Illinois switches to ACT tests for statewide assessments of high school students

High school students will begin new exams in spring 2025

By Peter Hancock
Illinois Capitol News
[email protected]

SPRINGFIELD – When Illinois high school students sit down to take their annual state assessments next year, they will be taking a different test than in years past.

The Illinois State Board of Education recently announced that it will use the ACT exam instead of the SAT beginning next spring.

Both are standardized tests that measure students’ proficiency in core subjects like English language arts and math. Both are also commonly used for college admissions (although many colleges have stopped requiring them) and for scholarship applications.

However, Illinois also uses them as part of the battery of tests that schools administer each year to comply with federal mandates under the Success for All Students ActThe results of these tests are reported each year in the Illinois Report Card and are used to hold schools and districts accountable for meeting core academic standards.

Illinois began using the SAT with essay as the state assessment for 11th grade students in the spring of 2017. Two years later, it began using the PSAT 8/9 exam for ninth grade. students and the PSAT 10 for high school sophomores.

At the time, according to ISBEThe incorporation of a college entrance exam into the state’s annual assessment program was seen as an advantage because it gave nearly all high school graduates a reportable, state-paid score that they could then use for college and scholarship applications.

However, in recent years, many colleges and universities have stopped requiring the SAT or ACT as part of their application and admissions processes.

In 2021, Illinois lawmakers passed the Fair Admissions to Higher Education Act Requiring all public universities and community colleges to adopt a “test-optional” policy for admissions, meaning students can voluntarily choose whether to include them in their application package. But ISBE continued to use the tests as part of its federally mandated state assessments.

The upcoming change to the ACT exam came through ISBE’s routine bidding process. The agency’s contract with the College Board, the nonprofit corporation that operates the SAT, was set to expire on June 30, prompting the agency to open a new bidding process.

The state board agreed to open the bidding process and request sealed proposals from testing companies at its regular monthly meeting in September 2023. The decision to award a six-year, $53 million contract to ACT was finalized in May.

According to a FAQ Document According to ISBE, one of the advantages of changing the exam is that the ACT includes a science component, while the SAT only covers the basic subjects of reading, writing and math. That means that the 11th grade Students will no longer be required to take a separate Illinois Science Assessment, which will reduce overall testing time.

The change also means that students who still want to take the SAT or PSAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test will have to do so on their own, in addition to the statewide ACT accountability exam. Local schools and districts will have the option to choose whether or not to administer those tests during the school day, but the state will not pay for students to take them.

Illinois Capitol News is an independent, nonprofit news service covering state government. It is distributed to hundreds of newspapers, radio and television stations across the state. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, with major contributions from the Illinois Broadcasters Foundation and the Southern Illinois Editorial Association.