GAC Newsletter

The Quarterly Newsletter of the ACT Global Assessment Certificate Program

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GAC Newsletter

Introducing the GAC Academic Committee

Changhua Rich,
Principal Research Scientist, ACT, Inc.

Anne Zheng,
GAC Global Academic Director, ACT, Inc.

Heather Wilmot,
Director, Curriculum & Digital Learning, ACT, Inc.

Marimin Lopez,
Regional Academic Manager,
Mexico, Moebian

Alea Thompson,
Senior Program Manager,
Learning-Operations, ACT

The ACT Learning Division is putting an emphasis on innovation, ushering in a new era of the Global Assessment Certificate (GAC) to think globally and deliver locally. Under new Learning Division leadership, the ACT GAC will continue to play a crucial role in the international education community, providing a practical, holistic, skills- and competencies-based college readiness program. 

This is why the ACT GAC Academic Committee has been established. The committee will guide the ACT GAC program to achieve its mission and priorities, ensure the continuing quality of the ACT GAC Curriculum and global GAC academic program policy implementation, build and strengthen partnerships within GAC regional and local teaching centers, and communicate ACT GAC curriculum quality improvement to schools, parents, and educational institutions. 

The committee’s primary goal is to guide the renewal of the GAC curriculum and assessment content to ensure GAC academic quality of competency-based education. 

The committee’s first task was to develop and conduct a GAC teacher and school manager survey to listen to our stakeholders. The purpose was to bring teachers and GAC school managers’ voices into decision-making in prioritization of the GAC curriculum improvement planning. Scroll down to learn more about this survey. 

In May 2020, ACT GAC Academic Committee was established with current members: 

  • Dr. Changhua Rich 
  • Anne Zheng 
  • Dr. Heather Wilmot 
  • Marimin Lopez (Moebian) 
  • Alea Thompson

GAC Survey Results—A Brief Summary

The GAC Academic Committee conducted a teacher survey and school manager survey from June 16 to July 24. Survey feedback is designed to be incorporated into our review of the program’s curriculum, academic policy, school support services, and technology use. 

Teacher Survey

The teacher survey collected responses of 250 GAC teachers, from 9 countries. 

School Manager Survey

The school manager survey (English and Chinese) received responses of 68 school managers from 6 countries. 

The GAC Program Teacher Survey collected teacher opinions on GAC curriculum design components:

Competencies development, learning how to learn and apply: 

  • Individual module learning outcomes
  • Cross-modules reinforcement
  • Three levels with options of one or two levels, or other useful combinations 

Assessment of competencies and learning outcomes: 

  • Assessment events for skills application and engaging practice  
  • Assessment events effective measurement of learning outcomes  
  • Assessment criteria/rubrics effectiveness 

Teacher professional development: 

  • Online teaching 
  • Online learning materials 

The GAC Program School Manager Survey Collected Opinions on These Topics

School Success Factors

Technology Use

Pathway Universities 

Both surveys asked open-ended questions for suggestions on GAC improvements. ACT’s Learning Research team is conducting coding and thematic analysis of the teacher and school manager comments. We expect to publish a technical report of the GAC survey soon. 

GAC Teacher Survey and Manager Survey Results Highlight—Teachers Share the GAC Vision and Agree with the Academic Standards

  • Close to 100% of participating GAC teachers felt the GAC curriculum content was relevant for cultivating students’ competencies and skills necessary for college success and beyond  
  • 91% felt it was very or moderately relevant 
  • 8% felt it was somewhat relevant 

How relevant is GAC content for cultivating students' competencies and skills necessary for college success and beyond?  

There is a high degree (79-96%) of teacher agreement on various aspects of GAC academic program.   

To what extent do you agree or disagree with each of the following statements about aspects of the GAC Program? 

  • 96% of teachers agree and strongly agree with the statement “the cross-over and reinforcement of competencies and skills across the modules are important for students to practice and master skills” 
  • 95% of teachers agree and strongly agree with the statement “overall, the GAC module learning outcomes are appropriate” 
  • 93% of teachers agree and strongly agree with the statement “the modules in each of 3 levels appropriately support increasing complexity of skills training and mastery”   

School Managers Recognize GAC Quality 

School managers ranked the most important factors of their success in attracting students to GAC:

  • Quality international training programs 
  • Reputation of GAC and global universities acceptance 
  • Opportunities to take the ACT   

Based on the survey’s findings, GAC Academic Committee is conducting planning and building a roadmap for: 

  • Course content renewal 
  • Assessment events streamlining 
  • Ongoing editing 

GAC Global Teacher Professional Development Webinar Series

In addition to conducing GAC improvement surveys, the GAC Academic Committee has organized four global webinar series for GAC teacher professional development in the areas of teaching critical thinking through GAC math and science modules, ACT test standards and design.  These four webinars are recorded and available to GAC schools and teachers. Please contact your GAC Regional Academic Director for past and future webinar access information. 

