ACT Will Change Scoring Scale for Writing Test

The ACT plans to change the score range for the optional writing test on its college-entrance examination, the organization announced on Tuesday. Starting this fall, the writing test will be scored on a 2-to-12 scale. The writing test itself will not change, according to a news release.

Last year the ACT revised the writing test, and students began receiving results on the same 1-to-36 scale used on the multiple-choice exam. But the change caused confusion, ACT officials say. “Converting the writing scores to the 1-to-36 scale may have made the differences in scores seem larger or more obvious,” Wayne Camara, the ACT’s senior vice president for research, said in the news release. “This really is a perceptual problem that we are addressing.”

Some college counselors have complained for months about what they describe as an inexplicable gap between top students’ high overall scores and low writing scores.

“There’s no way they should be getting scores that low on the writing,” one independent counselor told The Washington Post in February. “It’s obviously out of whack.”

Adam Ingersoll, founder and principal of the Compass Education Group, a test-prep company in California, has closely watched the flap over the ACT’s writing-test scores. “It’s somewhat of a mea culpa,” Mr. Ingersoll said of the ACT’s decision to abandon the 1-to-36 scale. “They’re going back to a narrower scale that will mask some of these score differences.”

In a new blog post, Mr. Ingersoll disputed the notion that the scoring issues were merely a matter of perception. There are deeper problems, he argued, with the ACT’s essay (it’s worth reading even if you don’t know the difference between face validity and predictive validity).

Relatively few colleges require the essay sections of the ACT or the SAT. Then again, some of the nation’s most-selective colleges, including one in Cambridge, Mass., still do.

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