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Penultimate to the ACT becoming an ‘online’ test (in September 2018) speculations were rife among prospective test-takers that things might be easier: no bubble sheet to painstakingly fill up (only ticking the right answer) and hence more time per section for the questions. But clearly much was over looked and test takers ‘forgot’ that typing the essay, reading content online and not having the freedom to doodle or to chew the pencil while concentrating on tricky questions were all going to be discomforts that would take a toll on the overall health and well-being of the test-taker and, finally, on the test result.

Two tests down the line – one in September and one in October- test takers are worried. The best prepared, the virtual heroes of test taking have taken a fall on the online test. Results overall have been surprising with most students stopping 2-3 points short of their composite scores on innumerable practice tests. And as always, the analysts and gurus are coming in now – in ambulance mode- to dissect the situation and explain the whys and whats. One explanation is that the practice materials and tests are nothing like the real test (sic); one is that the scoring logarithm is different from that of the paper-based test.

I believe the explanation lies in the test-takers unfamiliarity with the platform. Despite the natural proficiency the ACT taking generation displays for computer usage and computer interface, there is no denying the fact that being adept at the computer for a 101 odd tasks does not build a strong case for having computer-adaptive test taking skills; doing long assignments – the TOK, extended essay and what not- on the computer – and surfing the net do not make one savvy enough to take on an objective type test that needs extreme precision in terms of time management, subject knowledge and screen interface. Of course the test makers have worked hard to give the ‘new’ test an aura of ‘smartness’ by loading it with fancy tools such as Magnifier, Line Reader, Answer Masking, Answer Eliminator. But to be comfortable with the new format students need to become accustomed to the platform by working diligently on ONLY online tests and material. Of which, unfortunately, there is acute paucity. Introduced just 3 months ago, the online test has not garnered sufficient materials to enable test takers to completely abandon paper -based practice and to resort to working only on the computer and thus acquire razor sharp skills pertinent to online testing.

Option Training Institute, Dubai, has taken measures to change (from January 2019) its training platform into a completely online platform. Through classes and right into the practice tests, students will be trained only in the medium of the online format. As an institute that believes in staying ahead of the curve, Option hopes to challenge the challenges of the online ACT and to deliver effective training that allows test-takers to ace the test every time.


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