Does the ACT Need to Get Its Act Together?

The ACT has continued to test amid COVID-19, answering seniors’ pleas. Are they being reckless or are they acting in  students’ best interests? Here’s how my ACT experience went.

I was a bit worried at first about how safe my testing environment was going to be. How would hundreds of students fitting into one building meet CDC guidelines? Could a student that tested positive for COVID-19 just say they feel okay and take the test? Should I put my safety first by rescheduling my test?

I drove approximately 25 minutes to my testing center at Wilde Lake High School. The ACT did a great job making sure everybody was six feet apart in the lines. I was given health screening questions asking if I’ve had any of the COVID-19 symptoms, which I would argue didn’t make the most sense. In reality, if students are given a paper that says they can’t test if they have symptoms, after having to drive a longer distance because of the limited seats and not receiving a fee waiver, wouldn’t they check “No” for every box regardless of their circumstance?  

After turning in the questions and showing my ID, I was given my testing room number and guided to my room. When I arrived I was told to remove my mask to verify my identity. The classroom fit about 12 students and all desks were no less than six feet apart. My worry about the hundreds of students fitting in one building went away. Everyone in the building was required to wear a mask during the test. The ACT did a great job taking advantage of the space available at the school and still made sure there were enough proctors to supervise a filled testing center. My proctor instructed us to begin the English section.

Following my math test, we had our 15-minute break. This was the time for students to eat their snacks and use the restroom. I asked some of the other students how they felt about the test; they happened to be seniors, and talked about how they were just thankful to be able to test at all. One stressed, “This could be the difference between a scholarship and no scholarship.” This gave me perspective about what the seniors were going through. They were—rightfully so—the most anxious in the testing center. Although lots of colleges have become test-optional, it doesn’t take away from the fact that you’re at an advantage if you have an impressive ACT score. 

Still on break, I went to go use the restroom and was overwhelmed by a crowd of roughly 25 people. For my safety, I stayed away from everyone surrounding the restroom and didn’t end up using the restroom. My testing center only opened up one bathroom for all of the students to use, which was a problem. The school is filled with bathrooms and they decided to give hundreds of students 15 minutes to use one two-stall bathroom. Talk about a recipe for disaster. Although that’s a problem with my testing center, the ACT should’ve gone into more detail on how to operate the break given so that we’re still doing our best to remain safe. I returned to my room and sat in my seat. My proctor instructed us to begin the Reading section.

I finished my test and waited for my ride home. On the ride home, I began reflecting on whether or not it’s safe to continue testing amid COVID-19. The answer was: it depends. I know my testing experience wasn’t the same as everyone else’s. The real issue was the crowded bathrooms, putting students at risk. If the ACT and all the testing centers can better communicate with one another, we can absolutely have standardized tests. It would give upperclassmen the opportunity to showcase their hard work and intellect. But, if there isn’t an understanding about the dos and don’ts during each part of the test, then we shouldn’t even be thinking about a test. It would put everyone at risk.

We must give the ACT the credit it deserves, though. They’ve added a good deal of test dates so students can strengthen their college applications. It takes a lot of work to create new tests and be able to turn an abundance of schools into testing centers, while social distancing. Communication is key in these unprecedented times. We must work together to ensure everyone’s safety. Wear a mask and stay safe.