- Continuous Improvement of the ACT Test
- Enhanced Reporting
- Enhancements to the Writing Test
- Online Testing
- Optional Constructed-Response Questions
- ACT Test Prep
Continuous Improvement of the ACT Test
Is the ACT® changing?
As was announced in spring 2013, and in keeping with our standard practice, we are making some adjustments to the ACT based on evidence from our ACT National Curriculum Survey® and to reflect changes in the education market. We consistently conduct research to ensure our test content continues to reflect classroom instruction and is a relevant predictor of college and career readiness. The ACT will continue to be a curriculum-based achievement test. We have no plans to make major changes, as we don’t see any need for that. Our goal is continuous improvement, and we are planning some modifications to better meet the needs of students and schools. Any changes will be made in a thoughtful and gradual way. Our evidence-driven approach is what keeps the ACT grounded in research, yet continually relevant—the gold standard in college and career readiness assessment—without the need for radical or sweeping changes.
What is changing about the ACT?
We announced the following modifications in spring 2013:
- For the ACT State and District testing program we will provide:
- The option of computer-based administration of the ACT
- The introduction of optional constructed-response computer-based testing tasks in mathematics, reading, and science—offered alongside the existing optional Writing Test—assessing whether students can justify, explain, and use evidence to support claims
- The addition of questions on the Reading Test that address whether students can integrate knowledge and ideas across multiple texts
- The inclusion of additional statistics and probability items in the Mathematics Test to allow for reporting of student achievement in this area
We are now providing more information about progress toward these changes and announcing the following additional enhancements:
- Additional reporting to include STEM score, career readiness indicator, English Language Arts score, text complexity indicator, and reporting categories consistent with college and career readiness language
- Enhanced Writing Test based on the newly developed ACT writing competency framework that provides results in four domains
While the enhancement and evolution of the ACT continue and additional scores will be provided, the ACT will remain a curriculum-based achievement exam, and the well-respected 1-to-36 score scale will not change.
Are you changing the ACT tests or just deriving new scores from the same tests?
Consistent with our continuous improvement approach, we continue to update the ACT tests as dictated by research and evidence. The new STEM and English Language Arts scores, and Text Complexity Progress and Career Readiness Indicators are not based on significant redesigns of the tests. Instead, the new measures are derived to give additional insights into critical aspects of college and career readiness.
Will the new scores and reporting categories affect longitudinal research?
Research based on the 1–36 subject test and composite scores will continue to be relevant and will not be affected. The additional reporting categories and indicators will enhance our ability to look at additional aspects of student performance over time.
Will students’ test-taking experience change?
As has always been the case, changes to the overall testing experience will be subtle, and most students will not recognize much difference in the selected-response questions, even if they have tested previously. Depending on the specific subject, changes may more obvious (e.g., changes in the Writing Test will be obvious). And, of course, the addition of the new optional constructed-response tests in math, reading, and science will be obvious.
ACT will continue to update the tests we develop each year to be in line with current research. Some students report noticing those updates year to year and others do not. ACT will continue to provide information in our free test preparation materials each year to reflect any changes to the test experience in the next academic year. It will remain, however, that the best preparation for the ACT has been and will continue to be taking rigorous courses in English, math, social studies, and science.
We heard there will be new ACT scores. Does that mean you are changing the 1–36 scale for the ACT?
The familiar 1-to-36 score scale used on the ACT will not change. We will be providing additional scores and indicators to give students, parents, and educators more detailed information so they may better plan for future success.
Why are you moving to reporting categories?
There will be an expanded number of reporting categories compared to the current subscore categories, and breakdowns will be provided for every subject. The reporting categories are based on the ACT College Readiness Standards and are aligned to the Common Core State Standards.
The additional information will make it easier for students, parents, and educators to understand the makeup of any subject score and see students’ strengths and areas for improvement. Reporting categories will be added in 2016.
When will ACT provide clients with details about changes and modified report file layouts so they will have time to plan?
We understand that ACT score recipients need time to prepare for changes in data and score file layouts. Based on our market feedback, we plan to provide modification details in fall 2014 for changes that will be in effect fall 2015 (about one year in advance).
When will you be updating the ACT technical manual on your website?
We are making some modifications to the ACT Technical Manual and will be publishing an updated document to our website in fall 2015. It is important to remember that the changes to the ACT have been, and continue to be, evolutionary. As a result, the test constructs and blueprints remain largely consistent from one year to the next. In the interim, updates to content specifications, sample items, and relevant updated research will be periodically provided on this site, so be sure to sign up to receive these updates.
Enhancements to the Writing Test
Why are you enhancing the Writing Test?
