With the last interplay between the ACT and SAT happening in 2005, with the surprise “Writing” section occurring on the SAT to move the test from 1600 to 2400 points, some tutors like yours truly still feel like we are settling into the latest changes in the test prep world. So while the envy of Collegeboard to the ACT’s rising superiority seemes to have sparked a radical reengineering of basically all the questions on the SAT, the ACT has not been shy about “growing up”, so to speak. The biggest of these changes for the ACT may be its new (optional?) digital format.
I quote from the New York Times here about the computer interface for some of the new problems:
“..students ‘pour’ four different liquids into beakers to see which one rises to the top and which one sinks to the bottom. Based on their experimentation, they predict what would happen if all four liquids were combined.
‘Those kinds of questions are more expensive to produce, but I think students will be more engaged by them,’ said Mr. Erickson, whose predecessor, Cynthia B. Schmeiser, defected to the College Board in April.
Many details of digitization remain to be resolved. About a third of schools don’t have the capacity to accommodate all their students in a computer lab or other lockdown setting, Mr. Erickson said. Will it be entire schools or individual students who opt for a paper-and-pencil test? Which questions will be graded by computer, and which by humans? And because the two versions need to be comparable, just how many beyond-the-bubble questions will be added to the mix?'”
The syncretism of the two formats will indeed be interesting: It’s one thing to administer the same exact questions with the same format on paper and on computers. It’s another when the problems actually react on the computer screen, causing the ink and paper, so to speak, to do something themselves!
I personally believe that the new ACT will be the lesser of two evils, when considering the new formats for both the ACT and the SAT. I’ve heard too many horror stories about College Board’s CEO David Coleman and the output we all know now as “Common Core”. The good news, however, is that both tests are graded on a curve, so if the average person only scores two out of 10 questions correctly, that pretty much means that you’ve “passed” if you do the same, with the major variable being what the school you are applying to accepts. I do wonder, though, if some of our colleges and universities will opt out of following all of the changes and controversies and just relay a little bit more on GPA.