Experimental online ACT exams necessitate free retakes on paper

Sameer Nanda, Staff Writer

On April 14, high school juniors gathered together with pencils and calculators in hand in the Schreiber lobby in preparation for the ACT exam.  Schreiber served as one of the pilot schools to present students with the opportunity to either take the exam on paper or online.  Only one-third of students were given the paper exam.

The students taking the paper exam were assigned to various classrooms and students taking the online exam were split up between the business and library computer labs. Immediately after they settled in to the lab, the online test takers began to experience technological problems ranging from students’ accounts not opening, to answers taking a significantly long amount of time to be properly submitted.

“As one of the kids who took the paper exam, I was grateful that I didn’t have to worry about taking it in a completely different format than from what I was used to and that I didn’t have to deal with any of the technological problems that the online test takers had to deal with,” said junior Jake Arlow.

Although many students left the school disappointed in the failure of the online program, others were understanding of the technological problems.

“Even though I had to get up early to come and take the exam, I realized that I wasn’t the only one who had to deal with the technological problems,” said junior Iliana Ioannides. “So many students and teachers had to sacrifice their Saturday afternoons to deal with the ACT crisis.”

High school administrators had not anticipated the problems that panned out on the testing day.

“Prior to signing up for the pilot, we received information from ACT on the specific requirements for a school to participate,” said District Director of Guidance Hank Hardy.  “Once the computers and systems were checked and cleared we then had a green light to go forward and arrange for the testing.”

In spite of the communication between the ACT headquarters and Schreiber staff before the actual exam, the staff experienced difficulties in contacting the ACT technical support team during the test.

“There was not a direct access to the help we needed,” said Mr. Hardy. “The process by which we had to communicate with them was also very extensive and prevented us from communicating easily with the headquarters.”

In spite of the numerous problems that the students and staff encountered, administrators remain positive about the entire experience.

“Even with the issues we experienced, it was a good decision to have the online administration,” said Mr. Hardy. “We were able to get an advanced view of the online format, the issues related to it, and how our students would responded to the pilot.  I would not want it to return until all the ‘glitches’ have been addressed.”

Schreiber offered students who took the April exam the opportunity to take a retake exam on May 10th.

“Personally, the overall experience was very beneficial,” said Ioannides. “Even with the problems, having the retake offered students with double the opportunity to take the exam and get more practice so that we are more prepared for when we take it again.”