The ACT is changing this September. What are the changes and how will this affect students? ACT is still ironing out the details, but here is what we know so far.
ACT announced two big changes to the ACT test: 1) students will now have the opportunity to take the test online and 2) students will be able to retake individual sections of the test.
Retaking a section of the test could be great news for many students who would like to improve a section score thereby improving their overall composite score. The ACT is an intense, fast-moving test with students responding to 215 questions over four sections (more than the SAT’s 154 questions) within a total testing time of 2 hours and 55 minutes (shorter than the SAT’s 3 hours). Retaking one section of the test could help students improve their overall score, especially those who struggle maintaining intense focus for that long.
But after reading the ACT FAQs, I still had lots of questions about the details of the test. So I called and discovered that, as with many new products, not all the answers are known yet.
But here are some of the details I discovered in my phone conversation:
1. How will ACT online testing work?
The test administrators (those locations that have gone through training for online testing) will provide computers that will be “whitewashed.” The student will be able to access the test, but nothing else on the computer.
Will the student be allowed to bring in scratch paper, pencils and their calculator for the math section? They gave varying answers to this: “no” at first and then “yes, but they will have to turn them in with their exam” to “we are not sure who will supply the scratch paper.” This led me to believe that the organization has either not figured this out, or more likely, they haven’t adequately informed their customer service agents of the process.
2. How will retesting (retaking one or more sections) work?
The student must first have taken a full-length test within the past five years (both paper and online tests are acceptable for this requirement).
The retest, however, must be taken online.
For those with accommodations of extra time, the retest will be given on paper. Since there are various types of accommodations, it is essential for the student find out the details when registering.
3. How will superscoring the ACT work?
Superscoring allows students to select their highest performing sections of the test to produce a new higher composite score. For example, let’s imagine that a student is pleased with her performance on 3 sections of the test, but is not happy with the 4th section. So, if she received the following scores-- English: 32, Math: 24, Reading: 32 and Science: 32 her single test composite score would be 30. If she retests in the Math section (after new skills learned and lots of practice!) and receives a 28, she could choose to send the new Math score of 28 (in place of the 24) and show a new composite score of 31 overall.
Colleges, however, each have different testing requirements. Many colleges have policies that require all testing submitted, in which case the ACT org will send all tests, not just the highest composite. So make sure to check with each college's testing requirements.
Until we see more details about the new test, students should continue to study and prep for the whole test with more focus on any section that poses more difficulties. If a student is considering taking the test online, make sure to take a practice test online or seek guidance on best practices for working through online sections. And if ACT is ready to go with retesting by sections, students should consider this option for overall performance improvement.