ACT test for US university admissions goes digital in Hong Kong to prevent questions being leaked
Popular exam provider says it will now be able to offer more test sessions in the city, with results being announced more quickly than before
Candidates in Hong Kong planning to sit the ACT admissions test for US universities will from next month do the exam on a computer instead of writing down their answers, as the test administrator moves to reduce incidents of questions being leaked.
The change will come with a higher price tag – test takers will pay between US$150 (HK$1,177) and US$166.50 (HK$1,307), an increase of US$46.50 (HK$365) – but the test administrator said it also meant results would be announced more quickly and that people would now be allowed to take the test six times a year, up from five previously.
They can also register for the test closer to the time – seven days in advance as opposed to five weeks previously.
ACT chief commercial officer Suzana Delanghe told reporters in the city last week: “The [scores for the multiple choice question sections] will be delivered as quickly as two days after the test is taken … [and] the writing section will be released within two weeks after the test.
“This will help students who like to apply for US universities with early decisions.”
Previously, results would be released between five and eight weeks after a candidate had completed the test.
The ACT, along with the SAT, are the main admissions tests for universities in the US, and thousands of students sit them each year in Hong Kong. Some come from mainland China, South Korea and parts of Southeast Asia.
In June 2016, ACT was forced to cancel its exam for all those sitting it in Hong Kong and South Korea after test materials were leaked.
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Having test booklets and answer sheets on paper has enabled test theft, with cram schools springing up in South Korea and mainland China to drill students on past exams, which the two test providers sometimes reuse.
ACT began offering computer-based testing in the United States five years ago and its rival, the College Board, which developed the SAT, has done the same
With digital testing, Delanghe said: “All of the items are encrypted, which means that you do not have access to the decrypted [information] until the test is launched.”
The ACT has four compulsory sections of multiple choices question covering English, mathematics, reading, and science, and an optional section of writing.
Dr Margaret Lo Wai-ki, general manager for international and professional examinations at the Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority noted there are 1,000 computers available in total at its five assessment centres for ACT testing.
Delanghe said with the launch of computer-based testing , the number of test sessions will also increase from the current five to 24. They will be held in September, October, December, February, April and June.
She added students could go to ACT’s website to download a practice test, which is free.
Henry Wong Yuk-chun, general manager at The Edge Learning Centre, which prepares students for university admission, said parents would not be deterred by the higher costs, as it was not a big difference.
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“They will be willing to pay more to have one more chance for their children to take the exam and more timings to choose from as many will apply to take the test several times,” he said.
Wong added it was also harder to get slots now with many mainland students coming to Hong Kong to take the exam, which is unavailable on the mainland.
The next test dates will be on September 7 and 8 with morning and afternoon sessions at HKEAA assessment centres in Lai King, Tuen Mun, Sha Tin, San Po Kong, and Tsuen Wan.