ACT moving Toward Computer-Based Testing?

Exam: Test Prep ACT Test - American College Testing: English, Math, Reading, Science, Writing


The leading college readiness test in the United States, ACT (American College Testing), has announced its plans to go digital. Recognized and accepted all the colleges and universities in the country offering four year undergraduate programs, ACT is expected to commence its computer based testing in full swing from 2015. The digital version of the test will initially be offered only in schools where ACT is managed on a school day for all students and is a part of their district or state-wide assessments. The school also must have the technological facilities to administer the ACT as the digital version of ACT can be taken by students only on desktop computers, laptops or tablets. Therefore, ACT has not planned to scrap the paper-and-pencil test format and will be continued as an option for students and schools who are not so technically advanced to administer the electronic version.

ACT – Gateway for College Admissions

ACT is an opportunity for international students across the world to apply in universities in the United States or Canada. The test is also a gateway for college admission for countries like Australia and United Kingdom where the medium of instruction is English. For the convenience of the students, the standardised college readiness test is conducted at over 400 test centres across the globe. The website of Act is a platform that provides complete information and guidance for helping the students in making choice of the colleges and financial aids available to fund their education. Another feature known as the world-of-work map also aids the students in making a career choice by enhancing their knowledge on connections among various occupations based on work tasks. ACT also makes the application process much simpler by directly sending the test scores of the students to the universities or colleges indicated by them while registration.

No change in Test Content

The computerised version of the test will not have any change in content of the test. The test, designed for evaluating the proficiency of students in knowledge and skills of high school  education, will continue to be based on the curriculum of secondary school with four sections including Reading, English, Science reasoning and Mathematics. The Writing section meant for assessing the writing skills of the students will be optional as in the paper-and-pencil test format as not all colleges demand the writing section scores and overall test will be scored on 1-36 scale.

The answering items in the computer-based test are expected to have some optional changes from the traditional multiple choice questions. The questions will demand students to do virtual tasks to arrive at the answer in few optional items that would require constructed response. In the constructed response questions, the students do not have the option to select the right answer from the choices given but will have to enter their answers. However, the battery of these constructive response questions is optional and designed to supplement the objective-type questions for schools to be able to align their reporting in a better way with the Common Core State Standards.

Pros and Cons of the Digital Version

The introduction of the computer-based testing will have its own advantages and disadvantages. While it will make the enhance the college admission process and make it more effective, the complete establishment of the new testing format across all the testing centres might have some initial hiccups which may gradually be resolved.

In today’s world of technology, where there has been significant advancement in the number of people having technological knowledge, the computer-based testing is a great leap forward. With the increasing usage of electronic gadgets over paper and pencil by students for their education, the digital version of the test would offer them with a better user experience. The generation, reporting and distribution of test scores to the schools will also be faster, enhancing the college admission process nationwide. Moreover, it also provide more flexibility in developing different answering items to gradually evolve the test to signify the national and international standards of education over time.

The two major point of concern in implementing the digital version will be prevention of technical problems and ensuring that cheating does not become easier for students in this version of testing. Initial bumps in technicality of while implementing the computer-based testing administration is usually expected. In the first phase of implementation, ACT also faced some technical problems while administering tests digitally. Some of the states including Oklahoma, Indiana and Minnesota faced technical issues in online tests. This is also one reason that ACT has not completely phased out its paper and pencil testing format so that the nationwide administration of test is not affected by sudden shift to computer-based testing.  Moreover, adequate security measures are also required for prevention of cheating during any test. The ways might be different but digital version of the test also may also have loopholes that students can benefit from for cheating in the test. ACT is taking required measures to improve the test security and maintain the integrity of the test.  

However, despite these challenges, ACT is continuously working on improving the new test format for full-scale implementation from the year 2015. Being the most trusted standardised test for college readiness in the United States, this new initiative is also ACT’s responsibility to update the standard of testing in the country to pace with the current technological trends. The digital testing format would help the students having a better insight on their career path and ways to succeed. With constant efforts of improvisation, ACT strives to offer more relevant and personalised information on ability of every test takers to gain clear path to succeed in their higher education and career thereafter.


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