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ACT to offer online alternative in the spring of 2015

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Many students use ACT prep books to prepare for the test, but now, with the emergence of an online option, studying may need to receive an update.

Beginning in the spring of 2015, ACT will offer an online option to the traditional written test. In addition to using  a paper and pencil, students will soon have the opportunity to complete the test on a computer for the first time in the ACT’s history.

Along with the new option, another factor will be changing as well: timing. Instead of waiting a long three to six weeks for results, composite scores will be apparent within seconds of submitting the test.

For many, including RBHS junior Bella Gerhart, the results may be worth any challenges that may accompany the new medium.

Online tests could “lead to more problems with the system overall, because if you click the wrong thing then it really screws you up, but at the same time, you could do that with a pen and paper too,” Gerhart said. “But I [do] think that [it] would be nice to get your results right then rather than three weeks later.”

According to usatoday.com, 1.7 million students took the ACT in 2012 alone, the highest amount of all time. With such popular numbers, the test exceeded its closest competitor the Scholastic Assessment Test for the first time in history (huffingtonpost.com). But despite the popularity, some have already ruled out the possibility of taking the ACT online.

Sarah Kinney is a freshman at Jefferson Junior High School. A junior in the spring of 2015, Kinney will be a part of the prime demographic that will take the test. In spite of this, Kinney is not planning on utilizing the new alternative.

“Having already taken the ACT myself, I very much liked having my own desk and space to work rather than being squashed into a computer cubicle,” Kinney said. “Also, I have found that taking long tests on a computer can be very uncomfortable. Staring at a computer screen for roughly four straight hours is hard on the eyes and brain.”

Personal preference aside, other logistical factors will invariantly come into effect as well. Without having to print or pay for postage, ACT is planning on cutting costs dramatically, but while the organization will save money, schools may be receiving the short end of the stick. Along with the costs of technological updates, the new medium is forcing schools across the nation to rethink traditional test organization. In addition to these changes, bigger schools such as RBHS will have even more to consider: student to computer ratio.

“On the June [ACT] test, we test 300 kids here at Rock Bridge, and we would not be able to test that many people on computers,” RBHS media specialist Gwen Struchtemeyer said. “We could do it on laptops but … there’s the monitoring aspects too because you have to have an internet connection, but you can’t be on the internet to look up answers or look up formulas. There’s a variety of things that they’ll have to figure out … It’s a lot to think about, and the thing about it is … it’ll be cheaper for ACT, but it’ll be more expensive for the rest of us to administer and to make it work.”

Ultimately, only time will show how RBHS will handle these new challenges. In the meantime; however, the school can only plan. Joining the other online tests such as End of Course exams and national tests such as the National Spanish Exam, Kinney believes the online ACT is just another pitstop on the road to the future.

“I’m sure that the online one would be very interactive and modern,” Kinney said. “Making nearly every aspect of our lives digital can be scary at first, but it is a leap that is going to be made eventually; we might as well embrace it.”

By Ashleigh Atasoy

How do you feel about this new alternative? How will the online test option affect you?

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