ACT vs SAT: Changing the Game to Be Even More Complicated

In the Red Queen’s Race that is the the college admissions test market, the ACT has made its counter push to the SAT’s latest sprint. The ACT has announced a revision to the essay and the introduction of a new scoring rubric. The changes are scheduled to be rolled out some time in 2015.

The ACT essay, which had until now has consisted of a topic concerning high school life, will now have students “evaluate multiple perspectives on a complex issue and generate their own analysis based on reasoning, knowledge and experience.” Test takers will be expected to provide analysis from more than just their perspective on a specific topic. Further details about the nature of the new essay are scant, but it will still be optional and the time limit may be extended from the current 30 minutes.

As for the new rubric, students’ new ACT scores will include “readiness indicators,” which will attempt to show their “career readiness” and ability to “understand complex text.” There will also be two cross-test categories, one score for language arts derived from the English and Reading sections (and the essay, if applicable) and the other will be a STEM score, based on the Science and Math sections. These cross-test scores are reminiscent of the bevvy of new scores introduced by the College Board three months ago for the new SAT. This growing synthesis of categories into one distinct score on college admissions tests seems to be a new trend and these scores, from this point on, will now be known on this website as “mush scores.”

These adjustments are pretty minor in comparison to the recent overhaul of the SAT by the College Board. However, the ACT is currently on top and not looking to rock the boat too much.  It’s even ahead of the game in terms of transitioning from paper and pencil to computer-based, beta testing 4,000 students at 80 different sites in April 2014 for a 2015 release.  Important to note that ACT is committed to offering paper and pencil tests as long as the market demands.  While some outlets have reported this will be a computer adaptive test (a test that will increase the difficulty level of a subsequent question when you answer the previous one correctly), that information is incorrect.   ACT has stated that the test is not computer adaptive at this time.  They have hinted at additional changes coming in the future, including developing language to correlate an ACT score to the new Common Core standards.

Additionally, the ACT is planning on rolling out a series of SAT II style subject tests. These will be called “Optional Constructed Response Tests” and will be thirty-minute subject tests in math, reading, and science. These tests will not be multiple choice and instead the test taker will be required to produce her own response to “justify, explain, and use evidence to support claims.” Scores from these tests will be combined with scores from the same subject areas on the ACT to give a “constructed-response test score” in each subject area. However, these scores will be an entirely separate entity and will not be reflected in your ACT composite score. So there will be even more numbers to figure out.

Come back soon, we’ll post more news as it breaks.
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