Change, as Robin Sharma says, is hard at first, messy in the middle and gorgeous at the end. In terms of changes to standardized tests, however, the first wave of test takers never gets to experience the gorgeous parts. Things do get messy though!
High schoolers have been dealing with plenty of changes to the tried and true admissions tests that carry so much weight with competitive colleges. Just about everyone by now knows that the SAT is changing this spring, but not as many noticed the significant revision to the ACT Writing Test that rolled out in September. Unfortunately, many teens hoping to submit Early Action and Early Decision applications now see the real impact of changes to the tests.
With our focus so squarely on the design and delivery of the SAT and ACT, we rarely take time to consider the exquisite symphony of organization that facilitates the scoring of millions of test grids and essays from all over the United States in a matter of weeks. Test takers generally receive their scores within 19-21 days of testing, a vast improvement over earlier eras even with the inclusion of writing samples. But these processes break down when the tests are revised, which results in delayed score reporting, as students who took the September ACT have learned with regret:
“The scoring and reporting of the writing test is taking longer than typical due to the introduction of the enhanced design of the writing test. We anticipate all writing scores will be released within the stated 3-8 week timeframe communicated on the ACT student website and in other materials (by November 6th).”
What can you do if your early applications depend on test scores you haven’t received yet? ACT has some suggestions:
- Contact applicable college admissions offices and/or scholarship agencies individually to learn their specific procedures under the circumstances.
- Submit a copy of ACT’s email to the student as evidence that they are among the impacted students.
- Submit a screenshot of the student’s September multiple-choice scores.
- Send scores from a prior ACT or SAT test if available.
While the fourth suggestion seems to ignore the idea that students wouldn’t test in September if their earlier scores were good enough, Steps 1-3 offer excellent advice; college admissions offices are generally attuned to systemic failures in SAT and ACT score reporting. One might expect leniency in moments such as these, but may not always receive any measure of mercy. Your best chance at getting a temporary extension for score submission is to remain calm and polite in all dealings with admissions personnel.
Discussing how to handle college applications when test scores are late is, unfortunately, akin to talking about shutting the stable door after the horse has left the barn. The best way to protect yourself from the pain and uncertainty of missed application deadlines is to lock in your best scores well before you need them. We strongly recommend that students take the SAT and/or ACT as early in junior year as makes sense. Not only does that minimize anxiety on test day, but those of our juniors who took the September ACT couldn’t care less about score delays!