Developing Critical Thinking Skills Through Mathematics Instruction 

Presenter: George Kipens—Sarasas Ektra School, Thailand, GAC 

Critical Thinking in ACT Science 

Presenter: Jay Thomas, ACT Senior Assessment Designer 

English Language Arts on the ACT, an Overview of the Test Design 

Dr. Colin Dingler, ACT Principal Assessment Specialist 

Using Insights About the ACT Test to Better Help Students Reach Their Goals 

Presenter: Jay Thomas, ACT Senior Assessment Designer 

Regional GAC Teacher Training 


An ACT Tutor Training Workshop was successfully held at Qingdao, China, on 17-18 September 2020. The event was organized by the ACT China office and supported by Qingdao ACT GAC Center. Thirty-nine teachers from ACT GAC schools and test prep training schools across China gathered in Qingdao and participated in the two-day ACT tutor training workshop. The workshop included sessions on an introduction to ACT; ACT English, Math, Reading, and Science; and a panel discussion. Three trainers on ACT English and reading, ACT math, and ACT science provided insights and practical suggestions on the subjects. The events received very positive feedback from participants.  


For the 2020-2021 school year, Moebian, ACT’s partner in Mexico, delivered online teacher training for 24 GAC schools in Mexico. Eight different topics were developed, and approximately 250 teachers and school managers attended. “Backward Planning” and “What Am I Writing? A Quick Guide to Understanding Reports and Essays” were two examples of the topics created for teacher training. “Backward Planning” helped teachers identify the learning outcomes of the modules that they are teaching this year; teachers use the technique to draft a semester lesson plan. In the second training, teachers became familiar with the key aspects on an essay and a report and get acquainted with the GAC support manuals. In addition, we implemented an online assessment moderation system using Trello. School Directors of Studies (DoS) and Regional Academic Managers (RAMs) use Trello to track the assessment events and manage the due dates.  The online assessment moderation system increased transparency and clarity in communication among teachers, DoS and RAMs. 

Southeast Asia

The ACT-GAC Southeast Asia office, in collaboration with Woosong University, hosted an eLearning Forum on 22 September 2020. Thirty-five ACT EPP & ACT GAC teachers attended the online learning event, presented by Prof. Daniel McCracken, MEd, from Woosong University, who shared his experience of a Flipped Classroom in ESL/EFL teaching context. The training was intended to support and strengthen the teachers’ practice as facilitators in GAC and EPP programs as well as to encourage students to become independent learners and engage in a higher level of thinking in learning.

GAC Program Efficacy Study

The GAC Academic Committee will introduce ACT efficacy research evidence for GAC academic quality.  The first research report highlights GAC student academic achievement from the technical brief of the study “GAC Students Achieve College Readiness Benchmark at High Rate” is presented in the newsletter. 

GAC Graduates Achieve ACT College Readiness Benchmarks at a High Rate

The Global Assessment Certificate (GAC) is a program for high school students focused on developing the competencies and skills necessary to succeed in their university studies and professional life. The program is designed for non-native English speakers who want to pursue tertiary education in an English-speaking country. 

A recent study compared performance on the ACT test between GAC students and high school students from the United States.[1] The study sample comprised 4,700 students who completed the GAC program and took the ACT between 2014 and 2018. The students were from China (79.2%), Mexico (14.7%), South Asia (5%), and other regions (1.1%). 

A higher percentage of GAC students achieved ACT College Readiness Benchmarks[2] when compared to US high school students in all subject areas except reading. Taking into consideration that GAC students are non-native English speakers, the lower achievement in reading is understandable.  

Figure 1. Percentage of GAC and US Students Meeting ACT Benchmarks.   

Based on percentages meeting ACT benchmarks, graduates of the GAC program have higher rates of academic readiness for college than typical US students. 

