We all had to take them, whether we liked it or not. But now, ACT is trying to relieve some stress for future high school juniors.
Beginning in Sept. 2020, high school students can retake single portions of the five-part ACT test. The goal is for students to focus on one particular subject without worrying about their scores on the other four sections.
The new policy has come to fruition after an ongoing debate regarding how accurately standardized tests measures a student’s academic strengths and weaknesses.
“We’re really making these changes to benefit students to provide them with more options, and hopefully to create a better testing experience for them,” said Edward R. Colby, a representative for ACT.
Despite the potential benefits for students, some parents and students worry about the potential disadvantages for those students who can’t afford to continue retaking the test. However, according to Colby, the change will actually benefit low-income students.
“We know that the cost for taking an individual section of the ACT by itself will be less than the cost of taking the entire ACT again,” Colby said. “So, in fact, we believe that it could be more accessible to lower-income students to re-test.”
However, while retaking individual sections can lower the cost barrier for standardized testing, other inequities — such as the price of tutoring and the time needed to study — still disproportionately affect low-income students.
According to a CNBC article, upper-middle class students enjoy significant privileges in the college application process, specifically in relation to standardized testing. Wealthy students are more likely to receive greater academic support, receive extra time and take the tests multiple times, according to the article.
Just before the announcement of ACT’s new test-taking change, UC schools announced their decision to make standardized tests optional for high school students applying to college. The decision represents a shift in how people view standardized tests, bringing into question the weight of tests in college admissions.
Gabrielle Galo, a sophomore majoring in neuroscience, took both the SAT and ACT and believes standardized tests are beneficial for universities.
“I think standardized testing is an important way of measuring what the student knows because different schools teach different ways, and I don’t think it should be optional,” Galo said.
According to Colby, standardized testing measures student abilities in a way no other section of the college application process can gauge.
“We believe they [ACTs] offer something that no other admission criteria can offer, which is a standardized measure of readiness that you can use to compare students at different schools, from different states, and even from different countries, on a level playing field,” Colby said.
Some students, like Elizabeth Moeser, a senior majoring in environmental studies, however, question the overall benefits of standardized testing. According to Moeser, universities place too much importance on standardized testing, which she regards as an unfair measure of students’ academic ability.
“In theory I think it’s beneficial to have that opportunity [to retake a single section],” said Moeser, who has taken both tests and the ACT twice. “The whole standardized testing system in general is very flawed, but I think it also takes away from how much you can actually regard that score [as fact] if you can finetune it."
Moeser added that she feels the opportunity to boost an overall score by retaking individual sections makes the test obsolete.
“I think, overall, we should have less emphasis on [standardized tests], especially if you’re giving the opportunity for students to retake a section as many times as they need and end up with a perfect score,” Moeser said.
According to The New York Times, the change in the ACT will likely put pressure on College Board to make similar changes to the SAT, which has two sections — math and evidence-based reading and writing.