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ACT Test Changes and International Testers

On October 9th, the ACT announced huge changes to the way it will allow students to take the test and report their scores to colleges. Beginning in September 2020, test takers will be able to take individual ACT sections (given that they have already sat for a full ACT test), take both the full test and the individual sections digitally, and send a single superscored report to the colleges and universities of their choice.

However, international test takers got a slightly different announcement. They will be able to send superscored reports, and they have been exclusively digitally testing since September of 2018; however, they will not be allowed to take single sections of the test, arguably the most impactful change on overall scores.

The ACT says that it is “evaluating the availability of section retesting for students who test at international test centers in the future but it won’t be offered at international test centers next year.”

The international counselors and students I work with have been taking the digital test since September of 2018, and while I have heard some stories of malfunctioning computers, delayed start times, and even test centers cancelling dates at the last minute, by and large the shift to digital testing in the international space has gone relatively smoothly. The need for test security and fairness necessitates a move to digital, and eventually computer adaptive digital, testing. So why not let these students take advantage of the section retesting?

The digital infrastructure is there, even more established than it will be domestically in 2020. According to the ACT, they are making these changes to “allow students to achieve their highest possible scores and, in turn, have access to the academic and scholarship opportunities they need to build the lives they want.” Again, why are international students not being given this opportunity and access?

Testing is already a challenge for international students, many of whom have to spend a significant amount of money and time to travel outside of their city or region, sometimes outside of their own country, to take the ACT or SAT. While the ACT does not publish how many testing centers or seats are available internationally, anecdotally I have heard that spots fill up very quickly and signing up as soon as registration opens is often the only way to get a seat. Add to this already unfair environment the clear inequity present in this announcement, and I worry that these students are at a serious disadvantage.

Again, quoting the ACT regarding the enhancements: “today’s students deserve a test that better matches the way they learn and measure their progress. We’ve spent a great deal of time identifying the enhancements to the test experience that would most benefit students and how to implement them, grounding these changes in research to ensure their equity and validity.” I wholeheartedly agree, and applaud them for updating the format of their test. I only hope that they will correct their error and give international students the same opportunities as their US counterparts.


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  • Ginger Fay

    Emma, you have brought up some really important questions regarding the lack of equity and access inherit in ACT not making these changes available to all students, worldwide. I can only hope those changes are on the horizon soon.