ACT Reflections

Last month I retook the ACT, more than ten years after I first took the test in high school.
I was fairly happy with my score in high school, and was interested to see just how much I have forgotten being out of a classroom for a few years.

Before heading to Iowa Western Community College, the site of the test, I gathered all the supplies I would need for the test. This included a ten-pack of fresh number 2 pencils, a fresh large pink eraser, a TI-84plus (which I found in a drawer at my father-in-laws house, presumably it had once belonged to my sister-in-law) and a pack of fresh AAA batteries to power it, a backup calculator (one of those solar powered guys that did little more than basic arithmetic - I was really banking on not needing it), a pack of tic tacs®, and a sixteen ounce Monster Energy Drink® to chug before the test started.

I had planned on arriving at Iowa Western an hour early, but instead I opted to have a leisurely morning and take my time getting ready.
This was probably in error as, when I arrived at Iowa Western about 15 or 20 minutes before the test was scheduled to start, I found there was a lot of construction going on on the roads around Iowa Western. I was not able to drive up to the building – Dodge Hall – taking the route that I had planned on taking. I knew that I was close to Dodge Hall. I didn’t have a map of Iowa Western but I knew I was close to where I needed to be. I just decided to ditch the car and take off on foot. Unbeknownst to me, twice I walked past Dodge Hall, but there wasn’t a sign on this entrance to the building, so I didn’t recognize that it was where I needed to be.

Eventually a high school girl passing by in her car asked me if I knew where Dodge Hall was and I said I didn’t but was trying to find it myself. She offered to give me a ride. I hopped in her car and we drove about a lap around the campus. Unfortunately – since it was Saturday morning – their welcome center was locked, and there weren’t any staff around; we were on our own.

She told me about working the late shift at McDonald's the night prior, and being at Iowa Western was about the last place she wanted to be at eight o'clock on a Saturday morning.

She didn’t have a calculator or even pencils with her; I lent her a few of my fresh, new pencils.

Eventually, we got to where we needed to be with just a couple of minutes to spare.
In the end, everything was fine and we were far from the only ones having trouble finding our way around.

By pure chance, we were assigned adjacent seats in the testing room. So we were able to chat between tests. Once or twice she turned around and muttered “Just shoot me now.”

About halfway through the reading test she laid her head down and fell asleep and didn’t wake up until we were about halfway through the science test.

I had not taken the essay portion of the test before, as it did not exist when I was in high school.
We were given a prompt and had to choose a stance and write a persuasive essay to back up our position on this prompt.

I think my essay skills were woefully inadequate; it’s been at least eight years since I’ve had to write an essay like this. As if that weren’t bad enough, I had to write my essay in pencil! I hate writing in pencil! In ten years I have not done so much writing as I had to do on that essay; if I could have typed my essay, I surely could have done much better.

I outlined five paragraphs, and had time to write about three and a half, so I know that my essay won’t be winning any debate club awards. At the same time, I think my grasp of the English language is much better now than when I was in high school, and substantially better than that of the average high schooler. I used semi-colons and five syllable words - so I will score points in that department - but if they are looking primarily for a persuasive essay and don’t care so much about how it’s written, I’m sure that I did quite poorly.

Walking through Iowa Western’s Computer Science wing on my way back out to my car, I recognized that many of the course titles listed on the doors were subjects that I had a Wikipedia level understanding of, things like HTML5 and CSS 3, Intro to TCP/IP, IPv6. I would absolutely love to take a collegiate level course on these topics.

What has gotten in my way in the past has been the number of prerequisites required to take these classes, but I’m wondering if maybe I could just audit classes and cherry pick things that I was interested in. Perhaps I would get more out of the college experience this way, though that certainly would not put me on a degree track - which many would argue is more important than actually learning anything.