The Hong Kong ACT Test Cancellation
Many students woke up this morning to news that the September 9 ACT they had signed up for is cancelled. The cancellation is disappointing for grade 11 (i.e., year 12) students who have likely spent the summer preparing for the ACT in the hopes of earning the score they need as early as possible. The cancellation is potentially devastating, however, for grade 12 (i.e., year 13) students who planned to take the ACT one more time before the November 1 deadline for Early Decision and Early Action applications. Why was the test cancelled? What can we learn from the cancellation?
Why was the September ACT cancelled?
As is always the case, someone obtained an illegal copy of the ACT test and leaked it to students. The leak must have been widespread because cancellations are reported throughout Asia. When an ACT test is administered, the organization decides whether to "release" the test or hold it in secret for future use. In fact, sometimes students may receive a complete copy of the test they have taken along with their score report -- this is a sure sign the test has been released. "Released" tests often circulate among students who use them for practice materials. Such use is technically against the rules because no one has the right to digitize and distribute released tests. However, such use does not constitute cheating because once a test is released there is zero chance it will be used during a real test administration -- it becomes just like another practice test in the ACT Official Guide.
Occasionally, however, an unreleased version of the test makes its way online, where students knowingly or unknowingly access the test as they prepare for the real ACT. One popular website for disseminating ACT preparation materials, CrackACT.com, in late August reported that it had been contacted by the ACT and asked to take down all real versions of tests. Typically the materials on the popular website consist entirely of released test copies, but it is likely that among the released tests and third-party materials was an unreleased test the ACT had planned to administer on September 9. Alternatively, an unscrupulous test provider may have somehow accessed the test, distributed it to his or her students, and from there the test may have spread throughout Asia, resulting in the cancellation. Such practice was common for the SAT before the redesigned version launched in early 2016.
What should grade 11 (i.e. year 12) students do?
Students who still have one year before submitting EA and ED applications need not worry. To be sure, the cancellation of the test is a disappointment, but students can sign up for the October or December ACT and still attempt a good score well before the onset of IB and AP examination season. The lesson to be learned here is that the ACT could be cancelled in September 2018, so students should work hard to earn the score they need by June 2018, so that if a test administration is cancelled they have a backup plan.
What should grade 12 (i.e., year 13) students do?
Students who absolutely need a higher score before the EA and ED deadline may consider taking the SAT. The SAT is markedly different from the ACT, but desperate students may as well spend the next month preparing and take a chance -- after all, they have little to lose. Alternatively (or additionally), students may choose to take the October or December ACT and submit any score increases before the regular decision deadline. Of course, they will miss out on the advantage of a higher score for the sake of EA or ED, but still they will fare better in the regular admission cycle.
Should you switch to the SAT?
The only group of people who at this point should switch to the SAT are current seniors and year 13 students who have no other option before the EA or ED deadline. Other students should realize that 1) not every ACT will be cancelled and 2) the SAT itself has been plagued with cancellations in recent years, so switching to the SAT will not necessarily avoid this problem.
Should I take the test in the United States?
Boarding School students almost never have to worry about widespread score cancellations because such leaks rarely happen in the United States, mainly because US test administrations tend to use newer test versions. Some students who attend school in Asia choose to fly to the US in order to reduce the chances of a score cancellation. While extreme, such a measure is worth considering especially given the 2018 launch of the July ACT. Students could conceivably fly to the US during the summer of 2018 to take the test without disrupting their school schedule.
Still have questions and concerns?
You can email me at Edward@thedragonprep.com or WhatsApp me at 9835 8011. Since 2014 I have helped hundreds of families make strategic adjustments in the wake of test and score cancellations. I am happy to offer you and your family the same support and guidance.
UPDATE: As a student helped me to confirm, the cancellation did not affect every test center in Hong Kong. Although the ACT was cancelled throughout Asia, from Singapore to Hong Kong to Taiwan, some students received the following message: