Over the years, I’ve fielded the occasional question asking whether the SAT or ACT were offered in languages other than English. “How could they,” I’d reply, “when English is part of what these exams are designed to test.”
Now, I’m not so sure of my answer.
No, the SAT won’t be administered in Spanish or Mandarin anytime soon. Neither will the ACT, but that doesn’t mean the test isn’t becoming a bit friendlier to students for whom Spanish or Mandarin is their primary language. ACT, Inc. now provides supports on the ACT test to U.S. students who qualify as English learners to help ensure that the ACT scores earned by English learners accurately reflect what they have learned in school.
What exactly are supports? They are not, as you might initially imagine, translated versions of the exam. The ACT really does test English, which is tough to do in, say, French! Instead, qualified English learners will receive certain accommodations with the intention of, as ACT Chief Commercial Officer Suzana Delanghe put it, “leveling the playing field while not giving the students any special advantages.”
ACT English Learning (EL) supports include the following options:
- Additional time on the test (not to exceed time-and-a-half)
- Use of an approved word-to-word bilingual glossary (containing no word definitions)
- Test instructions provided in the student’s native language (including Spanish and a limited number of other languages initially)
- Testing in a non-distracting environment (i.e., in a separate room)
Not every student who struggles with English will be eligible for EL supports. First, a student must qualify as an English learner as defined by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Next, the student must apply for EL supports as he or she would for any test accommodation.
Do you have experience with the new ACT English learner supports?