What the Computer-Based ACT Means for International Students

UPDATE [MAY 2018] Check out ArborBridge's Guide to Computer-Based Testing: What We Know & What We Don't Know for the most up-to-date information on the computer-based ACT.

How Will Testing Evolve With Technology?

Although the ACT overtook the SAT as the most popular admissions test for the first time in 2012, the SAT remains the dominant test for international students. The SAT reported that more than 200,000 international students took the SAT last year at one of the 1,000 SAT testing centers outside of the US. By comparison, the ACT only offers the exam at 400 international testing sites, presumably resulting in fewer than 80,000 students sitting for the exam outside of the US this past year.

However, the ACT’s announcement to move the exam toward a computer-based test may allow for wider availability and greater popularity for the ACT among international students. Many college counselors around the world have told us that they would like their students to try the ACT, but exam seats are severely limited outside of the United States. Increased access to the exam could be a great benefit for overseas applicants, affording them the opportunity to find the best fit test for their learning and testing style.

Additionally, if the SAT does not follow suit, and remains a paper-based exam, this may greatly impact students’ decisions to take one test over the other. The ACT and SAT currently vary in both content and question style; however, taking an examination on a computer would require a completely different testing skill, separating the two exams even more.

Students That Will Excel on a Computer-Based Test:

1. Artistic Students, those who can quickly recreate and understand images. On a computer-based test, students will have to quickly transcribe information and images from the screen in order to work through the problem accurately.

2. Quick workers, students who rarely have to show their work while answering questions. Transcribing information from the screen to paper will create another step for many students. Those students who can work quickly through problem or who are able to make few notes will do better on a computer-based ACT

3. Students with a good memory and recall. Students will no longer be able to mark-up passages and highlight text. Students will need to be able to map out the structure and summarize the argument of a passage separate from the actual text.


Moving Forward With Digital Test Taking in Mind

It will be imperative for students to learn test-taking strategies for the digital ACT format, and working online with a tutor will be more beneficial than ever. Online and computer-based test preparation programs will likely give students the advantage needed for test day.


Lisa Helmers

About Lisa Helmers

Lisa joined the ArborBridge team at its inception and previously was an Associate Director at Launch Education Group. She oversees ArborBridge’s online presence, helping educate potential families on the cutting edge services offered by ArborBridge. Lisa graduated magna cum laude from Loyola Marymount University with a major in Sociology.

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