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The ACT ushers in a new era with first computer-based college entrance exam

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In case you missed announcements crowded out by all the hoopla surrounding the new SAT, ACT has been quietly working behind the scene to usher in a new era of computer-based college entrance exams. While the SAT hints this may be a possibility in the future, ACT has already administered approximately 4,000 digital exams to students at various test sites across the U.S.

“This is an exciting step forward for students and for ACT,” Jon Erickson, president of education and career solutions at ACT, said in a press release. “We are making great progress toward the official launch of the digital ACT option for state and districtwide testing next spring.”

On April 12, the first computer-based version of the ACT was administered to an “invited” group of high school juniors in 80 schools across 23 states. The schools were specifically selected by ACT and agreed to participate in the pilot administration.

“The administration went very well overall,” added Erickson. “As always at this stage, there were some technical issues, and we learned a great deal. We appreciate the participation of the students and high schools and their extra efforts during the process.”

The scores earned by participating students will be official and can be reported to colleges. Although digital test-takers were given five extra minutes to complete both the reading and science sections—adding 10 minutes overall—ACT ensured that content of the exam was identical to that of the paper-and-pencil version so that reported scores should “mean the same in terms of level of achievement” for this test.

While the first computer-based version of the ACT was administered on a “national” ACT test date, it will initially be offered only as an option for schools administering the exam as part of districtwide or statewide assessment programs. The digital version will officially launch in spring of 2015, in invited states and school districts, with expanded release for school day testing in spring of 2016—just in time to compete with the new College Board product.

For the moment, there are no plans to discontinue the paper-and-pencil version of the test. It will be offered as long as there is a demand for it.

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