The ACT is Going Virtual: What Now?

ACT will no longer be offering a paper-based test. 

You have read that correctly! Starting September 2018 (and only in international locations), the ACT will only be offered on the computer. They’re calling it the ACT CBT, which stands for ACT Computer-Based Test. This is a pretty big change — how is it going to work?

In July of 2018, ACT will release a list of the computer-based testing locations in the UAE and students will be able to register for the exam. Each location must have a computer lab of some kind—you will not be able to take the test on your own laptop. One of the most significant changes is that there will now be 4 sessions per test date: 2 on Friday and 2 on Saturday. Individual testing centers can choose whether they will offer the test on Friday, Saturday, or both days. There will be a morning session and an afternoon session, though you will not be able to choose which session you want. The the default session will be the morning session. You will only be assigned the afternoon session if the morning session has already filled up.

Apart from these logistical changes, the computer-based ACT will not differ significantly from the paper-based ACT in content. You will still get scratch paper on which to do rough work. You can still bring a calculator for the math section. The timings of each section (and the breaks between them) will not change much, if at all. And lastly, much like the paper-based test, you will be able to skip, review, or change answers within each section during the allotted time.

So, why is the ACT making the switch to computer-based testing?

The short answer is test-security. Computer-based testing gives ACT more control over their testing materials. It will be pretty much impossible to catch a glimpse of the test questions before test day.

The long answer is that ACT wants to make the test not just computer-based but also computer-adaptive. A Computer Adaptive Test (or CAT) will adjust the difficulty of questions over time. For example, if a student answers a string of questions correctly, a CAT may give the student more difficult questions as the test progresses. Wrong answers can lead to easier questions. The test-taking experience will eventually become more accurate, shorter, and less stressful!

Let us be clear, though. In the fall of 2018, ACT is going to introduce a computer-based test, only. Who knows how long we’ll have to wait for an ACT CAT.

All in all, students shouldn’t be worried about these changes to the ACT—most of the changes are merely cosmetic. Although the test-taking experience may change, I believe our students are technologically savvy enough for it not to affect their performances. Furthermore, there is one unequivocally positive outgrowth of this change to the ACT: multiple choice scores will only take 2 to 3 days to be released. Students will get their results within days of taking the test.

Are you interested in practicing for the computer-based ACT test? Come sit for an official computer-based practice paper with us! To set up an appointment, give us a call at 04-299-0077 or send me an e-mail at

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