Pencils down, the ACT is going digital

(Credit: Zoonar)
(Credit: Zoonar)

Whether you’re gathering materials for Harvard or your local school, applying to college can be a stressful time for high school seniors. Between applications, extracurricular activities and those pesky standardized tests, getting into your dream school has become a job in itself. However, the ACT makers are hoping to make at least one part of the process a little easier.

In May, the ACT announced that its flagship test will be converted into a digital format in 2015. But representatives for the exam say students shouldn’t put down their pencils just yet. Even after the online test is launched, it will only be available in select high schools before it’s available nationally.

Metro talked to ACT Vice President Paul Weeks to find out more about the changes in the exam.

What are some of the differences with the new test?

The first thing is the mode of the testing. It’s the first time we’ll be moving toward a computer-based administration of the ACT. We’ll also be adding some optional constructive-response questions, which again give students another way to demonstrate their skills.

Are you concerned about any negative reactions regarding the shift?

We’re always concerned, but I think what’s important and what we want students to know is that the ACT will continue to reflect what they learn in school so the best preparation for the test will continue to be taking good courses and developing skills.

What are you hoping will come from the shift to online?

More flexibility for users is the biggest thing. Having efficiency, the incorporation of other kinds of items eventually and more meaningful information that students, teachers and parents can use to know whether or not students are ready for life after high school.

Why would you advise someone to take the ACT over the SAT?

Testing behaviors are very personal. I can tell you that the ACT is a curriculum-based test that reflects the skills that are typically provided by taking good college-prep core courses. And students who have done that tend to be very comfortable with the ACT, because it reflects the kinds of things that they’re actually learning on a day-to-day basis.

What’s the one thing you want people to know about the new ACT?

I think what’s really important to mention is what’s not going to change. The content of our test is not going to change. English, math, reading and science — these have been the content areas that have been reflected on the ACT and they will continue to be. The one-to-36 score scale that teachers, colleges and students have become familiar with will not change. [I asked] my own daughters, when the announcement came out that the ACT would be online. Their first reactions were, ‘How’s test security going to be?’ So it reminds me that for every student, taking the ACT is a very personal experience and they all approach it in a slightly different way.



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