Thursday, April 26, 2007


I recently took the ACT test. In order to do this, I, unfortunately, had to deal with the ACT website, and the ACT corporation, which seems to want to charge you for everything they can.

I first had to figure out where to register for the test. So I went to the ACT for Students page. The thing immediately starts an annoying flash animation, with sound, thus distracting me from whatever it was I was doing in order to find the mute control. If you go to another part of the site and come back, the music starts again, and you have to mute it again.

So, I mute the Flash movie, and look around for the "Register" button. It turns out it's about halfway down the page, on the right side, and a lot smaller than everything else. To add to the confusion, right next to it is a form where you can choose a city and state and hit "Go", probably to find test centers. So what do I click?

I click the button, and I have to battle an annoying, multi-step registration process split across multiple pages. I've forgotten most of how the site was supposed to work, but I can tell you that it didn't work well.

I eventually get to the part where I get to select the optional components of my ACT experience. Do I want the Writing component? (Yes). That's extra. Do I want to see what questions I got wrong? (Yes). That's also extra. Do I feel like giving money to the people who made me go through all these hoops to register? (No). Too bad, you need to take this test to get into college!

After I filled all that out, the site tries to sell me test prep books. Isn't that a conflict of interest or something?

When I come back to their site later to study for the test, it's actually a lot easier. However, I do notice that the scores for the sample writing section essays seem to vary directly with the number of words written.

I eventually want (well, not want, but need) to take this test. So I go into the school gym, sit down, and do the thing. Afterwards, I have to write out and sign some sort of statement that I won't talk about questions ever as long as I live or something, which I find dubious legally because most people taking the test are minors who can't sign contracts anyway.

A couple weeks go by, and I sit down at my computer to see if I can't have a look at my scores. So I go on Google, look up the ACT, and go to the first result. This is, unfortunately, their corporate site, and I have to find the right link to click to get back to the annoying Flash sound page. I mute the thing, find the little link to "Scores" in the section menu bar, and then... I don't get a page where I can see my scores. Instead, it's some sort of page about when I'll get my scores. Not what I wanted. But I see a link labeled "See scores" in small text at the top of the nav bar, and follow that. That takes me to another page with a link that says that maybe, this time, I'll be able to see my scores. So I click ion that link, and it brings me to a page of text, with a completley different layout, and a "Continue" button. Getting annoyed by this point, I hit "Continue", and am prompted for, rather than the login information for the account that I was forced to set up when I registered, some sort of ID that the ACT corporation issued me (which, I think, was printed on my admission ticket), and my credit card information. Apparently, if I want to see my scores during the "Early Viewing Period," I must, in addition to going through five levels of pages and links reading "See Scores," pay them $8.00--which I am, by this time, in no mood to do. It doesn't help matters at all the dates which define the "Early Viewing Period" are not listed (as far as I could tell), and, as I later found when writing this post, the annoying Flash animation on the front page is actually an ad which tries to bother people into buying the Early Score Viewing Service by hinting that they don't really know how well they did.

I don't take kindly to being treated this way. Just because the ACT people control an important test doesn't mean that they can ignore website usability and try to guilt/annoy me into paying them money. I'm sorry, ACT Inc., but it was a displeasure doing business with you.

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