Sep 27, 2009

ACT Limits Test-taking to No More Than 12 Attempts

In one of the stranger press releases of the 2009-2010 college application season, the ACT recently announced that future test-takers would be limited to no more than 12 attempts at the test—writing or no writing. In other words, no one will be allowed to take the ACT more than 12 times over the course of a lifetime.

Before you stop laughing, let me point out that the ACT has long had restrictions on how often a student may take the ACT. In the past, the test could only be taken once per national or state test date (initial or makeup), and there had to be a minimum of 60 days between retests for other testing programs (Special or Arranged Testing, Project Testing, Residual Testing). Effective this year, the new retest restriction limits the number of times a student may test ever! And the ACT sternly warns that if you violate this restriction, your scores will not be reported or will be cancelled and your fees will not be refunded.

If you just finished taking the ACT for the first, second, or even third time, you probably have difficulty envisioning the possibility of 12 attempts. The most obsessive test-takers would be hard pressed to get up to 12 tries without starting some time in kindergarten, and few imaginations go in the direction of standardized tests when conceiving torture or other forms of bizarre hazing rituals. What could possibly drive a person to this extreme?

It turns out that people take standardized tests for a living. Among the more reasonable excuses come from those in the test prep industry who simply want to keep sharp and experience a little of the pain annually inflicted on high school students forced to take entrance exams to get into college. A darker side of the industry actually hires test-takers to steal questions. Stanley Kaplan evidently got his start by doing something similar, long before the College Board actually released retired tests for students to use as practice. Nancy Rehling, Senior Program Manager for the ACT, advises that their studies show mysterious test-takers appearing at various test sites as many as 45 or 50 times. They don’t typically finish the test and after using superior memorization skills often walk out or fall asleep at their desks. And this is considered very disruptive.

I still think it’s a good idea for test prep instructors to experience the thrill now and again—once every year or two. For the rest of you, we’re cutting you off at 12.

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