The ACT was first introduced in 1959, and it’s safe to say that many things have changed since then! Over the years, the test has been updated and adapted to reflect the norms of the current educational landscape. For students taking the test in February 2024 and beyond, a big change is coming. Starting then, students taking the test will have an option to take it digitally or with paper and pencil.
What do you need to know about these changes, and how do you decide which format is right for you? Let’s take a closer look!
The Content is the Same
One important thing to note is that the test itself — in terms of content and sections — isn’t changing.
This is worth noting because your choice isn’t about what you’ll encounter on the test but rather how you’ll encounter the information and make your answer selections.
It also means that any preparation you’ve already done for the ACT up to this point is still useful and valid for the upcoming test.
Digital Format Offers Some Benefits
While the content of the test remains the same, there are some key differences between the digital version and the paper and pencil test.
• Digital versions of the test will offer more accessibility by including voice-to-text, zoom, answer masking, and more options. Students who will benefit from these accessibility enhancements may want to take the test in a digital format.
• Many students prepare for the ACT through digital preparation materials. Research suggests that the more studying matches the test environment, the better the recall and performance, so students who prepare digitally may prefer testing digitally as well.
• Many learners find writing essays easier in a digital format where deleting, moving information around, and typing quickly can all make their ideas easier to get on the page. For many students, the essay-writing portion of the ACT may feel less intimidating and easier to navigate in a digital format.
What You Need to Know
If taking the ACT digitally is a better fit for you, you’ll want to check out the ACT FAQs and make sure you’re prepared.
Here are some of the most important things to know:
• Only select testing locations will have the digital option, so make sure you plan ahead to find a location that fits your needs if you want to take a digital test.
• If you decide to change your format from computer to paper or paper to computer after you’ve registered, there will be a fee to do so.
• You will still be required to go to an ACT-approved testing facility to complete the digital version of the test (just like the paper version). There is no “remote” option at this time.
• The cost for taking the test is the same for either version, and those with fee waivers can apply them to both paper and computer formats.
As you make a choice about which test format to take, consider your own comfort level. If you spend most of your time preparing digitally and you use digital tools for your day-to-day schooling, it’s likely that the digital test will be the most comfortable and familiar option for you on the big day!