Changing the ACT doesn’t actually help

Starting in September 2020, ACT Inc., the nonprofit that distributes and runs the popular standardized test ACT, is rolling out big changes to their test. Students will now have a lot more flexibility and control in how they want to take their ACTs. The ACT will now offer online testing, a super score report as well as the ability to retake individual sections of the test.

I was on the battlefield of the ACT two times. I did well the first time except I choked on the final session of the test and the last score dragged down my composite result. In an attempt to get a better “superscore,” when the highest scores from multiple tests are added together, I took the ACT one more time. If this change was implemented in 2018 when I took the ACT, I would not have had to take the whole test again and could just focus on improving that one section. I was a student that could have greatly benefited from this new ACT policy, yet I am not entirely jealous of the generation of students that will be able to experience these new changes.

These modifications will just put more pressure on the college admissions and standardized testing processes. At Lake Oswego High School, we already feel pressure from the community to score well on the SAT or the ACT, but with this change, the pressure to score high on the ACT is even greater. Instead of having to retake the entire 3-hour test to get a better score on the English section, students can just take a 35 minute English section and be done with it. Because the time and effort to retake individual sections is so little everyone will be striving for a high score on each section. Thus, students taking the ACT will feel they will likely have to keep working for higher scores long after the point at which they should have been satisfied. This not only takes a lot of time but also takes a lot of money as these ACTs are not cheap.

The students who solely focus on the SAT may feel jealous or like they have dodged a bullet, but a similar change may be coming to the SAT. Above all else, the SAT and ACT are competitors and are competing for market share. The SAT just barely owns a larger percentage of the market, and the ACT is making changes in an attempt to pull people away from the SAT, and it is a very appealing pull. To keep up with the ACT, the SAT will have to make the same if not bigger changes to keep competing with the ACT.

I don’t think all these changes are negative, the option to take the ACT online can be very beneficial. Personally, I believe taking the paper version will be a lot easier, but I can’t deny the benefits of taking it online, especially if you need to get your test back fast. One of the worst parts of taking these standardized tests is the agonizing three weeks-long waits for your score, but now students have the option to get their scores back faster if they are willing to take the online versions of the tests.

Overall, this change may continue the devaluation of standardized tests which can be seen as either a good or bad thing. Currently, more and more schools are shifting towards test-optional as the median scores of these tests continue to get higher. By giving the students the ability to continually increase their score by retaking certain sections, ACT scores get inflated as their value deflates.

The SAT and ACT are American institutions and are a small rite of passage for high school students, but these tests could be on their way out very soon.