Beginning in September of 2018, the ACT will no longer be administered on paper in countries other than United States, presumably in response to recent concerns regarding test security abroad. Exceptions will be made for students with special accommodations – a bit more on that later. For international students taking the ACT without accommodations or only receiving time-and-a-half extended time, the test will now only be available as a CBT (computer-based test).

The test will now be administered in September, October, December, February, April, and June, potentially on both Fridays and Saturdays at both morning and afternoon sessions. However, which of those four possible options are available in a given month will vary between testing centers depending on what a specific center can and chooses to provide. To avoid any issues regarding internet speed or connectivity, the tests will be downloaded at testing centers prior to the administration and will be taken using software already on the computers’ hard drives.

The main advantage of the computer-based approach, in addition to providing more security with regard to cheating, is that it allows for a very quick scoring turnaround: scores will be available online in as few as 2-3 days after test day. The downside, and it’s a big one for students with financial concerns, is that the test will cost $150, with an additional charge of $16.50 for those who choose to complete the optional essay.

In most respects, the CBT will be exactly like a regular ACT. The test sections and breaks will be in the same order and have the same durations as they do on paper ACTs, and students will not be able to move on to a subsequent section until time is called on the current one. Test takers will be provided with scratch paper on the math and science sections and will be able to use the same calculators that are allowed on a paper ACT for the math section. Most significantly, the test will not be like the dreaded CAT (computer adaptive test) of the GRE, on which section difficulty can vary based upon a student’s prior performance. On the computer ACT, everyone is taking the same exact sections featuring the same exact questions at the exact same time. Students, therefore, will also be allowed, as would be the case on a paper test, to skip around to different questions within the same section and go back to questions they may have left blank along the way.

Details for students requiring accommodations beyond time-and-a-half are currently sketchy at best. However, we do know that students receiving more time per section will still be taking paper tests. There’s no word yet regarding students taking the test over several days or receiving other more nuanced types of accommodations. However, we would not be surprised if they will continue to receive paper tests, as these students generally take a different test from those taking the test under standard conditions, and a unique paper test for these students will be cheaper to produce than a unique CBT.

According to ACT, Inc., a practice CBT will be available soon at act.org. However, since the content and design of the CBTs will be no different from that of paper-based ACTs, all current prep books and online materials already available from the test maker and test prep companies will continue to be valid sources for practice questions.

So, in short, the ACT is still basically the ACT; you just have to take it on a computer now and pay a lot more money to do.

For more details, check out the ACT’s FAQ on the CBT at https://www.act.org/content/dam/act/unsecured/documents/pdfs/FAQ-International-CBT-Test-Coordinators.pdf.