ACT Launches a New Testing Interface for International Students

This month ACT released updates on its transition to computer-based testing (CBT) for all international students. ACT announced last year that all students taking the exam abroad (including Canada) would take the ACT on computer starting in September 2018. Since that announcement, ACT has not released much information on the transition.

ACT has now launched a site where students, parents, and educators can try the new computer interface. The site also features a new FAQs sheet and a place to sign up for email alerts on the transition.

Thoughts on the Interface

Navigation: Now, students always see all of the questions in the section at the bottom of the screen, with indicators of which questions they flagged to revisit or those they left blank. This feature used to be hidden in a separate dropdown menu.

Highlighter: ACT added a highlighting function so students can now highlight words in the passages or questions. But this function is far from perfect. Students can’t highlight diagrams or pictures in Math and Science. And the highlights don’t carry over when a student moves to the next question. Why is this a problem? If you take the time to read an entire Reading passage, highlight all the important parts and then start the questions, the highlights you made only stay on the screen for the first question. When you move to the remaining nine questions for that passage, the highlights are gone. There are strategies to address this tool’s shortcomings, which students will need to learn and practice.

Timer: Students can now hide the onscreen timer that counts down for the section; it used to be a prominent and permanent part of the screen. This hiding feature is valuable for students with anxiety who might be intimidated by watching the seconds tick down.

Answer Eliminator: One of the best tools that has always been part of the interface is the Answer Eliminator, a tool that allows students to quickly cross off an answer they know is wrong. Now the eliminator tool is more convenient. Students can turn the tool on and leave it on for the entire section, and easily use it on any question at any time. In the old interface, students had to activate the eliminator on each question individually.

What We Know and What We Still Don’t Know

The FAQ sheet is not particularly groundbreaking for those of us who have been carefully tracking the transition, though it will be helpful for anyone new to the process. Some of the answers are particularly wishy-washy still and demonstrate that ACT doesn’t have the entire process nailed down. For example, the FAQ states ACT will do something to ensure students with accommodations have “a fair testing experience” but doesn’t provide details on what that actually means.

As information slowly trickles out, there are a few things we do know for sure. But there are still a number of questions. Many of these questions—test site changes, number of seats, cost, etc.—won’t likely be answered until registration opens in June