ACT Exam's Writing Section Absent From Public School Testing This Spring, Prompting College Admission Changes

01/11/2012 01:57 pm ET

Illinois educators are warning high school juniors that the decision earlier this year to cut the writing portion from the ACT exams administered in public schools could require many of them to sit through the three-hour exam twice to meet some college's admission requirements.

The state decided in early July to opt out of administering the optional writing section, a move that lawmakers predicted would save the state $2.4 million a year--writing exams are expensive, and No Child Left Behind legislation doesn't provide funding for them.

Although the Chicago Tribune reports that fewer than a quarter of four-year colleges in the U.S. require a writing assessment as part of their application process, that pool includes many of the country's top-ranked universities--meaning students interested in applying to those schools will have to sit for the exam twice, an ordeal that lasts more than three hours and carries a $50 registration fee. The Tribune reports that the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign plans to drop their writing requirement so Illinois students can apply with the exam they take at school.

"We believe this may be an obstacle for some students, so are no longer requiring the test," university spokeswoman Robin Kaler wrote in an email to the newspaper.

When news first broke that the writing portion would be dropped from the exams administered to Illinois juniors this year, teachers expressed concern that the move would devalue composition education, particularly as Illinois students were returning lower-than-average scores, even on test sections that were heavily emphasized in public school classrooms. The results of this year's exams could help indicate whether changing test priorities impacted curricula.

Illinois students who take the SAT, which is less prominent in the Midwest but more ubiquitous at colleges across the country, will still be tested on writing abilities, and can submit those scores to schools that require the additional ACT section. Advanced Placement exams taken by many high school students and accepted by most colleges also include composition components in their subject-specific tests.

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