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ACT changes essay format

Courtesy of flickr user Alberto G.
Courtesy of flickr user Alberto G.

As of September, the ACT organization is scoring the ACT writing test on a range of 2-12 rather than 1-36, as the four other sections are scored. The series of adjustments to the format of the essay from 2015 have culminated in this year’s test version, but the test has not otherwise changed.

According to Co-Director of College Counseling Monica DePriest, before the 2015 changes, the essay topic pertained closely to the high school experience, but it now allows students to write about topics far beyond that, including contemporary issues. Moreover, the test now lasts 30 minutes instead of 40.

The ACT company altered the essay in order to require students to think critically and analyze different perspectives rather than simply arguing for or against an issue. The changes did not alter Marlborough’s performance; according to DePriest, the median composite score for Marlborough students before the change was 31, and when the changes to the test were added, the median score remained 31.

The new rubric grades students’ ideas and analyses, development and support, organization, and language use on a scale from one to six. Two graders score the essay, and then add the two separate scores into a single score on a 2-12 scale.

DePriest said that the changes to the writing test may have been a response to changes in the SAT and criticism from test takers.

“I think some of the adjustments that were made [in the ACT] were made in response to the changes in SAT. I also think a lot of the changes were implemented to address the concerns voiced by teachers and test takers that the writing… for the ACT didn’t represent the work they were doing in class,” DePriest said.