NIU’s future freshmen to take revised version of standard ACT exam

By Amanda Martin

NIU’s class of 1994 stands to face more anxieties than just rising tuition costs and choosing the right major – they will be the first NIU class administered a revised ACT Assessment exam.

The first “enhanced” exam will be administered this fall to about 130,000 Chicago-area high school students. Officials at the American Collegiate Testing Program are not certain if the exam will be more or less difficult for students than the present test.

A main concern of students and the ACT organization is how scores from the new tests will compare with past test results. According to ACT officials, the top score will remain a 36. However, it is still uncertain if a score of 28, for example, will carry the same value on the new exam.

Patricia Farrant, a vice president with the ACT program, said the new exam has not been designed to be more difficult. “It probably won’t be more difficult. However, that (degree of difficulty) lies in the mind of the test taker,” she said.

Norman Gilbert, NIU director of testing services, said NIU would initially like to establish a method of comparing scores from past exams to those on the new exam.

Farrant said that ACT, which has been reviewing the exam for the past eight years, plans to provide a set of comparative scores to universities based on scores from sample students. Gilbert added that NIU will review both sets of scores in order to better assess future students.

Gilbert said his office would “probably use the same steps as in the past” where student assessment was concerned.

The NIU Office of Admissions also anticipated no change in admission standards pertaining to the ACT “as of yet.” Associate Admissions Director Bob Burk said he did not expect the new exam to have any effect on NIU’s admissions process or criteria.

The changes in the ACT exam include four fewer questions, expanded sections in English and math and 15 more minutes to complete the test. It also will include two new sections in reading and science reasoning. The new sections were developed to test students’ skills rather than factual knowledge, Farrant said.

While the social studies and natural sciences sections of the current exam have been eliminated, these topics, as well as more comprehensive material in art and literature, will be covered in the reading section of the new exam. Students now will receive a total of 12 scores compared to five scores in the past.