As with all of our solutions, the changes to the Writing Test are driven by research and evidence. We have gathered and analyzed evidence of critical writing competencies during a decade of working with direct writing assessments in the high school, college, post-graduate, and workforce populations. We have also gathered important information about the writing skills that are valued by high school and college educators from our own ACT National Curriculum Survey research, our own 2011 NAEP Writing Framework research, and our participation in the creation of the Common Core State Standards.
Based on these rich sources of research and our ACT College and Career Readiness Standards, we have developed a new Writing Competencies Framework that will guide our continuum of writing assessments from elementary school to career.
The enhanced ACT Writing Test and the expanded score results will ultimately provide more insights to help students become college and career ready and will report in these four areas: ideas and analysis, development and support, organization, and language use.
Will there be new Writing Test scores—what are they and what do they mean?
Yes, there will be new scores for the optional Writing Test. In addition to a subject level score, the Writing Test will provide scores for four important domains of writing competency: ideas and analysis, development and support, organization, and language use. The test will measure students’ ability to evaluate multiple perspectives on a complex issue and generate their own analysis based on reasoning, knowledge, and experience, enabling them to more fully demonstrate their analytical writing ability. As is the case today, the writing score does not affect the 1-36 Composite score.
Sample prompts and content specifications will be provided in late summer 2014.
When will you provide some sample prompts/content specifications for the enhanced Writing Test?
We plan to publish sample items and content specifications in late summer 2014. Sign up to receive updates to be notified when this information is available.
Will the ACT Writing Test still be 30 minutes long?
ACT will announce the final timing of the Writing Test when we publish the content specifications in late summer. Time allowed may increase slightly for the new Writing Test. Our test development and research staff are analyzing results from research studies to make the final timing determination.
Can you tell me more about the recent online testing ACT conducted?
We are excited about the success of the April CBT administration. This was the first-ever, computer-based administration of a national undergraduate college admissions exam and was administered to approximately 4,000 students at 80 test sites. While some sites experienced start-up issues, we received terrific feedback from test center supervisors and students, and learned some valuable information. We made very good progress—we’re already doing what others are talking about doing.
When will computer-based testing first be available for the ACT?
The computer-based version of the ACT will be offered to select schools that participate in State and District testing starting in 2015, with expanded release as an option for ACT State and District testing in spring 2016.
When will computer-based testing be available on the national/international test dates or for other testing such as residual testing?
ACT will be offering computer-based testing in spring 2015 for invited states and districts that administer the ACT test on a school day as part of State and District testing. Expansion into other types of testing (e.g., national, international, residual) is being considered for the future. We expect to leverage our computer-based testing experience from State and District testing to inform our next steps.
Will you let schools test on more than one test day?
We will define a window for administration of computer-based tests. As part of our spring 2015 pilot, we will review the effectiveness of the defined window for participating schools.
Will tests administered via computer be the same as the paper-and-pencil tests?
The computer-based ACT test will contain the same number of items and cover the same content as the paper-and-pencil test. The only difference is the mode in which the test is administered.
Will the computer-based ACT be shorter (adaptive)?
The ACT computer-based test available in 2015 is not adaptive.
Will the time limits for each test be the same for CBT as they have been for the paper-and-pencil test?
Time limits may differ slightly by mode for particular subject tests. We conducted a timing study in fall 2013 and a mode comparison study in spring 2014. We are currently analyzing the results and will determine the time limits for the tests based on this research.
Do scores from computer-based testing mean the same thing as scores from paper-and-pencil testing?
Yes. We launched computer-based testing for the ACT using a special study design that ensured the students participating in the study would receive comparable scores, whether they tested on paper or on computer. We are continuing to analyze the data from that study, and from test supervisor and student surveys, and will revisit administration procedures, including testing time, based on our results. We are taking an incremental approach to introducing computer-based testing to ensure all scores we report do indeed mean the same thing.
Will you continue to offer paper-and-pencil testing for the ACT?
Yes, we plan to continue the paper-and-pencil version of the ACT. We will offer it as long as there is market demand for it.
What are the technical requirements required to do computer-based testing? Are they the same as they are for ACT Aspire™?
The computer-based version of the ACT will not require the installation of software on a local PC or Mac. The online version of the ACT will support current releases of major operating systems and browsers and the supported versions will continue to evolve. Tablets have NOT been cleared for administration of the ACT at this time.
All devices must have the administrative tools and capabilities to temporarily disable features, functionalities, and applications that could present a security risk during test administration including, but not limited to: unrestricted Internet access, cameras (still and video), screen capture (live and recorded), email and instant message, Bluetooth connections, application switching, and printing. Technical requirements for ACT Aspire are expected to also apply to the ACT. ACT Aspire technical requirements are posted at www.discoveractaspire.org/technical-requirements.html.
How can schools know whether they meet the requirements for CBT testing?
