Earlier this year, the ACT announced that beginning in September 2018, it will be adopting computer-based testing at all of its international test centers. The news has caused some amount of anxiety among members of the class of 2019, many of whom are relying on the September and October dates to achieve their desired scores before the Early Decision/Early Action application deadlines in November. Read on to find out what is happening, why the changes are being introduced and what this means for you…

What is changing?

  • Beginning in September 2018, students outside of the US will take the ACT on a computer. Registration for the September test date opens tomorrow, July 20th.
  • For each test date the ACT will offer four “testing windows,” likely Friday morning and afternoon in addition to Saturday morning and afternoon.
  • International test-takers will now have six opportunities to take the ACT each school year, rather than five: September, October, December, February, April, and June.
  • Some schools that have hosted the ACT in the past will continue to do so, while others will not, depending their willingness/ability to fulfill the organization’s technical requirements. Currently, we don’t know exactly how many seats will be available on a given test date.
  • The cost of the international ACT without writing will increase to $150 (from $103.50). With writing, it will cost $166.50 (from $120).
  • Students who have been approved to take the ACT with 50% extra time will be able to choose whether to take the computer-based or paper-based exam. All students with other accommodations will continue to take the paper-based exam.

What is staying the same?

  • The content of the exam will remain the same, with the same four sections: English, Math, Reading, and Science (plus the optional essay). Students will complete the questions in the same order and format as always.
  • The timing and pace of the test will not change. The multiple-choice sections will take approximately three hours, with an additional 40 minutes to complete the optional essay.
  • Composite and section scores will still be based on the same 36-point scale. The score reports that universities receive will also remain the same.
  • The test-taking process for students within the United States remains unchanged. They will continue to take the paper-based test.

Why the change?

The news comes after a difficult year for the makers of the exam, in which the ACT had to cancel the September 2017 test across most of Asia, due to a security breach of the test materials. Historically, the ACT has sent paper copies of teach test to test centers around the globe, and there was a risk they could be tampered with prior to the administration of the exam. With digital delivery, it will be easier for the ACT to guarantee that questions are not leaked beforehand.

The ACT has also said that a major reason it wants to implement computer-based testing is because of the benefits it will provide to test-takers. In particular, computer-based testing will enable faster scoring of the multiple-choice portion of the exam. The organization has said that students may be able to receive their multiple-choice scores within 48 hours of their test date.

What does this mean for me?

Though we do not know anything for certain yet, it is quite possible that there will be fewer test centers and a lower overall number of seats for international students, especially in the early stages of the roll-out of the computer-based test. The ACT will not allow students to test on their own computers, nor will they help test centers offset the cost of purchasing computers that comply with their technical specifications. There will not be a paper and pencil version of the test available to international students who do not have an approved test center in their local area or are unable to get a seat at an approved test center.

The good news for students planning to take the ACT this coming school year is that the content of the test is staying the same. Hence, all of your studying to date will help you come September, though you will likely have to change some of your test-taking habits and strategies. For example, it is highly advisable that students switch to taking computer-based practice tests and familiarize themselves with the ACT’s new interface. Unfortunately, till date the ACT has only made one computer-based practice test available to students. Furthermore, students will be provided with an erasable whiteboard (gridded on one side, blank on the other) to use as scratch paper during the exam, which might take some getting used to for students.

As a first step, I highly recommend that students looking to take the September ACT register as soon as possible, to avoid difficulties with securing a seat at their desired test center.

If you would like to discuss the changes to the ACT or your standardized testing strategy in general, then get in touch!