The ACT has recently made some changes to its format and content. Most of these changes are related to scoring. The intention is for the test to generate scores that are more meaningful and useful. The ACT wants to position itself as an essential test for identifying the strengths and weaknesses of high school students and, in particular, aspiring college students.
Put simply, the scoring program for the ACT has been expanded into much greater detail. The old ACT had four sections: English, mathematics, science, and reading. In the old system, students receive a score ranging from 1 to 36 on each of the four sections, and a composite score on the same scale.
The new score package is much more detailed and comprehensive. To begin with, it includes a STEM score, which isolates performance on the science and math sections. These subject areas are increasingly seen as essential for improving the quality of the American workforce. Many students are being directed to special programs for advanced science and math, and the new ACT endeavors to be a tool for identifying candidates for these programs.
The new ACT score package also includes an English language score, which aggregates the scores from the English, reading, and writing sections. It also includes a “progress toward career readiness” score, which combines just those areas within each subject that are related to workforce performance.
Finally, the new ACT includes a “text complexity progress indicator,” the calculation for which is made by combining the scores for all of the writing sections. It should first be noted that the writing section of the ACT is optional. Those students who complete it used to receive an overall score, but now also will receive separate scores on ideas and analysis, development and support, organization, and language use. This extra detail in the score report will be a major help to students who are looking to improve their writing skills. As with all the new scores, it transforms the ACT from an assessment tool to a learning experience in its own right.
Although the majority of the updates to the ACT have been made with respect to the scoring system, some changes have also been made to the content of the test. For instance, there will be slightly more probability and statistics questions in the math section. The makers of the ACT determined that these subjects were underrepresented in previous versions of the exam. Moreover, there is a growing appreciation that probability and statistics are two of the math topics most relevant to the subsequent academic and professional lives of non-mathematicians. For instance, students who go on to major in the social sciences in college will need to understand the basic concepts of statistics.
The new version of the ACT will also include a few reading comprehension questions that require the student to compare information from two different passages. In some cases, the student will assess opposing views, while others will call for the student to analyze differences of style. One reason for this addition is that it is increasingly important for students to be adept at quickly assessing the credibility and quality of texts. In this information-flooded age, students are constantly required to judge sources.
In recent decades, education experts have slowly come to the realization that students in the United States are lagging behind their peers in the global community. The greatest concern for American officials is that their children are growing up without the knowledge and skills required to thrive in the modern workplace. There have been numerous changes in curriculum, and now these changes are being mirrored in the world of standardized testing. The ACT is just the latest example of the nationwide effort to improve and streamline American education.