C-T, but it’s not the college entrance exam the weighs so heavily on the college future of high schoolers. The fifth graders are taking the “Explore” test that A-C-T test developer Sherri Miller says is designed for assessing eighth graders. She says the students seem to do very well, and are compared to 8th grade norms, so they are not compared to fifth graders.

Miller says they perform very well and like the testing situations. Miller admits the students are encountering test questions that go far beyond their classroom instruction. Miller says especially in math, some of the concepts on the test they have not learned yet.

The University of Iowa’s Belin-Blank Center provides programs for high-scoring elementary and secondary school students, and center director Susan Assoline, says the Explore test helps identify those students. She says the purpose of the test is to see how much more of a challenge they are ready for. Assoline says the test has identified a lot of potential.

Assoline says the results have shown students who have outperformed the students for whom the test was developed. In other words –instead of being frustrated by advanced concepts the fifth graders are outscoring traditional 8th graders. Assoline says the 60-dollars parents pay for the test is a good investment.

“I think they’re very wise to take this type of circumstance, which is not high-risk, and allow their student, allow their child to take two hours and answer these kinds of questions, and be exposed to the multiple choice format, to the fact that it’s a little more challenging than what they’re used to,” Assoline says.

A group of students recently took the test at Kirkwood College in Cedar Rapids. Amy Christianson of Anamosa decided to try it for her daughter who scored high on the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills. “I just would like to see how excelled she is so I know how to proceed in her education for her future,” Christianson says. Another parent said the test gave them a good idea for the proper placement of her daughter in her class.