ACT, Inc. announced plans last week to add a digital component to the ACT starting in 2015. As early as spring 2015, the ACT will be available digitally, reflecting the tech-savvy nature of today’s students. The traditional pen-and-paper format will still be made available, and the content and scoring of the exam will not change. However, ACT, Inc. has plans to add what they are calling an optional “constructed-response battery of questions” alongside the multiple-choice portions on the digital version of the exam. These constructed-response questions will basically be open-ended questions requiring a student-generated response rather than selection of an answer choice.
A recent Washington Post article provided hints into what these “constructed-response” questions might look like:
As of now, ACT, Inc.’s release states that the digital version will only be offered in schools that administer the test on a school day as part of state, district, or school assessments. In addition to its more common use as a college admissions exam, the ACT is also used in some schools to evaluate student achievement. Of the 1.7 million ACT test-takers last year, most took the test at a testing center on a Saturday. So at least for 2015, it’s likely that the digital shift will only affect a small portion of test takers.
But –and this is merely an educated guess — depending on the success of the new digitized version and the makeup of the optional “constructed-response” questions, it’s entirely possible that the digital ACT could overtake the more traditional pen-and-paper version. If colleges find the new ACT to be more attractive and more accurate as an assessment of student knowledge, it’s likely that ACT, Inc. would decide to make the digital version available to all test-takers.
If the digital version becomes available to all test-takers, ACT, Inc. would need to decide what to do with the constructed-response questions: would they remain optional, much like the ACT essay, or would they become a required part of the exam? Unless ACT, Inc. decided to do away with the paper-and-pencil version of the test altogether, the constructed-response questions would likely remain optional, leaving students in the uncomfortable position of determining whether or not to spend time on a purely voluntary portion of the test.
“Regardless of the shifts to the ACT, C2 Education will remain ready and able to help students tackle these kinds of decisions and, of course, prepare for all sections of the exam,” says C2 Education co-founder and CEO David Kim. “We are monitoring the issue closely so that we will be prepared to help our students adjust to these changes.”