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ACT Adds Live Teaching to Its Online Test Prep Lineup

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ACT Inc. has added a new twist to its test-preparation service: live teaching, streamed online.

The Iowa City-based testmaker announced Monday that it has teamed up with Kaplan Test Prep to offer ACT Kaplan Online Prep Live. Kaplan already offers test-prep services that feature live, online teaching, but its partnership with ACT marks the first time one of the big college-entrance-exam testmakers will offer such a service.

ACT Kaplan Online Prep Live will be available in the fall, and will cost less than $200, but ACT didn't disclose the exact fee. Low-income students who obtain a fee waiver for the ACT college-entrance exam will be able to use the new online prep service at no cost, ACT said.

ACT already offers an online test-prep service, which costs $39.95 per student for a one-year subscription. (There's a different pricing structure for school and district contracts.) The company will include that service for free to those who buy the new ACT Kaplan Online Prep Live, according to company spokesman Ed Colby.

The new offering blends ACT's test questions and study resources with Kaplan's online delivery and instructional staff. Students who use it will have access to courses taught by teachers in real time, and to prerecorded sessions they can use whenever they wish. They'll also be able to use online discussion boards that can connect with "a social community of teachers and peers" for answers and help outside of classroom hours, ACT said. There will also be one-time "teaching events" designed around specific questions. The first one, later this month, focuses on helping students understand their ACT scores.

ACT's new service is the latest move in an ongoing, heated competition with the College Board. Both have been ramping up test-prep services, with a particular eye to helping low-income students who can't pay for tutoring the way their wealthier peers can. The College Board partnered with Khan Academy to provide online test prep, and the service is "personalized and interactive," but doesn't include a live teaching element, according to College board spokesman Zach Goldberg. Adding that piece "is something we continue to discuss with our members and partners," he said.

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