The college admissions test market racks up hundreds of millions of dollars a year in fees, yet the duopoly of the College Board and ACT, Inc. has never seemed more tenuous. In fact, the two test makers to be competing to see who can garner worse publicity through one blunder after another. Perhaps they’re too focused on the lucrative state-testing market to pay attention to their core missions. In any case, their shared negligence opens the door to competition.
Enter Vector A.R.C., an organization that aims to offer an alternative to the current college admissions exams. Their eponymous exam, rather than being yet another defunct acronym, stands for Assessment of Readiness for College. But Vector takes a different approach than the other test makers:
Not Aligned with Common Core
Where the College Board has embraced the Common Core State Standards, Vector joins those who recoil from them: “We don’t think students should be disadvantaged for not having studied in alignment with the Common Core State Standards. By offering an alternative assessment to both SAT and ACT, students who have selected an education not based on Common Core, will no longer be penalized in their college applications by being forced to take a test that aligns with CCSS.”
Encompassing More Subject Matter
According to company spokesperson Julie West, the ARC goes deeper on actual school subjects than either the SAT or ACT: “…our assessment evaluates math skills through calculus, contains science through chemistry and physics, and contains questions regarding grammar and classic literature.”
No Time Limit
Time management lies at the very heart of a successful ACT or SAT outing. Yet the ARC, at least in its beta stage, has no time limit. The company proclaims this to be a major benefit to students who currently need extended time accommodations on the existing tests.
More and more colleges superscore the SAT or ACT, which means they take a student’s best scores in each section of a given test to compile that student’s best composite score. West asserts that Vector will not even allow colleges that option: “Because we will not permit super scoring, much of the socioeconomic bias has been addressed.”
No matter how utopian you find Vector’s vision, don’t expect to submit ARC scores with your college application any time soon. After four years of research, the company has finally moved to beta tests, mostly in collaboration with national homeschool organizations. Even if the test comes out of beta, colleges may not see value in this particular assessment. But as long as colleges benefit from standardized assessment tests for admissions purposes–and most of them still do–we are all served by innovations in testing. I happen to like the SAT and ACT, at least most of the time, but have room in my heart for another good test. We’ll see if the Vector ARC is the one…