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The EXPLORE® test is the first test in the ACT® family of tests. It is generally given during the 8th or 9th grade.  It is followed by the PLAN® at 10th grade and the ACT® at 11th grade.

Students at Lincoln County Middle School now take the EXPLORE in seventh and eighth grades.

  • Seventh graders take the EXPLORE in the spring of their seventh grade year.  Scores from this test is used to determine student mastery of the skills addressed in seventh grade.  Scores are also used to place students into courses for their eighth grade year.
  • Eighth graders take the EXPLORE in the fall and spring of their eighth grade year. The September test is part of the state testing system, and the spring test is a progress monitoring tool to determine if they have improved.  Scores from the spring test are also used to place students in high school courses for their freshman year.  

The EXPLORE is a test for high school and college readiness.  It is a four-part test, each part lasting 30 minutes.  The number of questions varies from test to test (English--40 questions, math--30 questions, reading--30 questions, science--28 questions).  So, students have to budget their time wisely since no extended time is given.  Students can earn up to a score of 25, with 16 being considered a proficient score.  The following scores set by ACT® are the benchmark scores for eighth grade.  If students make these scores, they are considered on-track for high school and college readiness.


Each fall of every school year, all eighth graders take the EXPLORE as part of the Kentucky testing and accountabilitiy system.  The results are used to determine if students are on track to be college and career ready.  The test challenges students to see if they have the skills that are researched to show they have a high likelihood of success in high school and college. 

The spring version of the test will allow eighth graders to see the progress that they have made since their fall test.  Since scores from the exam are used for high school course placement, students can also use this testing cycle as an opportunity to gain entry into certain courses that they may have been ineligible for based on their fall scores.

Seventh graders taking the test will also gain some valuable information from the experience.  Since their official test will be in the following term when they enter eighth grade, this test will give them exposure to the testing environment so that they will know what to expect in the fall.  It will also allow them to see what kind of course content they are expected to know by the time they enter their eighth grade year.  Their scores will also let them know if they are on track for success.  Like their eighth grade peers, their scores from this test will be used to place them into certain classes for the next school year. 

For seventh graders who take this test, they will get an early look at their performance to know how close they are to reaching these high school and college readiness goals.  For eighth graders, it lets them know how far off the mark they are and what they need to work on in the upcoming year to be prepared for the PLAN® as sophomores. 


Eighth graders taking the EXPLORE receive score reports from ACT®.  These reports contain their scores, how they compare to other students who took the test (locally and nationally), what scores they should expect to earn on the PLAN®, how prepared they are for high school, what career paths they should consider based on their interests marked on the test, and what they can do in order to improve their score.

The scores that students get on their score report let them know if they have met the benchmarks.  If they fall below these scores, then they will need assistance in reaching these targets.  If students make these scores, they have a 75% chance of getting a C or better in the entry level college class of that subject, and a 50% chance of getting a B or better in those same courses.  So, if students score below these benchmark scores, it is not highly likely that they will pass their first year of college.

Because the test is nationally normed, students also get to see not only how they compare to other students in their school, but they also get state and national comparisons.  The percentile rank tells them where they fall against the national average for students in their grade across the country.  It lets them know how they stack up against others who will be competing with them for slots for college and career entry.  If they are not meeting the benchmarks and have a low state or national percentile rank, they should expect others to be selected for college or career spots instead of them.

When students get their score reports, they also get information about which courses they should take in high school to meet their needs.  Students can compare this to the courses they thought they should take and weigh that against their benchmark scores.  Since scores are used to place students into courses at both LCMS and LCHS, how students do on the test is very important.  Eighth grade students not meeting their benchmarks are placed in strategies classes at the high school in order to target the skills that they are lacking to help boost their performance as they move towards taking the PLAN® for their sophomore year.  Since eighth graders take the test in the fall and the spring, if they perform better on their spring test, they will be more eligible for certain courses and exempt from others. 

Score reports for students also provide feedback about which career options match their interests.  Students can access more information about these careers and career clusters through the World of Work map on the EXPLORE website to determine what actions they should be taking to ensure that they are on track for career success.

However, these scores are not only for progress monitoring for college and career readiness.  Scores for eighth grade students in the fall are also a part of our school's K-PREP accountability scores for Next Generation Learners.  The 2011-12 College/Career Readiness score for Lincoln County Middle School was 37.7% students meeting the targeted benchmarks.  Seventh graders in the spring of 2012 were introduced to the EXPLORE test and provided additional instructional support and the 2012-13 CCR score rose to 48.9%.  This score will go towards calculating the K-PREP score for our school for this spring's testing.

To see a sample EXPLORE score report for an eighth grader, click here.
For information on how to interpret the report, click here.


Seventh graders taking the EXPLORE receive a different kind of score report than eighth graders, but it contains many of the same features.  It contains their scores, how they compare to various groups of students, what kind of scores they should expect to earn on the eighth grade EXPLORE, what kinds of courses they migh have in eighth grade based on their scores, and whether or not they are on track for eighth grade, high school, and college.  They do not get a career report; however, they can access career information through their ILP.

Just like the benchmarks for eighth graders, seventh graders also have goal scores, and their report lets them know if they are on track to meeting them.  The seventh grade report also shows them the eighth grades benchmarks to let them know if they are where they need to be to make that score in the fall when they take the test as eighth graders. 

On the score report for seventh graders there is also section about possible eighth grade courses.  At LCMS scores are used for placing students in courses.  They are used especially in content area literacy courses, math courses, and Response to Intervention (RTI) courses.  If a student's report is marked as "Possible Interventions" for a particular subject, then they could be placed in a course designed to help them better acquire the skills on which they peformed low for the exam.  By providing this support, they will have a better chance of success the next time they take the test.  However, they may also be marked as "Possible Acceleration."  This indicates that their score is high enough that they could be in an accelerated course for that subject area.

To see a sample seventh grade score report, click here.
For information on how to interpret the report, click here.


Beginning in the 2012-13 school year, sixth graders at Lloyd B. McGuffey Sixth Grade Center will also get to take the EXPLORE test.  The scores from their sixth grade test, along with their PAS data will be used to place them in courses for their seventh grade year.  All of these strategies are implemented to target student improvement.

The score report for sixth graders is similar to the score report for seventh graders.  To see a sample, click here.


All of this data can provide students, parents, and schools with much needed information about whether or not students are on track for high school, college, and career success.  Therefore, it is important that students try their best to perform at their highest level, especially because scores are used for course placement. 

By providing students with early exposure to the test and by structuring classroom instruction towards the areas of need, LCMS intends to increase the percentage of students meeting the benchmarks even more.  Therefore, it is crucial that school personnel, parents, and students all be informed about the test and work together to ensure student success.


For more information about the EXPLORE test, visit the ACT EXPLORE test information page.

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