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What's Next for the ACT Test

Learn more about how the ACT test continues to improve, innovate, and lead the way toward college and career success.



ACT State-Specific Cut Scores and Performance Level Descriptors

Starting with the 2017-18 school year, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) gives states greater autonomy and flexibility over standards, assessments, and accountability systems—including the possibility of using a national admissions test, such as the ACT® test, as the high school accountability measure for Math, English Language Arts, and/or Science.

ACT Research and Test Development staff have extensive experience supporting states in establishing state-specific cut scores and performance level descriptors for the ACT.

Learn more about ACT State-Specific Cut Scores and Performance Level Descriptors.


ACT Announces 7th National Test Date for July 2018

Our customers have been asking for it and we’re making it a reality.

Starting in 2018, ACT will begin offering students the opportunity to take the ACT® test in the summer. The first ACT summer test date will take place July 2018, increasing the number of national ACT test dates from six to seven.

ACT’s philosophy of continuous improvement means that we regularly conduct research with our customers to understand their needs and wants.  Students, parents, and educators all told us additional test dates would be valuable.  Adding a 7th test date in July provides students the option to focus on coursework during the school year then test during the summer. 

While the majority of current ACT test centers are located in high schools, most July ACT test centers will likely be located on two- and four-year college and university campuses, as many high schools across the country are closed or operate with very limited staff in the summer months.

Registration for the new July test date will open in early 2018. More information on test center locations will be available at that time.

Official press release: ACT Announces 7th National Test Date for July 2018


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FAQs for Educators

Policy for Supporting English Learners

Last November, ACT announced that the organization will begin providing supports on the ACT® test to U.S. students who are English learners starting in the fall of 2017. The goal of the supports is to help ensure that the ACT scores earned by English learners accurately reflect what they've learned in school.

The supports are available to students in a local school district’s English learners (EL) program who meet the current definitions of an English learner under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Qualifying students who receive the supports will earn college-reportable ACT scores.

The supports available to qualified English learners include:

  • Additional time on the test (not to exceed time-and-a-half)
  • Use of an approved word-to-word bilingual glossary (containing no word definitions) 
  • Test instructions provided in the student’s native language (including Spanish and a limited number of other languages initially)
  • Testing in a non-distracting environment (i.e., in a separate room)

In determining these supports and preparing the policy document, ACT sought the counsel and advice of a Blue Ribbon panel of external experts representing state education agencies, colleges, EL and bilingual policy administrators from state departments of education, civil rights advocates, testing and measurement experts, and researchers. This approach reflects input from the nation’s largest public university systems.

To submit a request for English learner supports, students must work with a school official to submit a request in the ACT Test Accessibility and Accommodations (TAA) system. The TAA system can be accessed only by school officials at the following web page:

Registration and request deadlines apply.


Score Report Enhancements

What changed on the ACT score report in 2016-2017?

The following enhancements were made to ACT test reports in September 2016:

  • Redesigned paper reports. The enhanced Student, High School, and College Score Reports allow students and educators to better navigate results and gain more meaningful insights. These new reports present data that are more visually engaging to the user.
  • Reporting categories replace subject test subscores. ACT continues to report English, mathematics, reading, and science subject scores. Subscores, such as Algebra/Coordinate Geometry, are no longer reported.
  • ACT Readiness Ranges. Each reporting category shows the ACT Readiness Range that enables students to more easily see how their performance on each reporting category compares to students who have met the ACT College Readiness Benchmark for that specific subject.
  • ACT STEM College Readiness Benchmark. ACT is the only college and career readiness assessment that includes a science test and, therefore, is able to provide students with a STEM score to compare with a validated STEM benchmark. The benchmark provides students and educators with greater insight into critical aspects of college readiness.
  • Additional indicators to help guide students' education and career planning activities. Counselors benefit from additional information on student interests in potential majors and careers—Interest-Major Fit level and Career Connector—based on information students included during the registration process.


Did you change the ACT test or just update how information is reported?

The reporting enhancements did not involve any redesign to ACT subject tests. Instead, the reporting enhancements are designed to provide additional insights into critical aspects of students’ college and career readiness.


Reporting Categories and the ACT Readiness Range

Why did ACT introduce reporting categories?

Reporting categories make it easier for students, parents, and educators to gain deeper insight into students’ performance by better understanding strengths and areas for improvement in each subject.  Reporting categories group and report on similar skills to provide students with more detailed information within each subject.

There are more reporting categories compared to the subscore categories they replaced. Each reporting category includes the total number of points possible, the total number of points a student achieved, and the percentage of points correct. The reporting categories are aligned with ACT College and Career Readiness Standards as well as other sets of standards that target college and career readiness. See How ACT Assessments Align with State College and Career Readiness Standards (PDF).

Will the reporting categories affect longitudinal research?

