The Latest News on ACT and SAT Testing

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In June the National Test Prep Association held a conference here in Atlanta with 100+ tutoring & test prep colleagues from all over the country. Our keynote speaker was Janet Godwin, the CEO of ACT. Before she started her presentation, I was fortunate to talk with her one-on-one for 10 minutes. She was very approachable and empathetic with the struggles of today’s students – her son is currently in high school in Iowa. Here are some highlights of her remarks to the group.

  • ACT plans to keep the optional essay (ACT Writing) even though College Board removed the essay from the SAT in June 2021. The main reason is some states have contracts with ACT that require the essay be administered in their statewide school-day testing.
  • ACT plans to keep the Science section because they feel it’s important for young people to develop critical thinking skills to prepare for many careers that involve rapid analysis of often-overwhelming data.
  • ACT will continue to offer students a paper-based testing option even after the ACT digital test becomes available on national test dates (date uncertain). In contrast, College Board will stop all paper tests when the digital SAT launches in March 2024 in the U.S.  
  • The ACT team is concerned with the ‘speededness’ of the ACT and pledged to make the test less rushed.
  • Janet agrees the current TIR report is unreadable and pledged to redesign the one-page report before the next TIR date in December.
  • Janet pledged to start including the TIR at no cost to the many disadvantaged students who take ACT with fee waivers.  

On the second day of the conference, a College Board representative spoke in detail about the upcoming digital SAT. Here are some highlights.

  • The digital SAT will be administered in proctored settings at schools and designated test centers, not at home. Students may use their own laptops or tablet devices — Windows, Mac, iOS, or Android.  
  • The entire SAT test and testing software will be downloaded to each device in one fast download before the test begins. There will be no need for Wi-Fi connectivity during the test. This is a big improvement over the current digital ACT setup that requires ongoing use of Wi-Fi.
  • The digital test will have two sections of 60 minutes each – English and Math. Thanks to adaptive technology similar to that used on the GRE exam, the two-hour digital SAT test will be designed to be just as accurate as the current three-hour paper SAT format. Everyone will take a similar Part 1 of the English section, including a mix of easy, medium and hard questions. At the end of Part 1, the test will provide each student with Part 2 at an appropriate level of difficulty based on the results of Part 1. Higher-scoring students in Part 1 will see a mix of questions of overall greater difficulty in Part 2.
  • Each Reading and Writing passage will be shorter (about 200 words) and have only one multiple-choice question per passage. The paper SAT has longer passages (600+ words), followed by multiple questions.
  • The digital SAT Math will follow the same kind of adaptive format. Students will take Part 1 of the Math section. Based on the results on Part 1 of Math, Part 2 will adapt to the appropriate level of difficulty for Part 2 of Math.
  • All math questions will be calculator-allowed, using the graphing calculator built into the SAT platform. Like the current SAT, the digital test will include some grid-in questions, where students supply the numeric answer (not multiple choice).
  • The digital SAT will continue to be scored on the 1600 scale. A score of 1100 on the digital SAT will equate to 1100 on the current paper SAT.
  • In any roomful of students taking the digital SAT together, everyone will take a different test with similar questions drawn from a large pool of possible questions. This is a major change from printed tests where everyone is taking the very same test at the same time.
  • Like the GRE and other adaptive tests, the digital SAT score report will not show how the score was calculated or how many questions were right and wrong. There will be no more QAS reports to show students which specific questions they got right and wrong. The QAS is a valuable study tool in test prep and will be missed. Students will be very frustrated when they receive their score report with no raw data (number of right & wrong answers) and no scoring chart (curve for standard scores).  
  • The PSAT in October 2023 will be the first use of digital testing for PSAT/SAT in the U.S. The first digital SAT in the U.S. is scheduled for March 2024.
  • College Board expects to unveil four digital SAT practice tests in Fall 2022. We look forward to that release!

Please contact Dogwood with your questions about ACT and SAT. We will help you determine which test will be a better fit for your student.