WASHINGTON — Goodbye, No. 2 pencils. Hello, iPads.
Starting as early as spring 2015, the ACT college admissions exam will go digital, reflecting students’ tech savvy and the demand for quicker results. The tests will still have the familiar multiple-choice options for college hopefuls but they will also expand to include interactive portions, such as a simulated science lab for students to conduct experiments or space for students to explain concepts in their own words.
“The days of paper-and-pencil admission testing are changing,” Jon Erickson, president of ACT’s education division, said during an interview ahead of the company’s announcement this week that it would shift to iPads, laptops and desktop computers and away from the familiar optical scan bubble sheets.
“We’re attempting to meet students where they are today,” he said. Several states already use computers for statewide tests, and Iowa-based ACT works with 22 of them. But testing in Kentucky was suspended last week after ACT officials discovered glitches.
Problems with other vendors forced Indiana, Minnesota and Oklahoma to delay their high-stakes testing.
In part, that is why ACT is not rushing to start online offerings for the tests, which help determine, in part, if applicants get into their chosen schools and what scholarships they receive.
ACT officials stress that the traditional, 215-question fill-in-the-bubble tests still would be available for those who prefer the paper-and-No. 2 pencil option.
“Access and comfort level of students will continue to be on the top of our mind,” Erickson said. “We don’t want to measure a student’s computer skills or fears. The most important part will be measuring their learning in school and college readiness.”