Research based on the ACT subject tests and ACT composite scores continues to be relevant and is not affected. The additional reporting categories and indicators enhance our ability to look at additional aspects of student performance over time.  

How will reporting category scores and the ACT Readiness Range work together?

For each reporting category, an ACT Readiness Range is shown. This enables students to more easily see how their performance on each reporting category compares to students who have met the ACT College Readiness Benchmark for that specific subject. The combination of reporting category scores and the ACT Readiness Ranges provides educators and students with information to more easily determine what areas require the most additional assistance for learning and intervention. 

Do the total points possible for each reporting category vary by test form?

The total points possible for each reporting category may vary by test form. 

English, reading, and science are straightforward – the total points in each subject equals the total number of items in each of the subject tests. For example, the three science test reporting categories (Interpretation of Data, Scientific Investigation, and Evaluation of Models, Inferences & Experimental Results) potential points possible will always add up to 40 because there are 40 items on the science test.

Math is slightly different:

  • The math test has 60 items and the Preparing for Higher Math and the Integrating Essential Skills points together make up the 60 points.
  • Modeling is a reporting category for which there are no items that are only associated with Modeling; instead each Modeling item is also associated with either Preparing for Higher Math or Integrating Essential Skills.

Are reporting categories reflected in ACT test prep resources?

In 2016, ACT Online Prep was updated to include the new reporting categories. Reporting categories are also reflected in ACT Kaplan Online Prep Live as well as the 2016-2017 Preparing for the ACT free publication. The Official ACT Prep Guide does not yet cover reporting categories.


The ACT STEM College Readiness Benchmark

How will the ACT STEM College Readiness Benchmark benefit students, educators, and higher education officials?

As the only college and career readiness assessment that includes a science test, the ACT is able to provide students with a STEM score to compare with a validated STEM benchmark. Starting in September 2016, students can compare their STEM score to the STEM benchmark.

Meeting the STEM benchmark relates not only to succeeding in individual math and science courses, but also to achieving longer-term outcomes compared to others who failed to meet the STEM benchmark, including:

  • Earning a cumulative 3.0 GPA or higher
  • Persisting in a STEM major
  • Earning a STEM-related bachelor’s degree
  • Achieving longer-term outcomes in STEM courses and careers

Additional information on the development of the ACT STEM College Readiness Benchmark can be found in the ACT Research Report Series: Development of STEM Readiness Benchmarks to Assist Educational and Career Decision Making (PDF).


Why is the ACT STEM College Readiness Benchmark score higher than the ACT math and science subject benchmarks?

College readiness is not STEM readiness. The ACT College Readiness Benchmarks for each subject provide useful information regarding the extent to which students are on track for college and career readiness in a general sense, but they do not address (nor were they developed to address) a student’s readiness for a specific college major or career field. ACT took typical grades in first-year college STEM courses (Calculus, General Biology, General Chemistry, and Physics) and developed a single course success model to determine the ACT STEM test score associated with at least a 50% chance of earning a B or higher, or a 75% chance of earning a C or higher, in those courses. The resulting ACT STEM College Readiness Benchmark score was a 26.


Interest-Major Fit Level and Career Connector

Why did ACT introduce the Interest-Major Fit Level?

Determining a student's interest-major fit has clear benefits to both students and the colleges they attend. Research at ACT and elsewhere suggests that if students’ measured interests are similar to the interests of people in their chosen college majors, they will be more likely to:

  • Remain in their major
  • Persist in college
  • Complete a college degree program in a timely manner


How can colleges use the Interest-Major Fit Level?

Interest-Major Fit Level can help colleges segment their admission communication efforts, for example, providing prospective students with information about majors that might be a good fit. Students with a low fit could receive extra communications about careers or picking a major. Academic advisors can also use the information in advising sessions to explore academic paths for students.

If you receive paper reports, a visual will indicate the level of interest-major fit. For AIRO customers, the Interest-Major Fit Level scores scale is 00–99, corresponding to the following score ranges:

  • Scores from 80–99: High
  • Scores from 60–79: Medium
  • Scores less than 60: Low


How can counselors and educators discuss Career Connector results with students?

Counselors and advisors can expand on Career Connector results in several ways. Besides briefly describing the results (e.g., “a visual display of your work-relevant interests, along with examples of occupations that involve the kinds of work tasks you said you enjoy”), the results can be used to initiate discussions such as:

  • Measured interests are more informative when supported by life experiences. What kinds of experiences has the student had in the types of activities (People, Data, Things, or Ideas) that their Career Connector indicates? Did they enjoy them?
  • Does the student understand the connection between their reported interests and the list of five related occupations? Do any of the five listed occupations sound good to the student?
  • Encourage students to visit ACT Profile to learn more about themselves, see a full map of occupational options, and explore occupations (work tasks, training requirements, etc...)


Online Testing

Can students use their own computers to test?

