The ACT revision drawing the most chatter among parents and students will allow test-takers to retake individual test sections, rather than plodding through the entire three-hour test, as they must do now to try and improve their score.
However, the retake option imposes a condition that bears discussion. Retakes of specific sections must be digital. Most Georgia students take the paper versions of the SAT and ACT as few host high schools are willing --- or able -- to provide computers to test-takers. But there is a push to expand online testing accessibility.
Something for parents to consider is that evidence suggests that students, even those we regard as digital natives, score better on paper and pencil tests that digital ones.
Researchers for the American Institutes for Research examined two years of results (2015 and 2016) from statewide assessments in Massachusetts and found the students testing on paper scored higher than peers using computers.
That does not surprise Brian Eufinger, co-founder of the Atlanta-based tutoring company Edison Prep, which puts kids through full mock practice tests with all 215 questions across the four sections of the ACT.
"The number of kids who finish all 215 questions on their initial mock ACT paper test, before practicing, is approximately 15 percent," he said. When test-takers sit down to a mock digital ACT, Eufinger says, "Almost none would get to all 215 questions."
"We’ve asked our students in class if they would like the idea of taking the online ACT with the exact same timing structure, no extra time given for the fact that you can't write on the test, have to re-draw math diagrams, and can't annotate. Like clockwork, over 90% said that losing the ability to write on the actual booklet would kill their timing and said paper was their preference," said Eufinger.
Also, Eufinger and other test tutors say there’s value to students retaking the entire ACT even if their goal, for example, is only to improve their math performance. They just might register a bump in the reading or science section.
A growing list of colleges have embraced test-optional admissions, but most selective schools, including Georgia Tech, the University of Georgia and Emory, still require applicants to submit ACT or SAT scores.
Even the University of Chicago, the most prestigious campus to declare itself test optional, states on its website, "We encourage students to take standardized tests like the SAT and ACT, and to share your scores with us if you think that they are reflective of your ability and potential. Given that many of our peers do require testing, we anticipate that the vast majority of students will continue to take tests and may still submit their test scores to UChicago."