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This Week in COVID-19: Global Pandemic 1, ACT’s Optimism 0

UPDATE: Better Make That “Global Pandemic 2, ACT 0” (7/12/20)

The ACT took another L this week, announcing in a post on its news blog that the rollout of in-person computer-based testing for domestic students, originally scheduled for this September, will now be postponed until an unspecified time in 2021 (though international students will continue to take the computer-based version of the ACT as usual).

This announcement comes a few weeks after the postponement of section-specific retesting, which was also scheduled for launch in September 2020. As with the delay of section retesting, the stated motivation for the postponement of online testing is the desire to maximize the number of students who are able to take the test in some form this fall in preparation for the coming college admissions cycle. From the ACT’s statement:

We are focused on adding additional testing capacity for students in need of full ACT scores for admission and scholarship applications. This decision will ensure ACT can build additional capacity for fall testing at national test centers and allow test centers to focus on providing a successful paper administration of the ACT test.

If this change will indeed help increase the number of seats that will be open at test centers this fall, it’s a no-brainer of a decision for the ACT. Taken in combination with the announcement of the new fall test dates, the decision shows a clear effort on the part of the ACT to allow as many students as possible to attain scores in time for application deadlines. You can certainly understand where the organization is coming from there, and it’s an admirable goal – though that’s unlikely to provide much comfort to the many frustrated students who have seen their optimistically scheduled test dates cancelled with no more than a couple weeks’ notice.

One thing is for sure: it’s getting hard to watch COVID-19 beat up on the ACT like this. If this were a boxing match, the fight would have been called off several rounds ago.

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ORIGINAL POST (6/22/20)

In an update posted to their website earlier this week, the ACT finally acknowledged that everything is not, in fact, fine. You can read the full release here; as usual, however, we’re here to provide a summary of the most important takeaways for those with too many quarantine Zoom meetings on the calendar and not enough time to read.

1) Section retesting has been postponed until an unspecified time next year.

Until now, the ACT has publicly projected an admirable, albeit unrealistic, insistence that its previously planned testing schedule could proceed as originally conceived, including the series of changes to the test that were slated for September 2020. That is no longer the case, as they have now officially delayed the rollout of section-specific retesting. From the ACT’s website:

“Postponing the availability of section retesting for upcoming national ACT test dates will enable us to increase testing capacity for those who need to take the full ACT test,” said ACT CEO Janet Godwin. “Our priority is to provide seats for those students most impacted by COVID-19-related capacity limitations who still need a composite score.”

This makes perfect sense. With a significant number of test centers (unsurprisingly) choosing not to administer the June 13 test, many students in need of scores are facing a rapidly shrinking window in which to obtain them before Early Action and Early Decision application deadlines. Here’s the kicker, though:

At this time, ACT is planning for section retesting to be available later in 2021 but will continue to monitor the impacts of COVID-19 on test center capacity to prioritize safe and equitable access to testing.

It could now be an additional year or more before students have the option to retake individual sections of the ACT, which is a definite blow to rising juniors looking for a more flexible approach to prep and, more pressingly, to rising seniors who were planning to take only part of the test in September in hopes of boosting their composite score just that point or two more.  Those students will of course still be able to retake the full test, which is obviously the most important thing; however, this delay will doubtless throw a wrench in the works for many people. Fortunately…

2) Online testing and superscoring are still on track, at least for the moment.

As of now, the ACT is still planning to allow students to take the test online “at selected test centers” starting in September, which will reduce the turnaround time from testing to score release to “as early as two business days” after the test date. The ACT also reiterated their commitment to offering students a superscore option on their score reports beginning in September, which could benefit those students who have been able to test multiple times but whose prep process has been disrupted by the fact that, you know, the world is on fire.

3) Students registered for the July 18 test should keep an eye out for updates.

According to their statement, the ACT has asked test centers to provide an open/closed update by June 24, which will allow the ACT to notify registered students by the end of June about whether their test will be administered. It’s unclear how reliable these notifications will be, however: the ACT stressed before the June test that test center statuses were subject to change until the very last minute, and the number of COVID cases is currently rising again in many states, making any test center’s declaration of “we’ll be open” more than three weeks before the test date seem a bit dicey. As always, the best thing that students can do is be proactive about monitoring updates both from the ACT itself and from their test centers directly.


That’s what we’ve got for you today. Be sure to check back frequently for updates, and as always, stay safe out there.

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