Changes to the ACT

ACT Changes, Changes to ACT, ACT Testing
A piece out today in The New York Times about the forthcoming ACT changes doesn’t drive home the point strongly enough that ACT — we would argue — announced these changes to improve their bottom line.

Changes are coming to the ACT…and soon. Beginning in September 2020, test-takers will have the option of retaking only certain sections of the exam. So if a student scores a perfect Science score on the first setting, she need not take that Science section again when she sits to retake the exam in the hope of boosting her other subscores. Instead, she can focus her time and energies on only the scores that she wants to boost without having to worry about getting a lower score in a section she already aced. Of course, ACT’s PR spin is that this new change will decrease stress on test-takers. After all, who wants to worry about maintaining a score in a section that was aced on a previous administration. But, of course, our savvy readers know that it’s highly unlikely ACT announced these new changes to decrease stress on test-takers. No, no. It’s our opinion that ACT announced their most recent changes for selfish purposes: in the hope of increasing their market-share against their longtime rival and the maker of the SAT, College Board.

College Board Recently Announced Changes that Were Panned, Then Reversed

As our readers surely remember, College Board announced some changes to their SAT some months ago — changes we loudly opposed from atop our soapbox in college admissions. Remember the SAT Adversity Score? Or did our readers already forget about it? It was a shortsighted, newly announced change to the SAT proposed by College Board that was eliminated not long after it was first announced. College Board bent to criticism and we were proud to lead the charge against the SAT Adversity Score.

We Won’t Call for ACT to Reverse Their Newly Announced Changes

So we imagine our readers might be wondering: Ivy Coach, will you lead the charge against the newly announced ACT changes? No, we won’t. We agree with ACT that allowing students to sit for only the sections they wish to test for — and prep for — will lead to overall less stress. And we are all for making the highly selective college admissions process less stressful for all. After all, the core objective of our college admissions blog is to demystify the college admissions process by telling it like it is and debunking commonly held misconceptions that only serve to make the process more convoluted and stressful.

But ACT’s Motive is Increasing Revenue, Not Decreasing Stress

But let’s be clear: ACT hasn’t fooled us for a second that it’s motive in allowing students to retest for certain sections instead of retesting for the whole exam was to make the process less stressful. Nor do we believe ACT’s argument that it announced these changes to make the exam more cost effective. While ACT has claimed that testing for only certain sections of the exam will be less expensive than testing for the whole exam, if ACT was really going to make the certain sections only retesting option significantly cheaper, the organization would have announced those new fees with the change. Instead, they’ll release those fees at a later date — likely when they think we won’t notice. Do they really think we buy that they haven’t yet decided on a price for these sections? Please. Rest assured, ACT: we will notice and we will report on the certain sections only fees.

These Changes Will Likely Improve ACT’s Bottom Line

Because even if the certain sections only fee is less expensive than retesting for the whole exam, we anticipate that more students are now going to be retesting. Students who were previously overwhelmed with the thought of having to take the whole test all over again will now find it within themselves to take that one section or those two sections over again to boost their subscore. And that will lead to more dollars for ACT, even if the cost for the exams is lower. So, no, we don’t believe for a second that ACT made this change to decrease anxiety among test-takers. We believe it was a business decision to gain marketshare in the decades-long war between ACT and College Board.


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