2016 has been a year of change for the college admission testing landscape with the introduction of the new SAT in March, and that change appears poised to continue with a revision of the ACT essay’s scoring structure set to debut in September.
The ACT unwittingly ignited controversy with its shift in September 2015 to a new essay task and scoring scale. Beginning with that testing date, the revised ACT essay has been scored on the same 36-point scale as the rest of the test.
However, many students reported scores on the ACT essay that were significantly lower than their composite scores on the multiple-choice portion of the ACT (differences of 10 points were not unheard of). Moreover, some students who paid $50 to have the ACT re-score their essay saw large jumps in their essay scores that called into question the reliability and consistency of the ACT’s essay grading process.
The ACT contended that while the essay is scored on the same 36-point scale as the other sections of the test, scores across multiple sections are not intended to be compared to each other. Rather, the ACT recommends that students look at their percentiles for each section to gauge their relative performance.
Last month, the ACT acknowledged the confusion created by the scoring change and revealed that it plans to move to a 2-to-12 score range for the ACT writing test. This change will take effect with the September 2016 administration of the ACT.
According to the ACT, the writing task itself will continue in its current form, as will the four domains on which students’ essays are graded (ideas and analysis, development and support, organization, and language use and conventions). Beginning with this year’s September ACT, the scores in the four domains (each scored from 2-12) will be averaged to yield an overall ACT writing score between 2 and 12.
Hopefully this move towards clarity on the ACT’s part will produce greater consistency in ACT writing scores – a change that would be appreciated by students and colleges alike.