New ACT Changes: Fair or Not?

Gemma Torras, Senior Design Editor

In high school, nearly all students take one of two standardized exams — the SAT or the ACT — as they prepare to apply for college. Over the years, rules have changed to make the process easier for test-takers. Starting in September 2020, test-takers will be able to  take individual parts of the ACT rather than take all parts in one sitting. This will make the testing process much easier for students taking the ACT over the SAT, making the ACT’s standardized testing system unfair and less reliable for the college admissions process. 

In the past, standardized testing measured not only one’s basic academic skills, but also tested  one’s timing and ability to perform in a stressful situation. With this change in the ACT, time pressure effectively  disappears. Students will no longer struggle to answer 75 questions in 45 minutes, only to be followed by 40 more questions to be answered in 35 minutes. Now, one can take his or her time since he or she does not need to worry about working through another section. This new testing option strips away one of the challenging components of standardized testing — time pressure —  making it easier for students to get stellar scores.

Additionally, with the new change, students will no longer face the extra stress of completing all the sections together. Before, the ACT’s three hour duration created extra pressure from doing back-to-back sections  with minimal breaks in between. By having the chance to do one section at a time, students will not become as mentally and physically exhausted as they did with the previous version of the exam, making it easier to score in the high-30s range. In the 2019-2020 school year, the average composite ACT score on all four sections  was 20.75. Now, with students taking each section individually, that score will likely soar to the mid- to high-20s, ultimately taking away from the prestige of a high score.

As a student that primarily used the ACT for college applications, most of the struggle of scoring well came from the limited time and taking four or five sections in a row. Now that the ACT has changed its policy, students will easily achieve higher scores. This may seem like a relief for future test-takers, but in actuality will diminish the impressiveness of scoring well on this standardized test.