More Important Info on Upcoming Changes to the ACT

Last Updated: Nov 12, 2019 11:11:57 AM


In a recent webinar, two senior managers at ACT explained two major changes that will be coming to the ACT in September 2020. Those changes are Section Retesting and Computer-Based Testing (CBT), and here are the key takeaways from that webinar:

ACT Section Retesting

ACT section retestingStudents who have taken a full ACT test – via paper or computer – at any time in the five years before September 2020 can retest on one or more ACT sections. While international test centers won’t offer section retesting, students who took a full ACT abroad can section retest as long as they’re in the US for the retests, and they can use their test abroad as the base test score when taking advantage of section retesting. 

Retesting must be done on ACT’s national exam dates and at ACT testing centers that are online-equipped. Those testing centers can be found through the ACT’s registration portal.

Students can register for and retest on up to three test sections on one test day, though ACT hasn’t yet decided whether students can choose the order in which they take the retest sections or whether they will have to follow the standard section order – English, Math, Reading, and then Science. The managers stated that ACT is most likely to offer the ACT Writing as both a retest and as a standalone, so that students who didn’t complete the essay section as part of a prior full ACT could do so at “retest” times.

Except for students who have accommodations for paper-only testing, section retests will be offered only via computers provided at the testing sites; students will be able to receive any accommodations they get on the full test, including extended time, stop-the-clock breaks, multiple-day testing, text-to-speech and use of some third-party software. Further, ACT believes that section retesting will have an additional positive impact on many students with accommodations by reducing fatigue during testing.

Retest sections will be identical in time allotted, the number of questions presented, and, based on ACT’s analyses, the difficulty level to any section featured on a full ACT. Because retest sections mirror full test sections, no change to section scoring or concordance with the SAT is anticipated.

ACT won’t limit the number of retests students can take and will actually be raising the total number of tests students can take from its current maximum of 12. Pricing for section retests hasn’t been established.

Because of criticism that the new retest policy favors affluent students, ACT is increasing the number of test fee waivers available to students from two to four; and fee waivers will cover any and all test sections taken on a given test date.

ACT’s new superscoring report is intended to complement its retesting policy. ACT stated that about one-third of U.S. colleges superscore the ACT, and ACT hopes that its new report will encourage more colleges to do so. Further, they mentioned recent ACT research that demonstrated superscoring to be a stronger indicator of potential success in college than single test date reporting. We agree.

When students choose to have a superscored report sent to colleges, it will include information on all the testing events that created the score, so colleges will know if the superscore resulted from one test, multiple full-test sittings, or section retests. Colleges will see students’ original, full-length ACT scores along with any section retest scores, and the report will include any test taken as early as September 2016 in its superscore calculation. Full tests taken internationally will also be factored into a superscored report.

ACT Computer-Based Testing (CBT)

closeup photo of computer keyboardWith the exception of test sites that ACT’s used for CBT trial runs, domestic tests have been paper-only. But beginning in September 2020, U.S. students will be able to take the full ACT online, as have students outside the U.S. for the last several years. Students will use to search for and register to take tests/section retests at an online-equipped testing site based on timing, availability, and proximity. Details on how many such sites will be needed and where they will be most needed are still to be determined.

In addition to CBT test/section retest sections being identical in time allotted, the number of questions presented, and the difficulty level to any section featured on a full ACT, CBT software will also accommodate a number of testing tools, such as highlighters and line readers.

One major benefit of CBT is the score turnaround time. Instead of the two weeks that it currently takes for paper-based ACT scores to come back, the computer option will provide scores in two business days, though Writing scores, which can’t be established via software, are a likely exception.

The ACT Academy already provides online practice problems and test sections, so students who are interested in ACT CBT testing/section retesting can use that as a valuable resource, and it’s one that’s likely to become even more robust in the future. Even more resources are available from ACT via this link.

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Topics: ACT ACT Changes Computer Based Testing


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