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TIR, QAS... how can these six letters help you?

Updated: Aug 16, 2021

If you’re knee deep in the world of testing, maybe you’ve heard of the acronyms TIR and QAS. If not, these refer to special services that the ACT and SAT offer to students who take these exams on select dates that allow these students to receive an actual copy of their test along with the answer key and scoring table for the exam. The testing companies do not do this out of charity – they sell these services to you, and they are also required to offer them thanks to legislation like the New York State Truth-in-Testing Law, which make it mandatory for testing organizations to share a portion of their administered exams with the public so that students can verify that there are no mistakes (as there was with the May 2019 SAT, when a tutor and his student discovered an answer key error than forced the College Board to rescore several exams). All in all, these are fantastic services that every student should take advantage of, as there is no better resource for review than real exams!

The ACT offers its Test Information Release (TIR) service three times per year in April, June, and December (note that because ACT was canceled in April 2020, the July exam was released this year instead). This service is only offered to students who take the exam on a National Saturday Test Date and only for students with either regular or 50% extended time. Sunday Test Takers, In-School Test Takers, and International Test Takers are unfortunately out of luck–they get different exams from everyone else, and the ACT is very stingy about the number of tests that it releases every year. However, the company has started to allow some Special Test Takers to use this TIR service on select dates (so far April 2019 and June 2020). Many of these TIR Exams have migrated into the Official Guides that the ACT sells – specifically April 2015, June 2015, June 2017, December 2017, and June 2018. In addition, April 2017 is offered as a free sample exam on the ACT website. However, the other TIR Exams can also be found all over the internet and are totally kosher to use under Fair Use Law for educational purposes as long as the ACT chooses not to sell them.

The SAT also periodically releases tests to students through its Question-and-Answer Service (QAS). The College Board always releases the March, May, and October exams to students, sometimes releases an additional March/April School Day exam given to public schools in states like Maine, and also releases the international version of the May SAT each year (which often is a repeat of those School Day exams). Some of these QAS exams have made their way into the Official SAT Practice Tests that the College Board offers for free on its website (specifically May 2016, May 2016 International, October 2016, January 2017, October 2017, and October 2018) but the others can be found online as easily as one can find the TIR Exams. Having said that, the College Board has taken steps to reduce the usefulness of this precious resource, first by trying to print each QAS booklet in an un-copyable shade of sky blue ink, then by deciding to stop sending out paper copies of these tests altogether, instead allowing students to access the passages and questions only through their online College Board accounts. In addition, the College Board no longer provides an official scoring table for these exams, so it is more difficult to accurately score them. Thus, all extant copies of QAS exams starting in 2019 are either screenshot versions (which are not ideal and sometimes contain glitches) or recreated versions that often contain typos and other errata.

Of course, if you personally take the test in March, May, or October or in school, you should definitely take advantage of this service, which costs about $20 (sometimes free for public school students), to see the exact questions that you missed online and have a chance to review them either on your own or with a tutor. If you take the test in June, August, November, or December, however, you will not have access to this Question-and-Answer Service but will instead be given an option to purchase the Student Answer Service (SAS). SAS is, to be frank, a complete waste of money. It costs about $15 for the College Board to tell you simply which question numbers you missed, what broad category of question it fell under, and what the difficulty level of the question was. As a tutor, I do not find it particularly useful for anything, so I would recommend just saving your money.

However, for ACT students in April, June, and December and SAT students in March, May, and October, make sure to take advantage of TIR and QAS to achieve your best results on these exams!

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