UPDATE [May 2018] Check out ArborBridge’s Guide to Computer-Based Testing: What We Know & What We Don’t Know for the most up-to-date information on the computer-based ACT.
In July of 2016, ACT announced in a press release that it would begin administering a computer-adaptive version of the ACT in all international test centers starting in the fall of 2017. This switch would have represented a significant change in test administration and student experience. In the months that followed the initial announcement, however, ACT provided virtually no information about the change, even after it opened international registration for its September 2017 test date.
Despite having no official announcement, we have received confirmation from an ACT representative that the release of the computer-adaptive version of the ACT has been postponed until at least the fall of 2018. No specific reasons have been given for the postponement, and despite registration having been opened for 2017–2018 test dates, the original press release has not been removed from ACT’s web site.
What does this mean for test takers?
Counselors and students should expect the status quo throughout the 2017–2018 academic year. The ACT will continue to be administered as a paper-based test, and there is no reason to believe that the content of the test will change significantly. If and when the ACT switches to a computer-adaptive version, we will update you through our blog and newsletter.
Why did the ACT postpone the switch?
We don’t know. Creating a question bank for a computer-adaptive test and implementing the infrastructure to actually administer it are monumental tasks, particularly considering the hundreds of international test locations where the ACT is administered. Since the ACT has given us no indication that it is abandoning its goal of switching to a computer-adaptive test, we assume that it is continuing to work towards accomplishing these tasks in time for a full switch in the fall of 2018.
What does this mean for the ACT in the future?
The long-term consequences for the ACT remain unclear, but don’t expect the ACT to give up on a computer-based test. One of the motivations for the change from a paper-based to computer-adaptive test was test security. The ACT has faced criticism over the past year about its reuse of identical or near-identical questions, particularly from the National Association for College Admission Counseling. (You can find NACAC’s full statement here.) The preservation of the paper-based test will leave the ACT open to these criticisms, especially if it has spent its resources over the course of the past year developing exam questions that are not immediately transferrable to the paper version of the test. At the same time, the College Board has announced that it plans to release a computerized version of the SAT within the next five years. With the competitive pressure of a computerized SAT, the ACT is bound to make sure it eventually gets its own computer-based test out.
Given the ACT’s silence on this matter over the past year, we are unsure what percentage of international students were expecting to take a computer-adaptive version of the ACT this year. Counselors should make sure that their students know that they’ll be faced with the traditional, paper-based test throughout the entirety of the coming academic year.