Duke TIP

EXPLORE® Testing through Duke TIP FAQs

What is EXPLORE®?


Test Preparation

Test Day


What is EXPLORE®?

How can my child benefit from above-level EXPLORE testing?

Taking an above-level test challenges students, provides a more accurate measure of their abilities, and helps parents and educators determine if a student is receiving appropriate academic challenges in their current curriculum.

Is my child required to register for EXPLORE?

No. Program benefits are available to all 4th-6th Grade Talent Search participants whether or not they take the optional EXPLORE test. Parents should consider their student’s academic and emotional readiness for this challenging exam before they register. Above-level testing is available each year that students participate in the program for grades 4-6.


How do I determine if my child is ready for above-level testing?

Parents have unique and important insights concerning their children and are in the best position to make this call. Academic and emotional readiness should be considered prior to test registration. However, in general, when approached thoughtfully, above-level testing may be academically appropriate when a student:

  • scores at the top of the range on grade-level assessments;
  • consistently makes excellent grades without noticeable study or apparent effort;
  • demonstrates high ability in regular testing, but does not receive high grades in the classroom;
  • is interested in learning more about the nature of his or her academic strengths.

Please consider your child’s testing readiness and gain their cooperation prior to test registration as refunds will not be made after the application is transmitted to ACT EXPLORE.

Who is invited to participate in and how do I register my child for EXPLORE testing?

All students currently participating in the Duke TIP 4th-6th Grade Talent Search are invited to register for EXPLORE testing when registration opens in early September. Test registration may be completed online or by paper application. Beginning October 1, new talent search enrollees are invited to enroll for the talent search program and register for EXPLORE at the same time. Registration for the EXPLORE test is optional and requires an additional fee.

Students enrolling in the talent search program with a paper application may complete the optional EXPLORE registration at the same time. The paper EXPLORE registration application is available online. After the paper application is processed, a 10-digit Duke TIP identification number will be assigned. Registrants requesting a fee waiver or non-Saturday testing must complete a paper enrollment form and provide required documentation.


How do I request a fee waiver for EXPLORE testing?

Duke TIP provides a limited number of fee waivers for EXPLORE testing. Participants requesting a waiver must qualify for the federal free or reduced school lunch program, or meet federal poverty guidelines. Students must provide a letter from the school documenting their qualification for the program or obtain a letter from the agency that approved their lunch program status. Waivers may be awarded to enrolling students who submit an enrollment form and a paper EXPLORE registration form with appropriate documentation as long as the waivers are still available. Current participants need only to provide an EXPLORE registration form and documentation verifying qualification from the school. A paper EXPLORE registration form is available for downloading.

What do I do if my child requires special testing accommodations?

ACT provides forms and determines deadlines for special testing accommodations. Testers requesting this service must download and complete the accommodations form, including the necessary documentation, and then send it directly to ACT. You must first register your child for the test through Duke TIP and then return the completed accommodations form directly to ACT at the address directed. Accommodations are subject to ACT approval. Call Duke TIP at (919) 668-9100 or ACT at (319) 337-1369 for more information.

Why should I select more than one test site?

EXPLORE applications are not processed in real time, but are transmitted weekly in batches to ACT. If your first site choice has reached capacity by the time your application is processed, ACT will make every effort to assign you to your second site choice. If both sites are at capacity, ACT will assign you to the next closest site. Early registration is encouraged to secure your preferred site assignment. A complete list of 2016 test center locations can be accessed here: http://www.act.org/explore/ests/centers.html.

Is there testing available on days other than Saturday?

A Sunday test date is offered once each testing year for students who cannot test on Saturday because of religious beliefs. See our section on non-Saturday testing for additional information. A paper registration form for the EXPLORE test and clergy documentation are required. ACT does not make exceptions for family, sporting or school schedule conflicts.

Is the EXPLORE test offered online?

No. The  ACT EXPLORE test currently offered to talent search programs is a pencil and paper, proctored exam and must be taken at a testing site specifically designated for talent search participants.

If I do not live in Duke TIP's geographic region, can my child still take the EXPLORE test? What if I live outside the United States?

Other talent search programs may offer EXPLORE testing in your region. To search the full listing of available EXPLORE testing sites in the United States, visit http://www.act.org/explore/ests/centers.html (sites may be added after registration begins). Call us at (919) 668-9100 with specific questions related to site availability.

Duke TIP and ACT currently do not support EXPLORE testing for talent search participants outside of the United States.

Can I change my test site or test date after registration?

Changes to the original EXPLORE registration may be made through Duke TIP by calling (919) 668-9100 if the registration has not been submitted to ACT. If the file has been transmitted, you must call ACT directly at (319) 337-1369. Changes made through ACT may incur a change fee and are subject to change deadlines.

What happens after EXPLORE registration?

  • Within 48 hours after online registration, students will receive an email from Duke TIP verifying registration. An information document will be attached to the confirmation email. Please read and familiarize yourself with the information.
  • A second email will be sent to verify that payment was accepted. If you do not receive these confirmation emails, your registration has not been processed and you need to contact Duke TIP at (919) 668-9100.
  • Approximately four weeks after the application is transmitted to ACT, your child will receive a confirmation of his or her test date and test site assignment. Review the date and site assignment upon receipt. Contact Duke TIP at (919) 668-9100 if there is an error. If you fail to receive the confirmation, please call ACT directly at (319) 337-1369.
  • Two weeks prior to the testing date, your child will receive an admission ticket and booklet with tips for testing and sample questions. If your student has not received the admission ticket by the Monday prior to testing, please call ACT to verify the test assignment.
  • Six weeks after testing, your child will receive an official score report from ACT. If your student has not received the score report by the end of the eighth week after testing, call ACT at (319) 337-1369.