Student Success Stories

Student: Diana Cassandra Schilling Sato - Mexico

GAC School: Colegio Chapultepec La Primavera 

Destination University: Parsons School of Design, New York, USA 

Major: Fashion Design 

Scholarship and/or Transfer Credit: Awarded Scholarship to cover 50% of tuition and fees 

My name is Diana Cassandra Schilling Sato and I am a GAC student who graduated from Colegio Chapultepec La Primavera, located in Culiacán Sinaloa, México. My experience with GAC was excellent because I was able to improve my English proficiency and skills such as time management, use of grammar, and oral presentations. At first, it was difficult to understand the benefits of GAC but in the end, it will all be worth it.  

GAC helped me cope with the college admissions process. I had to plan, structure, and present a portfolio of designs that demonstrated my interest and talent, followed by an interview where I spoke about my work. I feel that GAC provided me with the tools so that I could express myself adequately and deliver a professional portfolio in order to be awarded a scholarship.  

Diana Cassandra Schilling Sato

Hannah Tan Nguyen

Student: Hannah Tan Nguyen - Vietnam

GAC School: Singapore International School Saigon

Destination University: RMIT University, Saigon, Vietnam

Major: Media and Communications (Hons)

Scholarship and/or Transfer Credit: Awarded scholarship to cover 50% of tuition fees  

I am Hannah Tan Nguyen. Born and raised in Singapore, I have been brought up embracing the local education system and was originally accepted to study the Singapore-Cambridge General Certificate of Education Advanced Level over two years. However, a trip to my mother’s hometown changed my life totally! I ditched the GCE A Levels and enrolled for the fast-tracked GAC course in August 2019. 

The GAC curriculum prepares students for university through a holistic but modular approach which mirrors the educational structure of universities. I have come to develop new skills and improve on the ones that I have already acquired throughout my education in Singapore. Collaborative project work is one key aspect that has taught me to be more open and accommodating to others’ opinions, beliefs, and values. 

However, the GAC should not be taken lightly. Initially, I struggled with managing my time. Through planning backwards from deadlines, I have learned to make effective use of my time to cope with distractions and, more importantly, getting my assessments submitted on track despite the mounting challenges. I became good at this involving online learning when all Vietnamese schools were mandated to stop face-to-face classes at short notice in early February 2020.  

Lastly, I am so glad my hard work with the GAC has paid off and look forward to the next milestone in my learning journey with RMIT. 

GAC Center News

ACT is pleased to announce the following new GAC Centers in 2020!


 Name  Country  City  Website 
BFSU International  China  Beijing
Beijing Foreign Studies University International Business School  China Beijing   
Qinghua Zhiqing High School  China Beijing 
Zhuozhou Senior High School Affiliated To BFSU  China Zhuozhou   
Deyuan High School of Tianjin
China Tianjin   
Junhwa International School, Jinhua City  China Jinhua
Ningbo Hanvos Kent School  China Ningbo
Hailiang Foreign Language School  China Zhuji 
Shanghai Hongrun Boyuan School  China Shanghai
Shanghai High Tech Creative School  China Shanghai
Guanghua Cambridge International School  China Shanghai
Shanghai International Studies University China Shanghai
Living Word Shanghai  China Shanghai
WLSA Shanghai Academy  China Shanghai
Shenzhen Vanke Meisha Academy  China Shenzhen
China-UK College Shenzhen  China Shenzhen
Fuzhou Lakeside International School  China Fuzhou
Xining Macrolink International Academy, BFSU
China Xining
Sky-Line International School  Vietnam Da Nang
SMA Kristen Petra 1  Indonesia Surabaya
SMA Kristen Petra 2  Indonesia Surabaya
SMA Kristen Petra 5  Indonesia Surabaya
Kinderstation High School  Indonesia Jogjakarta
UK Academy  Mexico Mexico City   
UABC  Mexico Baja
Euro Liceo  Mexico Puebla
Euro Texcoco in Estado de Mexico  Mexico Texcoco City

Pathway University News

The GAC Pathway University network is growing! ACT welcomes new colleges and universities into the GAC Pathway University network. 

Pathway University Highlight

The Australia government has announced visa policies to support international students under COVID 19. 

Pathway Universities in Focus

SUNY Oswego, USA

SUNY Oswego is one of the best comprehensive colleges in the US. Recognized for excellence and value, Oswego is known for its extraordinary faculty, its welcoming atmosphere, and its reputation for producing fiercely loyal alumni. For more than 150 years, SUNY Oswego has been inspired by those who desire to push traditional higher-education boundaries. With a student body of nearly 8,000 students, SUNY Oswego is large enough to offer over 110 programs in Science, Business, and the Arts, yet small enough for students to form quality relationships with each other and our faculty. Our lakeside campus unfolds on nearly 700 scenic acres along the shore of Lake Ontario. 

