ACT changes: how they’ll effect you

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By Nate Koh
Managing Editor of Op-Ed

1.9 million students from all over the world take the ACT every year for a wide variety of reasons, showcasing their knowledge on a national playing field, primarily in pursuit of college admittance.
Public reactions to major changes to standardized tests has historically been dependent on the difficulty of the updated test. In order to more accurately and fairly compare candidates, it benefits colleges to have some familiarity with the test’s material and difficulty, but when significant changes are made, universities no longer have a historical precedent to consult. Both students and universities can become unsure about the implications of certain scores. As a result, significant changes to the testing format can lead to dramatic shifts in which test students (and colleges) prefer.
Evidence of this can be seen after the introduction of the new SAT late in the 2016 school year. The number of students that took the 2017 SAT is 1,715,481 – significantly smaller compared to the 2,030,038 that took the ACT. The changes to the SAT were on an entirely different scale.
It is impossible to predict just how colleges will adjust their standards for the changed ACT, but it seems that national average ACT scores are likely to increase. Adding individual section retakes and automatic superscoring to the ACT could possibly induce multiple ramifications, but this will primarily cause scores in the upper 30s to become less impressive. Schools will still certainly be attracted to such scores, but it will become much more difficult for students to impress.
The current junior class will be the first to be affected. It seems that students will either flock to the ACT or run from it. If there is little increase in the assesment’s difficulty, the benefit of a quicker turnaround for results- made possible by taking the test online and the option to retake specific sections- has the potential to make the ACT a clear favorite among students.
“While I know it’s a ploy for the ACT to gain more test takers compared to the SAT, I’m really grateful for it,” noted junior Eden Kalaj-Rice. “It eases some of the pressure off studying, since I will really allow me to focus on my problem areas. I just wish that the change could go into effect in June rather than September.”
As many test takers have unfortunately discovered, one poor score in a section has the ability to sink an otherwise great composite score. An underperformance on part of the SAT can be made up for in the overall score makeup. There was previously no ability to specifically target just one section for improvement, so perhaps this new addition can help the ACT become more competitive with its SAT counterpart.
Students will most certainly appreciate faster return times on their test scores and the ability to target specific elements of their ACT. On the other hand, colleges will have to take some time to adjust their scales to the new scoring system and determine what these new scores truly mean.