American College Testing (ACT) - test score challenged – arbitration
January 29, 2014 4:37 PM   Subscribe

The daughter of a friend has taken the ACT four times trying to reach a score of 24. Her initial score was a 12. She did some self-preparation the second and third times and brought her score up to 19. Before taking the test for the fourth time she saw a tutor and brought her score up to 24. The ACT people want to disallow the last score because they aren't comfortable with the degree to which her score improved.

Her immediate options are to retake the test free of charge or submit the matter to arbitration (She believes they will allow the 24 to stand if she can make at least a 21 on the retest). Needless to say, she doesn’t want to retake the test.

I do not believe there was cheating on her part. She has been diagnosed with a learning disability but I suspect lack of effort has as much to do with the lower initial scores as the disability does. She has receipts showing she paid for tutoring between the third and fourth attempt at the test.

Does anyone have experience in dealing with ACT in the arbitration process who can offer specific advice?

I appreciate and understand the option of engaging legal advice.

Mostly interested in information about the attitude ACT takes regarding the issue as a data point to use toward a decision about how she might proceed. If for instance, ACT is known to allow a challenged score once evidence of additional test preparation is shown arbitration with self-representation may be attractive. On the other hand, if they are known to be hard asses when someone isn’t represented but quickly fold when a test taker shows up with legal counsel that would be valuable to know.
posted by Carbolic to Education (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Needless to say, she doesn’t want to retake the test.

Can you expand on this? Other than the time (and it seems like the arbitration would take longer), why doesn't she want to retake the test? Is it just worry that she won't hit that 21, or something else? Because the obvious answer, and the one with the least time, money, and effort required, is to just retake the test.
posted by brainmouse at 4:43 PM on January 29, 2014 [3 favorites]

You might want to ask at or check the College Confidential boards; those parents seem to know everything.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 5:03 PM on January 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

[Folks, OP is not anon, please feel free t send non-answers to MeMail and don't derail this thread?]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 5:15 PM on January 29, 2014

Why not just retake the test? I understand she doesn't want to. I wouldn't want to, either. But it seems like the easiest thing to do. And she's already done special test prep with a tutor. It's not like she can un-have that experience. If she scored a 24 before, she should be able to do well enough a second time.

Granted I do not have a learning disability, but every time I took the ACT my score stayed around the same, but went up maybe one or two points (I went from a 26 to a 27 to a 29, or something like that). Assuming she's able to get a good night's sleep, eat a good breakfast, and not have a panic attack, she should do at least as well as a 21, if not even higher than 24 next time.

Is she taking advantage of the accommodations for test-takers with learning disabilities? That should level the playing field greatly. However, if she hasn't been doing that (or wasn't, and then later was), it may explain the disparity in scores. In that case, arbitration is probably a good idea.
posted by Sara C. at 7:45 PM on January 29, 2014

I just wanted to chime in that I took the ACTs over ten years ago now, but they were sticklers about their policies at the time. Another student wound up cheating off my exam, and they had a policy about checking if multiple students scored over a 32. Since this boy and I both did, and were apparently sitting next to each other, we were both under review for potential cheating. I had to speak with multiple staffers, provide high school transcripts, and I believe they spoke with my school, and my guidance counselor before approving my score.

If you try to work with them, you may need to provide a lot of documentation around the classes, the tutor, and potentially any practice exams she may have taken. Best of luck!
posted by JannaK at 4:09 AM on January 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

She doesn't want to retake it because of all the reasons an 19 year-old wouldn't want to especially anxiety about not scoring high enough to keep the 24. She's got her heart set on a particular college and 24 is the minimum score she needs to make it happen.

Not my child. When her parent asked me for advice my immediate thought was to tell the child (19 year-old child!!) to get her shit together and retake the test. (I do think she at least needs to respond via written arbitration to get her side of the story on the record regardless of how the arbitration decision is likely to go.)

I'm really looking for anecdotal information regarding experience with the ACT arbitration process. I will definitely point the parent to the link in this comment (Yes, point the parent to the link. Don't get me started on how the student ought to be the person putting the effort in. Kids these days...) Thanks
posted by Carbolic at 10:15 AM on January 30, 2014

Found something on the College Confidential that should help move along the decision to retake even if she takes the dispute to arbitration. The length of the arbitration process. Several comments indicate 1 year plus. No surprise once you think about it. Quicker resolution puts a plus in the retake column.
posted by Carbolic at 10:41 AM on January 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

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