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ACT Test Changes: Focus on College and Career Readiness

The ACT is making major changes that will benefit students and make them more college and career ready.

Kathryn Knight Randolph

June 15, 2014

ACT Test Changes: Focus on College and Career Readiness
Standardized tests have been a prerequisite for college admissions since 1926. While little has changed in terms of the intent to test secondary learning, many changes have occurred in how students are being tested. Just recently, the ACT announced further changes to the way in which they will measure students’ college readiness. These changes come after nudging from the government, parents and students alike to provide an accurate indication of their eventual higher education and career pathways. Starting next year, according to The Wall Street Journal, students will be able to complete a voluntary written portion of the ACT that will measure job readiness and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) skills. The goal, as stated by ACT’s president Jon Erickson in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, is to provide results that are tailored to each student. This new assessment does not affect the content or required components of the test, nor does it affect the cost to take the test.

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A career-readiness indicator will highlight areas and skills in which each student needs to improve as demanded by future employers. There is also a text-complexity progress indicator that informs students of their reading comprehension levels for college and work beyond that.
In addition to the new assessment, the ACT also announced that they are going live with an online version of the test as early as 2015, according to the Educational Testing Consultants. Like the voluntary writing test, the online version will be no different than the required components of the paper ACT. The only difference, however, will be that students find out their test results immediately after completing the test.

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The Wall Street Journal also reported that in 2012, for the first time ever, more students took the ACT than the SAT. At this point, you may be wondering what the difference is between the two. The ACT questions students in a more straightforward manner, tests science and advanced math skills and provides a bigger picture with a composite score. SAT, on the other hand, focuses on vocabulary, breaks the test up into more sections and highlights critical reading versus math scores rather than one lump score. Like the ACT, College Board announced similar changes to the SAT earlier this year. College Board, too, believes the standardized testing focus should be on whether or not students are college and career ready, in addition to secondary learning. Both College Board and the ACT believe that with a focus on college and career readiness, students, and more importantly teachers, will know what to focus on during instruction and test preparation. In preparing in this manner, students will meet college and the careers beyond with the knowledge and skill sets necessary to compete in today’s job market.

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