Starting in 2018, ACT will begin offering students the opportunity to take the ACT test in July, increasing the number of national ACT test dates from six to seven.
“Students, educators and colleges have told us they would like to see an extra test date prior to early admission and application deadlines, and we have listened,” said ACT Chief Commercial Officer Suzana Delanghe. “This additional test date will allow students to focus on their coursework while they are in school and prepare for the ACT test during the summer.”
The last big change to the ACT calendar came in 2009, with the addition of a September test, introduced as part of a company-wide 50th anniversary celebration. Since then, the early fall test has become enormously popular among students hoping to improve scores with one last try before submitting early applications starting in mid-October. In fact, the September test became one more advantage the ACT had over the SAT in the increasingly-heated standardized test wars—a competition ACT is winning hands-down.
Eventually, the College Board was forced to concede the early fall scheduling advantage and countered by announcing an August SAT, set to roll out this year. And to limit the strain on the system, the College Board will be eliminating the January test in 2018.
Both organizations are presumably scrambling to find an adequate number of sites for the new tests. Although the August SAT is projected to be particularly popular with results easily available in time to finalize early application strategies, seats could be limited by high schools not happy about the timing of the test and declining to participate. To date, test sites have not been announced for the August 26, 2017 SAT.
ACT knows finding sites for the July test will require a slightly different strategy. While the majority of current ACT test centers are located in high schools, ACT advises that most July ACT test centers will “likely be located on two- and four-year college and university campuses,” as high schools typically are closed or operate with very limited staff in the summer months.
While adjusting their calendars and looking for new venues for test administration, both ACT and the College Board are also experimenting with computerized testing. ACT is slightly ahead in this race as well. Juniors and seniors in high schools around the country have already taken the new, automated version of the ACT—a computer-adaptive test (CAT) in which questions delivered to test-takers vary based on responses to previous items. This fall, the CAT version of the ACT will be administered in all overseas ACT test centers.
The College Board has also administered a computerized SAT on small samples of students over the years and has been working on a plan to “digitalize” the SAT under David Coleman’s leadership. The project has encountered a number of setbacks and remains on the drawing board with Coleman announcing last October “new hires to handle its digital project.”
Beyond accommodating early applications, new summer tests like the one announced by ACT and the possible use of college campuses for their administration may actually be paving the way for transition to greater use of the CAT format at sites already well equipped for this purpose. Stay tuned while both companies look for a way to make this happen, as computerized college admissions tests can’t come soon enough for improved security and ease in scoring.
In the meantime, registration for the August 26 SAT (SAT Subject Tests will not be offered on this date) should open later in the spring. Registration for the new July ACT test date will open in early 2018. Information on test locations will be available during registration for either test.