ACT Inc. announced Tuesday that it will begin offering a summer test date for the ACT college admissions exam, beginning in 2018. The move matches one by ACT’s rival, the College Board, which recently introduced a 2017 summer test date for its SAT exam.
ACT said it will add a seventh date to its 2017-18 lineup. This year’s ACT schedule shows six dates, between September and June. Next year’s will add a July date.
ACT’s Chief Commercial Officer, Suzana Delanghe, said in a statement that the additional test date was added in response to feedback from students, teachers, and colleges, who “told us they would like to see an extra test date prior to early admission and application deadlines.” She also said the summer date would help students “focus on their coursework” during the school year without having to worry about preparing for a college-entrance exam.
A July test date would make it easier for students to take the ACT twice before early-admission college deadlines, typically in early November. It could also help cushion students from any score-reporting delays as application deadlines draw near. A variety of glitches caused delays in reporting scores from both college-admissions tests in recent years.
Paul Weeks, ACT’s senior vice president for client relations, said that in surveying students and families, the company found that all students—not just early-admissions college applicants—wanted a wider variety of testing opportunities.
Additionally, he said, the ACT thought it wise to add more testing dates on the chance that colleges begin making earlier application decisions as a result of the earlier time for federal financial aid. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, is now available three months earlier than in the past, a move intended to encourage colleges to make financial-aid decisions earlier. Some colleges have told the ACT, Weeks said, that they’re hoping to move admissions decisions earlier, too.
Competing for Late-Summer Test Market
In early 2016, the College Board quietly added an August 2017 date to its traditional lineup of October-to-June SAT exams, the first time since the 1970s that it had offered a summer date. It didn’t expand its offerings; instead, it decided to drop its January date, which hadn’t proved to be very popular. In adding the August date, some observers saw the College Board as trying to compete with the popularity of ACT’s longtime early-September date.
The test-prep industry welcomed the addition of a summer SAT because it gives them the chance to help students get ready for the exams while they are free of school obligations. (Cue the sound of money changing hands.)
But the move also raised the concern that a summer SAT date would further privilege affluent students who may not need to work during the summer. Weeks said that’s an issue the company “will have to watch very carefully.”
“Accessibility is an issue we’ve wrestled with a lot,” he said in an interview. “I’m talking about all kinds of accessibility, for all students. Those who need accommodations, those from underserved populations, students who are working. We are aware that students of all kinds have different activites in the summer than during the school year that will impact their ability to test. It’s certainly not our intention to create a greater divide between the haves and the have-nots.”
ACT said that the summer test will probably be held in community colleges. Between September and June, the ACT is typically given at high schools, where counselors and other educators are trained to administer the test. Weeks said that ACT anticipates a relatively small uptake for its first summer test date, but hopes to build participation over time.
For a map that shows which states require the SAT or ACT, see:
A version of this news article first appeared in the High School & Beyond blog.