Just after the College Board announces that the SAT will undergo a major overhaul, John Erickson, president of ACT Inc.’s education division, announced that the ACT is about to go through its own radical transformation. As early as Spring 2015, the test, which has become the nation’s most popular, will be computerized. This announcement heralds a quantum leap towards the end of paper-based testing. It will only be a matter of time until the College Board follows suit; within several decades, we will likely see the computerization of all high-stakes educational assessments.
This announcement follows a long line other high-stakes tests making the move from paper to computer. From the GMAT, to the GRE, to the MCAT, most major tests have moved to predominately online versions, with only a handful of stragglers still working with pencils and erasers. Online tests are efficient, and they eliminate the possibility of bubbling errors or faulty scantron reads like those that plagued the SAT in 2006. Plus, online results can be tallied instantly, eliminating that anxious waiting time. Press submit on the final screen of your GRE test, and your score appears on the screen.
The online model has many benefits, but, until now, the scarcity of technology in our schools has prevented any widespread adoption of online testing. The last decade, we’ve started to see that shift. We’ve heard the battle cry to get our kids ready for the high-tech 21st century: “An iPad for every student! Or at least a laptop or a desktop.” As a policy, some high schools now distribute a laptop to every entering student. And many states have started shifting to statewide tests administered by computer. Now, with a critical mass of technology in schools, the ACT is jumping on the train.
One incredibly exciting phenomenon is the potential for deep integration of technology into the tests, which will fundamentally change them.
Gone will be the static assessments. And we’ll see the inception of interactive scientific models in the science section or adaptive reading passages. The test could become much more engaging and intrinsically interesting for students. ACT Inc. is already hinting that computerized science sections may contain such interactive elements as student-led “experiments” or adaptive test sections!
As I’ve seen an easy migration from paper to computer-based tests for the graduate tests that we teach, I’m confident that current high-school students, digital natives, will make the transition with great facility. And many students, myself included, will prefer the computer-based tests, and a chance to compose their essays on a computer, rather than with a pencil and paper.
A new world in testing is dawning. It’s a step forward for our students and schools, and we’ll keep you posted as we learn details of these new developments.
March Madness is here! And we’re not just talking about basketball. The ides of March have brought with them a flurry of admissions decisions, envelopes both fat and thin, and financial aid award letters that have our students and their families buzzing. Students are primarily interested in the thickness of the envelope (Did I get in?)
It’s the end of the SAT as we know it, and it’s about time. The SAT is outdated, and many of its underlying assumptions about how to effectively measure college readiness are no longer valid. As discussed in my recent article on the battle of the tests, the SAT has become so out-of-step with high school curricula that it’s facing threats from both the ACT and Common-Core backed assessments being developed by testing consortia PARCC and Smarter Balanced. We deserve a better test, and it looks like David Coleman, the newly minted president of the College Board, is about to deliver it to us.
There’s only room for one at the top, and in the land of college admissions, the ACT now claims the throne as the most popular test in the nation. Trends show that the ACT is about to blow things wide open and leave the College Board in the dust. How did this happen? How did the College Board, the de facto architect of the national testing movement, lose its way and its testing crown to some scrappy upstart from Iowa?
March is the worst! Avoid it like the plague! Don’t you dare take October; that’s when the smart seniors are sitting. All the jocks take December, that’s the surest bet for a high score!
If you spend long enough in this business, you will hear chatter about choosing test dates strategically to garner a testing advantage. One of my independent educational consultant friends recently reached out to me. She heard a rumor from another mom, while sitting in the basketball bleachers, that certain tests are considered “easier” based on the students taking them at that time. She wanted to know if she should have her clients prioritize any particular date.
It’s finally here. The Fabulous Guide to the ACT: the one ACT book to rule them all! We spent years getting it just right: the visual presentation, the humor, the conversational language, the advanced pedagogy. We took the best aspects of private tutoring, added our special sauce, and created what we honestly believe is the best ACT book on the market. Here are a few highlights:
After 11 years of working with students on the SAT and ACT, it has become profoundly clear to me that a student’s level of motivation for the preparatory process will dramatically impact the testing outcomes. Motivated students make the requisite sacrifices, invest the necessary time, and nearly always come out ahead.
What happens if my child is not motivated to do the work required or does not seem interested in attaining a higher score?
It is essential to understand a student’s motivational profile and college aspirations. The SAT and the ACT are meaningful only in the context of applying to selective colleges. A number of factors influence motivational levels:
Look left: students are working. Look to the right: more of the same. Look up at the board: it’s still there. Okay. Get a hold of yourself. Back to the test booklet. Read the passage. Wait. What did I read? Read it again. Blank. Look left. Look Right. Back to the board. Repeat.
This is the ritual of one of my students who struggles with test-anxiety. When the anxiety switches on, she begins this cycle. And when she begins this loop, her hopes of a good score, the payoff for all the hard work she’s put in, slowly fade away.
Test-anxiety is real. And its effects can be debilitating. One of my former SAT students, so concerned about hitting the score she needed to win the scholarship that would pay for college, had run crying out of three consecutive SAT tests before she came to work with us. One of my GMAT students was able to keep his cool on the semi-pro golf circuit and could focus on sinking the winning putt, but would go into a negative spiral and throw away everything he had learned when he hit a rough patch of problems on the GMAT.
Having studied student error patterns on standardized tests for a decade, it has become increasingly apparent that careless errors on the SAT/ACT are typically not as “careless” as they seem. In fact, clear patterns emerge when you sit down to study students grappling with inherent “carelessness.”