Test Prep in the News: May 2018

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We are committed to providing you with the most up-to-date resources and announcements from the college admissions testing landscape. Here are some of the top headlines from this past month:


ACT Eliminates Self Pacing for Extended Time Students Starting in September

Summary: ACT announced today that it will change the rules related to self-pacing for students with 1.5-extended-time accommodations who test on a single day. In the past, these students had 5 hours for the multiple-choice sections and could divide up that time however they wished across different sections (known as self-pacing). Starting in September, self-pacing is gone. Students will now have a hard stop at the end of each section according to the following timetable:

  • English – 70 minutes (compared to 45 minutes standard)
  • Mathematics – 90 minutes (compared to 60 minutes standard)
  • BREAK – 15 minutes
  • Reading – 55 minutes (compared to 35 minutes standard)
  • Science – 55 minutes (compared to 35 minutes standard)
  • BREAK – 5 minutes
  • Writing – 60 minutes (compared to 40 minutes standard)

According to ACT, “ACT is making this change to improve fairness for all examinees, to make ACT’s administration procedures more consistent with industry standards and to address issues raised in feedback from examinees and test administrators.” The change goes into effect with the September 2018 administration and will NOT affect this June or July’s test.

What this means: 

  • This change is going to be a game changer for a number of students. Traditionally, students who qualified for self-pacing (a majority of domestic test takers with accommodations) used self-pacing to boost their weaker sections by shaving time off their strong sections and adding it to their weaker ones. This strategy won’t be available anymore.
  • The change will also eliminate one of the ACT’s advantages over the SAT: students with this accommodation often chose ACT over SAT because of self-pacing’s benefits.
  • The timing of this change does make us wonder about whether it’s a necessary first step in getting the computer-based test (CBT) to accommodate extended time students. It’s a lot easier to program a computer test to simply allow extra time on each section than to build in the self-pacing model. See below for more on CBT.

ACT Announces Upcoming Changes to Extended-Time Test Administration (ACT)

National Extended Time/Timing Code 6 Frequently Asked Questions (ACT)


Federal Education Department Urges Schools to Protect Student Data Collected by SAT/ACT

Summary: Last week, the U.S. Department of Education warned high schools using the SAT or ACT for state-mandated testing that they must do a better job of protecting student information in order to comply with federal law. The warning focuses on two elements: “how districts sign students up for the college-admissions exams, and how they handle the pre-test surveys that accompany the ACT and SAT.” The DOE warns that students need to be told that the educational and demographic survey at the start of the exam is voluntary.

What this means: These new guidelines come from the College Board and ACT’s practice of selling some student information to third parties, including universities. Though the practice has been around for decades, the fact that school districts and states now require the ACT and SAT is raising complaints about how this personal data is used by SAT/ACT and sold beyond the testing organizations. It’s likely that both organizations may change the surveys used during registration for all students (making it easier to opt out), or create a different survey for students taking state-mandated tests.

U.S. Ed. Dept. Warns Districts to Step Up Student Privacy Protections for SAT, ACT (Ed Week)

U.S. Education Department Warns School Districts to Protect Student Privacy for SAT and ACT (Washington Post)


ACT Adds 20-Minute Experimental Section for All Test Takers

Summary: ACT announced in a letter to counselors last week that beginning in September, all ACTs will include a 20-minute, experimental section, located after the Science Test and before the Writing Test. The proctor will tell students that the questions do not count, so there will be a clear indication when students have hit the experimental section. The ACT used to have an experimental section for students but only administered it in June. Now the experimental section will appear on all test administrations, except for test for students taking the exam with accommodations (whether student takes Writing or not).

What this means: This change will ensure that questions are fair and accurate across different administrations, but it will also make a long test even longer. Students, though, don’t need to take the section too seriously. It won’t count in their scores. Instead, use it as a time to take a breath and relax before jumping into the Writing section.

Megan Stubbendeck

About Megan Stubbendeck

Dr. Megan Stubbendeck is an eight-year veteran of the test prep industry with ten years of teaching experience. She earned her PhD in History from the University of Virginia where she taught for three years in the History Department. She brings many years of experience as both an Elite Instructor and the Coordinator of Instructor Development at Revolution Prep. As the Senior Director of Instruction at ArborBridge, Megan oversees the curriculum team and their developments.

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