ACT recently unveiled plans for a 2015 update to their test. Students taking the ACT next year will need to prepare for a more complex essay, as well as some minor alterations to the Reading and Mathematics tests. Relative to the SAT’s extensive changes, the changes to the ACT will be subtle.
- For students taking the optional ACT Writing portion, the writing prompt may become more complex, requiring students to “evaluate multiple perspectives on a complex issue and generate their own analysis based on reasoning, knowledge, and experience.” Although the prompt may appear to be more challenging, the additional direction in the prompt and hypothetical perspectives provided will allow the student to actively analyze stated ideas, instead of initializing the entire topic. In addition, the student will be provided with an additional ten minutes to write the essay – for a total of 40 minutes.
- The scoring of the Writing test will be also updated and will include subscores in four areas: ideas and analysis, development and support, organization, and language use.
- The Reading test will introduce a new passage type. Students will be asked to compare information from paired passages (dual passages), similar to a subset of questions on the SAT. The ACT began rolling out these paired passages during the 2014-2015 school year, but each test will have this dual passage from this point forward.
- The Mathematics section will see a very slight increase of emphasis on statistics and probability in the Math test. The change will be minor enough that most students probably won’t notice the difference.
- The Science section will have the same number of questions (40), but they will be broken down into 6 themed passages rather than 7. We perceive this as giving each student a leg up, as now there are only six varied science related topics that must be addressed, rather than seven topics that students may only have limited previous knowledge of beforehand.
The main focus of the upcoming ACT update seems to be on state assessments, rather than on college applications. This is evidenced by the ACT’s new supplemental scores: STEM and Language Arts scores, and Career Readiness and Text Complexity indicators. There will also be new question categories aligned to Common Core standards. Most of these new scores are designed to provide more detailed insight into students’ progress.
The ACT’s traditional 1-36 composite score will not change; these new scores will be provided in addition to the current provided scores. Other changes affecting ACT state assessments include the addition of more optional tests (math, reading, and science) and increased availability of digital tests.
These changes to the ACT are planned to take effect in fall 2015 and in 2016.