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Upcoming ACT Changes


It’s a time of change for college application testing. In what seems to be a response to the College Board’s 2016 redesign of the SAT, the people at ACT recently unveiled plans for a 2015 update to their test. Students taking the ACT next year will need to prepare for a more complex essay, as well as some minor alterations to the Reading and Mathematics tests. Relative to the SAT’s extensive changes, the differences in the ACT will be subtle.

  • For students taking the optional ACT essay, the writing prompt may become more complex, requiring students to “evaluate multiple perspectives on a complex issue and generate their own analysis based on reasoning, knowledge, and experience.” Due to the challenge of the new prompt, students may be given more time to develop their essays.
  • The scoring of the Writing test will be also updated and will include subscores in four areas: ideas and analysis, development and support, organization, and language use.
  • The Reading test will introduce a new question type. Students will be asked to compare information from paired passages, similar to the SAT.
  • The Mathematics section will see a very slight increase of emphasis on statistics and probability in the Math test. The change will be minor enough that most students probably won’t notice the difference.

Of course, the timing of these updates suggests that they are in response to the recently announced SAT redesign. Whereas the College Board is preparing an extensive update to its test, the ACT has stressed that changes to its test will be gradual and ongoing. For students taking the ACT in 2015, the experience will be almost identical to that of the current test. This may be an incentive for students and states to stick with the ACT as the more familiar test.

The main focus of the upcoming ACT update seems to be on state assessments, rather than on college applications. This is evidenced by the ACT’s new supplemental scores: STEM and Language Arts scores, and Career Readiness and Text Complexity indicators. There will also be new question categories aligned to Common Core standards. Most of these new scores are designed to provide more detailed insight into students’ progress. The ACT’s traditional 1-36 composite score will not change; these new scores will be provided in addition to the current provided scores. Other changes affecting ACT state assessments include the addition of more optional tests (math, reading, and science) and increased availability of digital tests.

These changes to the ACT are planned to take effect in fall 2015 and in 2016. The ACT has released few specifics, and their plans are still subject to change. More details should be provided later this summer.

For more information, visit the ACT’s official update page at

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