ACT Uses FICO Optimization to Deliver Millions of Individualized College Entrance Exams in Record Time

Non-profit American educational organization wins FICO® Decisions Award for cloud deployment

Surveys & Market Data
Radial circle

Decision Management & Optimization

SAN JOSE, Calif. — May 5, 2020


  • ACT has reduced the time required to assemble test forms from 2-4 weeks to 2 days
  • ACT can serve over 40,000 concurrent examinees with latency below ½ a second per test item.
  • ACT won a 2019 FICO® Decisions Award for Cloud Deployment.

Non-profit learning, measurement and navigation organization ACT, Inc., best known for revolutionizing academic assessment, has won a 2019 FICO® Decisions Award for Cloud Deployment.

The organization won the award for significantly increasing the efficiency of its test assembly process using the FICO® Xpress Platform in the cloud to reduce the time required to assemble test forms from 2-4 weeks to 2 days. In addition to greatly increasing productivity with test production automation, this platform 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.

More information:

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. “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.”

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.

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.”

About ACT
ACT is a mission-driven, non-profit organization dedicated to helping people achieve education and workplace success. Grounded in 60 years of research, ACT is a trusted leader in college and career readiness solutions. Each year, ACT serves millions of students, job seekers, schools, government agencies and employers in the US and around the world with learning resources, assessments, research and credentials designed to help them succeed from elementary school through career.

About the FICO® Decisions Awards
The FICO Decisions Awards recognize organizations that are achieving remarkable success using FICO solutions. A panel of independent judges with deep industry expertise evaluates nominations based upon measurable improvement in key metrics; demonstrated use of best practices; project scale, depth and breadth; and innovative uses of technology. The 2019 judges are:

  • Sharon Kimathi, editor at FinTech Futures
  • Leslie Parrish, analyst – retail banking at Aite
  • Denise Sleem, functional specialist at Medscheme/Helios (2018 winner)
  • Alex Woodie, managing editor at Datanami
  • Les Yeamans, founder at RT Insights

The winners of the FICO Decisions Awards will be spotlighted at various FICO events in 2020 and win tickets to FICO® World 2021, the Decisions Conference, April 2021 in Orlando, Florida.

About FICO
FICO (NYSE: FICO) powers decisions that help people and businesses around the world prosper. Founded in 1956 and based in Silicon Valley, the company is a pioneer in the use of predictive analytics and data science to improve operational decisions. FICO holds more than 195 US and foreign patents on technologies that increase profitability, customer satisfaction and growth for businesses in financial services, manufacturing, telecommunications, health care, retail and many other industries. Using FICO solutions, businesses in more than 100 countries do everything from protecting 2.6 billion payment cards from fraud, to helping people get credit, to ensuring that millions of airplanes and rental cars are in the right place at the right time.

Learn more at

Join the conversation at &

FICO is a registered trademark of Fair Isaac Corporation in the US and other countries. 

Media Contact:
Greg Jawski
Porter Novelli for FICO
+1 212-601-8248

Media contacts


Katie O’Connell
+1 510-621-9832

Europe, Middle East & Africa

Darcy Sullivan
+44 (0) 7808-777-339

Asia Pacific

Saxon Shirley
+65 6422-7795

América Latina

Milla Delfino
+55 11 97673-6583

Take the next step

Connect with FICO for answers to all your product and solution questions. Interested in becoming a business partner? Contact us to learn more. We look forward to hearing from you.