ACT Testing To Have Tighter Security In The Wake Of Cheating?

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

What is ACT and the Reasons for taking it?

Across all colleges in the United States, a generally accepted high school assessment and college readiness exam is the ACT or American College Testing.  The test in itself is divided into four subtests which measure a student’s aptitude in English, Mathematics, Reading and Science.  The examination takes 3 hours and 45 minutes to complete.  This examination tool makes use of a multiple choice format and is administered via paper testing.  Computer testing is now also possible in some testing areas but the exam will still have the same multiple answer choices and scoring scheme.  Scores are generated based on the rounded average of all four content areas which appears as a scaled score anywhere from 1 to 36.  The ACT dates as far back as 1959 when it was first administered and since then, had gained popularity rivaling the SAT or Scholastic Aptitude Test.  Nowadays, ACT Inc., the administrators of ACT, also offer the ACT- Writing, an optional examination in writing which is not included in the regular ACT score. 

Because the test is standardized, it functions as a typical college entrance examination which satisfies the admission requirements of four- year colleges and universities in the country.  Scoring well in the ACT increases the chance of being accepted into a reputable college when a candidate lacks in other areas of assessment credentials such as GPA, class rank and extracurricular activities.  Having a good rating in ACT could also be a bragging testament to what the candidate has achieved in so far as graduating from high school.  Having high marks in the examinations also opens the door of opportunities for the young and talented as they may be offered college sponsorship.   Some states also have ACT as a mandatory prerequisite for high school students even if they are not enrolling in college.  These are Colorado , Illinois, Michigan, Kentucky, Tennessee and Wyoming.  More than career preparation, ACT is a milestone in one’s academic life marking the transition from high school to higher education.


The race to ace the examinations and achieve the best score has probably caused the prevalence of undesirable examination behavior.  In 2011, a scandal involving students in Long island broke where as many as 20 students from Long Island were found to be using false identification in the ACT test.  Smart kids were taking tests for others in return for a fee ranging from USD500- 3600 which wealthy students in Long Island were ready to pay.   

A key figure in the controversy is Samuel Eshaghoff, graduate of Great Neck North, who repeatedly took the tests of 15 people in a period of three years.  According to the district attorney at Naussau county, Kathleen M. Rice, they suspect involvement was up to 50 students from different high schools in the area. 

The Long Island controversy may be the first of its kind reported in lieu of the high profile reputations of the schools involved.  It, however, is far from being an isolated case.  In fact, approximately 3000 exam scores are forfeited yearly from suspected cheating.


Shortly after the incident in Long Island was discovered, Ms. Rice announced additional measures which would be executed on a national scale to ensure the security of the ACT.  A photo would have to be provided whether by mail or uploaded upon registration.  This photo will be printed in a student’s admission document and displayed in the testing center for comparison on the day of the exams.  This photo will also be scrutinized along with national identification provided on the test day.

The examinee’s photo would also be appearing on the result form which will be sent to the examinee’s high school.  Sending results to the examinee’s school was not part of the previous process as details on a candidate’s school had not been part of the data which was needed for registration.  Also included in the data ACT registration would now require are gender and birth date to strengthen test security.  Sufficient identification must also be given on the day of the exams or a candidate may not be allowed to take the test.  An attestation before the exams are given would require an examinee to sign that he or she is indeed the test- taker.  It also provides a clause to which examinees sign stating they are ready and willing to face the consequences of providing false identity or misleading information. 


With these safety measures in place, educators and administrators of the ACT hope to discourage students who plan on cheating.  Test center regulations also ensure that standards are maintained through the following policies. 

Do not exceed the examination time

Examinees should not exceed the given time for answering questions or revise answers once the exam time is over.  No one is also allowed to go back on a previous subtest.  No one is to look ahead in the questions in the booklet unless the examiner signals the start of the next set of tests. 

Mind your own test

There should be no looking at another examinee’s test booklet and answer sheet.  No verbal exchanges with co- examinees are allowed. 

Things to bring and not to bring to the testing site

National identification documents are to be checked at the testing center as well as the admission ticket.  Leave prohibited things outside of the testing area such as electronic devices and mobile phones.  Only approved calculators are allowed inside the room and these should only be used in the Mathematics subtest.  No sharing of calculators is allowed.

Never remove test materials such as the questionnaire or booklet from the testing site


While newer strategies that were implemented to quell cheating in the ACT appeared to be effective in preventing impersonation, these measures had not considered problems that may arise from the people who administer it. 

Just recently in 2013, another incident of cheating was investigated in Louisville Kentucky as news spread about some school officials who purportedly assisted students taking an ACT practice test.  The scandal the then Principal of Male High School, David Mike, after he and two school staff ran an ACT practice session during which they had assisted in answering live questions and allowed students to take the practice tests repeatedly to increase the chances of them getting real test items.  The school officials also attempted a cover up when teachers were told to destroy practice materials against protocol.  Students interviewed about the incident were also told what to mention to the investigators. 


The proponents of standardizing examinations for high school assessment and college admission have the noble intention to gauge an individual’s overall competency for the next big step in career and personality building.  This intention to prepare a student for the future, however, has been reduced to a score which provides bragging rights and college passport.  Cheating may be preventable given the measures that were undertaken to address the issues especially with tightened security.  But perhaps more than stringent measures, adequate steps should be made to create student awareness on the real score achievement in life, that which builds core competencies and values. 

Related IT Guides

  1. 10 Tips for Acing ACT Reading Passage
  2. ACT moving Toward Computer-Based Testing?
  3. ACT To Enhance How Scores Reported?
  4. Details of ACT test availability