No. The ACT test continues to require a proctored environment to ensure secure testing.


Can students use school-owned, student-issued laptops to test?

Computers must meet minimum system requirements and pass site readiness checkpoints, and the school must maintain administrator rights to laptops to ensure they meet all technical requirements.


Will tests be scored immediately? How soon will students get their scores?

Online tests will not be scored immediately. In spring 2017, scores from online administrations will be released on the same schedule as paper scores (normally within three to eight weeks after each test date). We will continue to work on timely reporting while processes for quality assurance and online testing security continue to mature.


How can students prepare for online testing? Will you provide a practice test?

We will provide an online tutorial to help students learn how to navigate the online tests prior to testing. In addition, students can access free online practice tests in each subject with the option of manual scoring. 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 brochure Preparing for the ACT, also apply to online testing.


What will online testing for the ACT cost?

The price for the ACT online version will be comparable to the paper-based test. ACT is a nonprofit, mission-driven organization, and we work hard to keep our prices as low as possible. Revenues from the ACT are reinvested into the organization and used to support research, outreach, and improved customer services.


Will the NCAA, military academies, and other postsecondary institutions accept the ACT online scores?

ACT research is designed to ensure that the 1–36 ACT scores reported for students reflect the same level of achievement without regard to delivery mode—both paper and online. The 1–36 score scale for each of the multiple-choice tests and the ACT Composite score are not changing. Most postsecondary institutions rely on the subject test scores and/or the ACT Composite score. For example, the NCAA currently uses the sum of the four subject test scores as part of its initial eligibility criteria. Since ACT scores are not changing, we expect that there will be no change in the acceptance of ACT scores.


Writing Score Changes

Did ACT make changes to the writing test for 2016-2017?

The writing test task and domain-level scoring did not change. The only update was in how the overall writing score is reported. Students continue to receive four domain-level scores, each on a 2-12 scale. The overall writing score scale, which ranged from 1-36 in 2015-2016, is now reported as the average of the four domain-level scores on a 2-12 scale.


Why was there difficulty in interpreting writing scores on the 1-36 scale?

Students assumed that the scores on the 1-36 scale meant the same thing from one subject test to another. We recognize that this is a logical assumption, but it is not a correct assumption; for example, a score of 25 on the English test does not necessarily mean the same thing as a score of 25 on the mathematics test. The differences are bigger, however, between the writing test and the four multiple-choice tests. While the move to reporting writing scores on the same 1-36 scoring scale made sense initially, we acknowledge reports that it led to confusion and have taken measures to clarify.


Was the change in how ACT reports writing scores related to the issues that ACT appeared to have with rescore requests/students whose scores jumped up by several points?

No. The issue was not with the scoring of the writing test itself, but rather with how the scores were reported. To reduce confusion, score reports for test events administered on or after September 2016 no longer report writing scores on the 1–36 scale, which is what caused the confusion. The writing score is now the rounded average of the four writing domain scores having a score range of 2–12.


Why not go back to the 2-12 scale used prior to September 2015?

The former writing test (pre-fall 2015) was designed differently than the current writing test. The current writing test is more up-to-date, and asks students to analyze and evaluate multiple perspectives and provides more specific actionable information about student ability by reporting directly on domains. The new analytic scoring rubric does not support the former 2-12 score.


How can students, educators and higher education compare reported writing scores from the 2015-2016 academic year to those from 2016-2017 and beyond?

ACT has created a reference document titled 5 Ways to Compare 2015-2016 and 2016-2017 ACT Writing Scores (PDF) providing ways to compare writing scores.


Will students who took the test in 2015-16 receive the new 2-12 score?

No. Students who took writing in the 2015-2016 academic year will not receive a new 2-12 score. Students can determine their 2-12 score by using their four domain scores and compute the average of the scores. Additional guidance can be found in 5 Ways to Compare 2015-2016 and 2016-2017 ACT Writing Scores (PDF).


How is the ELA score calculated?

Students who take the optional writing test will also receive the ELA score, which is reported on a 1-36 scale. The ELA score is the rounded average of the English, reading, and writing test scores. To calculate the ELA score, the student’s writing raw score (8-48) is converted to a 1-36 scale.


What steps is ACT taking to prevent recurrence of reporting delays experienced in fall 2015 when enhancements to the writing test were first introduced?

ACT has taken many steps to ensure the level of service to which our customers have become accustomed with the ACT reporting including:

  • Engaging in a more thorough examination of the capacity planning related to the writing test scoring allowing for alerts at the first indication that we are not on pace to meet expected turnaround.
  • Revising our risk mitigation plan to make sure more effective backup plans are in place.
  • Modifying our communication processes to notify all key stakeholders in a timely manner around issues that we are experiencing.


Technical Manual

When will you update the ACT Technical Manual on your website?

A supplement to the ACT Technical Manual has been released. It is important to remember that 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.