Test Preparation

 Is the exam taken by my child an easier version of the test?

No. The EXPLORE assessment was developed for eighth graders covering four subject areas: English, math, reading, and science. All questions are appropriate to eighth grade cognitive and academic development. All talent search students take the same test regardless of grade level. Because EXPLORE is intended for eighth grade students, students in grades four, five, and six should expect it to be challenging and parents should view it primarily as a diagnostic tool.

Does TIP provide study materials for EXPLORE?

ACT EXPLORE will provide Getting Ready for EXPLORE, a booklet with sample test questions in each subject area. This booklet is sent when the admission ticket is mailed to your child. Sample questions are available on our website.

Duke TIP does not endorse formal test preparation courses for EXPLORE. Excessive preparation for the exam may not allow time for the brain make critical connections in concepts, meaning that the resulting test scores may not provide an accurate measure of your child’s academic abilities.

Test Day

Does my child need identification to be accepted at the testing site?

No. An ACT EXPLORE testing ticket is sent to all testing participants two weeks prior to testing. That ticket serves as your child's identification. Review the test site and date on the testing ticket when you first receive it to make sure it is accurate. If the testing ticket is misplaced or not received, call ACT (319) 337-1369) immediately to verify testing site and date assignment.

What should I do if my child is ill the morning of the scheduled exam?

If you feel the illness may be contagious, affect your child’s ability to concentrate, or distract other testers; please keep your child home. If the test date is in November or January, you may call ACT during the week following testing to confirm seat availability for another test date. ACT will charge a change fee. If the student falls ill prior to a February test date, no additional test date will be available. ACT and Duke TIP will not refund or carry forward any testing fees for missed testing due to illness or schedule conflicts.

What should my child expect on test day?

  • Students should arrive at the testing site by 8 a.m. to provide ample time for sign-in, and emotional preparation.  
  • Students will be asked to present a testing ticket with the emergency contact information section completed before they are granted admission.
  • School personnel will check individual calculators to ensure that they are in working order and meet ACT guidelines.
  • Students are then directed to the testing room to their assigned seats.
  • The test will begin as soon after 8:30 a.m. as all students who were on-site by 8:30 are checked in. Centers with larger capacity may require additional time for check-in. A student arriving after 8:30 a.m. will not be admitted if testing instructions have already begun.
  • Specific information related to the benefits of answering all test questions is provided on the back side of the testing booklet. The room supervisor will refer to this in the testing instructions.
  • All instructions are read word-for-word from the supervisor’s manual to insure uniform instruction is given to all testers, regardless of where they take the test.
  • During testing, the only time prompt that testers are given is a “five minutes remaining” reminder for each section. There may not be a wall clock, so a watch may be helpful. Cell phones may not be used to check the time.
  • There is a short break between tests two and three. Students may bring a snack and a drink for this break.
  • Some schools have a “no peanut products” policy.  Please leave snacks with peanuts at home.

    May parents remain at the testing site during the test administration?

    Most testing centers do not have sufficient staff available to provide a parent waiting area within the building. To avoid distractions, parents and siblings cannot remain in the hallways or areas near the testing rooms. Many sites will lock the main door when testing begins to avoid interruptions and to provide security for testers. Please cooperate with directions provided by testing personnel. Parents are expected to enter the building when testing is finished to identify their student.

    Can my child take the EXPLORE test more than once in a single school year?

    No. Testing is limited to once each school year.

    What do I do if inclement weather causes my testing site to be closed?

    Individual centers have the responsibility to contact local media when a testing center closes due to inclement weather. Be aware that schools must wait until the school district or university administration makes a closure determination. This may happen late on the day prior to testing. To protect your child, individual sites do not have personal contact information for testers and cannot contact everyone individually. Testers are encouraged to call ACT at (319) 337-1369 or check their inclement weather page the day prior to—and the morning of—testing for the latest site closure information. You may also view all closure and rescheduled test date information at www.act.org/explore/ests/resched.html.

    Testers are not encouraged to travel long distances for testing because test center closure information may not be available before they leave home.


    When are EXPLORE scores mailed?

    ACT mails EXPLORE score reports to testers six weeks after testing. If you have not received the report by the beginning of the eighth week, call ACT at (319) 337-1369.  If your address changes prior to mailing of the report, call ACT directly to make a change and also notify us at explore@tip.duke.edu so your child’s file can be updated. Note that the U.S. Postal Service will not forward the score report.

    Who sees my child’s test scores?

    Score reports are mailed directly to the student from ACT. Schools do not receive EXPLORE score information unless a parent makes the decision to share it. Duke TIP does not automatically send an EXPLORE participation list to schools; however, we will provide a participation list to schools upon request. We retain a copy of the numerical scores for statistical purposes and to provide score information to students who have lost their original copy.

    How do I determine how my child’s scores compare with other Duke TIP testers?

    An online comparison chart is available as part of the EXPLORE Results Summary, which will be posted at www.tip.duke.edu/explore after May 1.

    What do I do with the testing information?

    If you feel your child’s EXPLORE scores indicate that he or she may need more challenging coursework, please contact your school counselor. Taking a copy of your child’s score report and the EXPLORE Results Summary may be helpful when you meet with school officials.

    When will I know if my child qualifies for EXPLORE honors and will be invited to a Duke TIP recognition ceremony in our state?

    Invitations are sent to EXPLORE honorees in mid-April. If your student’s composite score is in the 99th percentile or higher and you have not received an invitation by April 24, please call us at (919) 668-9100.