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Education Optimization: ACT Delivers Millions of Individualized College Exams in Record Time

In a powerful example of education optimization, non-profit learning, measurement and navigation organization ACT, Inc., best known for revolutionizing academic assessment, has reduced the time required to assemble test forms from 2-4 weeks to 2 days.

In addition to greatly increasing productivity with test production automation, using the FICO® Xpress Platform in the cloud also enables ACT to assemble individualized test forms in real-time and serve more than 40,000 concurrent examinees with latency below half a second per item.

For these efforts, ACT has won a 2019 FICO® Decisions Award for Cloud Deployment.

“For years customers have requested more flexible and frequent opportunities to take assessments, and ACT has been more than happy to support them, most recently by moving to a fully online administration that can accommodate additional test dates,” said Michelle Barrett, Vice President of ACTNext. “But the transition hasn’t been without challenges. More tests require the creation of more test items, each of which can only be used a limited number of times. Creating items and assembling forms is expensive, time-consuming, and complex. An automated approach to the problem was required, and FICO provided an ideal solution.”

Education Optimization: Building Individualized Exams

ACT used FICO Xpress to integrate what is known as Automated Test Assembly (ATA) functionality into its Echo-Adapt Computer Adaptive Testing (CAT) application. This has enabled administrators to build test forms that automatically incorporate constraints such as ACT college entrance exam results, WorkKeys workplace skills assessments, and the state-level assessments of PreACT and ACT Aspire into their questions, reducing the hours of programming needed to produce new tests and maximizing the use of content developed for them.

Each year, ACT serves millions of students, job seekers, schools, government agencies, and employers in the U.S. and around the world with learning resources, assessments, research, and credentials designed to help them succeed from elementary school through career.

With millions of ACT tests taken every year, the Echo-Adapt platform’s ATA integration allows ACT to develop new tests at the scale and speed demanded by its users, who look to the organization to offer an ever-expanding range of testing options.

Education Optimization: Increased Accuracy, User-Friendly

In addition to helping the team at ACT, the FICO optimized solution also benefits students as it allows for shorter and more accurate tests as the question selection can be optimized in real-time based on the student’s answers. Because it allows ACT to fine-tune and personalize tests to the student’s exact needs and competency level, this innovative approach lays the groundwork for assessment and learning products that focus on providing actionable feedback to the student.

Lastly, its also important to note that the new optimized solution is easy to use: Most Echo-Adapt users are psychometricians and test developers with very limited knowledge of optimization, programming, and coding.

“Since adding ATA functionality to Echo-Adapt in January 2019, ACT has significantly transformed its test assembly process, removing a significant bottle-neck for the organization,” said Horia Tipi, head of global optimization at FICO.  “Initially moving to a cloud-based platform was critical to the success of the project at ACT to enable real-time delivery of adaptive tests to 40,000 examinees at once.”

“ACT used FICO’s cutting-edge analytics to address a clear market demand,” said Alex Woodie, managing editor at Datanami and a judge for this year’s FICO Decision Awards. “The organization’s revamped Echo-Adapt application lets it keep up with the pace demanded by today’s college applicants, for whom education is more important and competitive than ever, and by the institutions evaluating their entrance exams.”


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