We are developing a technical guide to help schools check their systems to determine if they meet the requirements for CBT testing. In addition, we will provide access to a system check tool that will allow schools to validate the readiness of each device. As we move closer to launching CBT testing, a site readiness plan will be available to take schools through the required preparation steps to ensure they are technically ready for testing.
Can schools use tablets like iPads and Chrome books to administer the ACT test?
Not at this time. All computer-based testing will be done on desktop or laptop.
Can students use their own computers to test?
No, only school-controlled computers will be allowed for testing. Schools may need to schedule testing over several days in order to have enough computers available.
Will tests be scored immediately? How soon will students get their scores?
Computer-based tests will not be scored immediately. For our spring 2015 pilot, we plan to release scores from CBT administrations on the same schedule as paper-and-pencil scores (about three weeks after the test). We will continue to work on timely reporting while the processes for ensuring quality and security of CBT become more mature.
How can students prepare for online testing? Will you provide a practice test?
We will provide an online tutorial that will help students learn how to navigate the online tests prior to testing. In addition, students will be able to access free online practice tests in each subject well before the spring 2015 pilot. The online test contains the same number of items and covers the same content as the test offered on paper. Information provided in ACT paper test preparation materials, such as the free Preparing for the ACT, also apply to online testing.
What will computer-based testing (CBT) for the ACT cost?
Pricing for the computer-based version of the ACT has not been finalized. We are examining the costs of delivery and evaluating the processes related to delivery, scoring, and reporting. We understand the impact of pricing and we are working to create and deliver the ACT CBT as cost effectively as possible.
Will the NCAA, military academies, and other postsecondary institutions accept the ACT CBT scores?
ACT research is designed to ensure the 1–36 ACT scores reported for students reflect the same level of achievement without regard to delivery mode—both paper and CBT. The 1–36 score scale for each of the multiple-choice tests and the ACT Composite score is not changing. Most postsecondary institutions rely on the subject test scores and/or the Composite score. For example, the NCAA currently uses the sum of the four subject test scores as part of their initial eligibility criteria. Since ACT scores are not changing, we expect that there will be no change in the acceptance of ACT scores.
Optional Constructed-Response Questions
Which subjects will have an optional constructed-response test?
Additional optional constructed-response tests will be offered for mathematics, reading, and science. These new subject tests will assess whether students can justify, explain, and use evidence to support claims.
Why are the constructed-response tests separate from the selected-response tests? Why are they optional?
The constructed-response tests are optional in order to provide maximum flexibility to clients. Additional tests have additional costs. We want to keep costs as low as possible for clients who may need results only from the selected-response assessment. The continued evolution of the ACT will respond to the market demand for constructed-response tests.
How long is each of the new constructed-response subject tests in reading, math, and science?
Each of these optional constructed-response subject tests is 30 minutes long.
Do the optional constructed-response tests need to be administered on the same day as the selected-response tests and the Writing Test?
No. As long as these optional tests are administered within the ACT-defined testing window, the constructed-response tests can be administered at a different time or on a different day from the selected-response tests as it fits best within the school schedule.
What scores will students get from the optional constructed-response tests?
We plan to provide an additional score for each subject taken. The new score will reflect the student's achievement level in the subject by combining results from the constructed-response and selected-response tests. The new scores will be on the same scale as ACT Aspire and will provide a longitudinal view across grade levels for those clients using both products. Remember, all clients will continue to receive the 1–36 ACT subject test and Composite scores. These new scores will be provided as a supplement to give students, parents, and educators more detailed insights so they may better plan for future success. The constructed-response scores will not affect the Composite score.
What do the optional constructed-response tests cost?
Pricing for the three new optional constructed-response tests has not been finalized. We are examining the costs of delivery and evaluating the processes related to delivery, scoring, and reporting. We understand the impact of pricing and we are working to create and deliver prices for the optional constructed-response tests as cost effectively as possible.
Does a client have to purchase all three subject tests or can the client purchase at the subject level?
Constructed-response subject tests can be purchased individually as an add-on to the selected-response tests.
When will you provide some sample constructed-response items? Can you share the content specifications?
We plan to publish sample items and content specifications in late summer 2014. By registering to receive updates you will be notified when this information is available.
ACT Test Prep
Will ACT provide free test prep?
Students don't need to spend a lot of money on test preparation to do well on the ACT. Because the ACT is a curriculum-based test, the best way students can prepare for the test is to take challenging courses in high school and study hard. Students can also maximize their performance on the ACT by taking practice tests so they know what to expect on the exam and by relaxing and doing their best. The ACT student website—www.actstudent.org—offers free practice tests as well as other free test prep information such as test-taking tips, descriptions of tests, and test day checklists. Students can download a free copy of Preparing for the ACT, which includes test information, a complete practice test, and sample writing prompt. For those who want more extensive test preparation help, ACT also sells inexpensive test prep tools such as ACT Online Prep™ and the Real ACT Prep Guide.