ACT Introduces the PreACT
It hasn’t been a secret that College Board’s SAT has been making inroads into what was traditionally ACT’s market: state-wide and school-based testing. With the redesign of the PSAT and SAT, College Board has made an impressive splash in the school-based testing market, with Connecticut, New Hampshire, Delaware, Maine, Michigan, and others, along with Washington, DC and New York offering a free SAT to all junior students, with many requiring it for all graduating students.
The College Board explicitly stated its goal for the new test to align more closely with the Common Core and high school curriculums while competing for the statewide contracts that had been monopolized by ACT for many years. The rollout of the redesigned PSAT 10 and PSAT 8/9—on the same scale as the SAT—drew obvious parallels to ACT’s Explore and Plan tests, which had long existed as options for those same grade levels.
When ACT retired those tests in favor of the modular, online ACT Aspire (no longer reported on the same scale as the full ACT, and applicable to grades 3-10), the timing was perfect for SAT to build a whole new profile in the college entrance exam testing market.
A Growing List of SAT States
The bold moves by College Board have paid off. The number of “school day” testers in March 2016 represented a nearly 90% increase over the year before, while the number of national Saturday testers decreased 23% in the same time frame.
Though ACT has historically boasted a much more robust list of school day testers, that list has been shrinking, with Michigan and Illinois both jumping ship from ACT to SAT in the last year. In Illinois, SAT won the contract with higher scores on quality (perhaps related to new online reporting and tighter alignment with the Common Core) and lower prices: $1.37 million less over three years when compared to ACT’s bid. ACT filed a protest with state procurement—but in January, that protest was rejected.
A Complete System
College Board has filled the void left by ACT’s retirement of Plan and Explore (with 1.8 million tests taken in 17 states in 2014) with a compelling solution: the PSAT 8/9 and PSAT 10 offer students scores on the same scale as the SAT and offer more reporting than ever before at the school and district level. Though concerns about timeliness and accessibility marred the rollout of the initial set of PSAT scores in January of 2016 (nearly 3 months after the test was given in October), College Board has continued to build partnerships at the state, district, and school level to increase the reach of these tests.
Though four states and approximately 900 individual schools and districts have signed on to the ACT Aspire, the differences in format, skills, and reporting have left schools at a loss to connect the ACT Aspire scores to college readiness, and are instead focusing on its use in assessing Common Core State Standards.
ACT’s New Solution – The PreACT
On March 22, ACT released their response to the encroaching SAT Suite of Assessments: the PreACT. Designed for 10th grade students, the PreACT is a slightly shorter version of the ACT, mirroring the scoring and scaling of the full test but clocking in at an hour and 55 minutes of testing time. Sound familiar? Not surprising—that’s the exact tack the PSAT has taken. With the redesign of the PSAT/SAT, the PSAT is currently a slightly shorter version of the SAT that mirrors the scoring and scaling of the full test.
Unlike the Aspire, the PreACT will be a purely multiple choice, pencil and paper test. The item types and format will be identical to those seen on the ACT, but testing time will be slightly shorter. Reporting should be available much more quickly than has been seen with the PSAT—ACT is promising a two-week window following testing.
The ACT is also pricing competitively. While the PSAT comes in at $15 per test, the PreACT will undercut them on price at $12 per test. ACT has said that they think this will be a competitor to the PSAT—though that wasn’t their intention. The original intention, instead, was to provide a full-length practice testing experience to all students, not just those that specifically seek it out. All of the items on the PreACT will be repurposed questions from earlier ACT exams—leaving open questions about whether or not students may have seen these items and passages in released test forms.
What is Academic Approach’s Position?
As a teaching organization that focuses on skills-based test preparationTM, Academic Approach welcomes the ACT’s approach to providing standards-aligned assessments in 9th and 10th grade. Our teaching – which prepares students for the rigorous requirements of college-level reading and reasoning – supports preparation for a more rigorous, relevant assessment. We look forward to supporting schools and students with skills-based instructional resources in preparation for these exams.
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