Our prestigious School of Business holds the highest accreditation in the world (AACSB) and consistently offers excellent internship opportunities at prestigious companies like PricewaterhouseCoopers, Citibank, and many more. Our Bachelor of Science degree programs in Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) and Software Engineering (SE) have been accredited by the Engineering Accreditation Commission (EAC) of ABET.  

At SUNY Oswego internships and co-ops are planned, registered experiences that allow students to explore and confirm their career options. Students can find internships and co-ops that match their academic and career fields in a variety of local, national and international placements. As a small sample, our internship locations include Biogen, IBM, KPMG, MTV, the NASA Jet Propulsion Center and Saturday Night Live. 

SUNY Oswego also provides outstanding scholarships to its international students, including a guaranteed $9,000 annual Destination Oswego Scholarship. The SAT or ACT exams are not required for admission to SUNY Oswego but are recommended for those seeking additional merit scholarships as first year students.  

Gannon University, USA

Student Story

Tenger Batjargal arrived at Gannon on a frosty January night in 2015. Many international students find the winters in Erie cold, but it was mild compared to his native Mongolia. “I was the only international student on my floor,” he says. “My English wasn’t very good. I didn’t even know how the buffet system in the cafeteria worked.” However, he soon adjusted to university life. “Everyone was really welcoming,” he says. “Everybody is trying to help you out. If they see you have a problem, they’ll try to see what they can do for you.”  

Five years later, there is not much in Gannon’s Electrical Engineering program that Tenger has not done. When he was a freshman, Tenger convinced the professor to let him join a group that was working with NASA on high-altitude research missions. Their first mission was in 2017, to build equipment to livestream the solar eclipse from 75,000 feet up. Their next mission in 2018 was building and deploying a high-altitude cosmic radiation detector. “[The NASA-funded] teams are available for anyone to join,” Tenger says. “It’s a great resource for ECE (the Electrical and Computer Engineering department) and we do have a lot of students from other departments as well.” 

Tenger worked with the NASA group for three and a half years, but in his third year, he started doing robotics development as well. His group’s first autonomous robot won third prize at the regional robotics competition. In 2019, he started leading a team that competed in the international Intelligent Ground Vehicle Competition. The engineering department also tries to solve real world problems. Currently Tenger is working with the Physical Therapy department at Gannon to develop mobility aids for toddlers with disabilities. He is also working with a company to develop a COVID-19 prevention system as a part of his master’s thesis work.  

Tenger says there are many benefits of studying electrical engineering at Gannon.

  1. Ideal Class Size. “They’re not too big, not too small,” Tenger says. “The professor has a really close connection with individual students. The professors are really there to help the students.” Not only are they accessible to students in class, but professors share research and publishing opportunities with students, even at the undergraduate level. “I’ve published my fourth paper as of today,” Tenger says. He explains that the professors do a lot of independent research and interested students can get research assistant positions, including the experience and career development opportunities that go along with them.  
  2. Hands-on Experience. “Our theoretical side is really good,” Tenger says. “but when you actually want to apply [what you’ve learned], there is a huge amount of support and resources.” Some schools, he notes, restrict practical projects to juniors and seniors, but in Gannon’s engineering department, students are encouraged to try things out from their freshman year. Tenger now has experience working for private tech companies and is proud of the fact that Gannon University’s resources and facilities are cutting edge so that students can practice on the same equipment that they will use when they graduate and start their careers. 
  3. Career Preparation. “The professors really do care about the students, so we have a lot of connections with alumni in the area,” Tenger says. Gannon has a good reputation in the area and companies will often call up Dr. Zhao, the program chair for Electrical Engineering, to find job candidates. The department usually has a 100% job placement rate right after graduation and often students will get an employment offer months before graduation.  

So, what advice does Tenger have for students wanting to go into Electrical Engineering? “It is a very demanding major,” he says, but contends that it is a field that can lead to any sector of the workforce. “Electrical Engineering is the major that gives a soul to any system,” he says with a grin. “Without electricity, nothing’s going to work.” For more information about Gannon University, visit

[1] For the full version of the report, please see Steedle, J. T. (2019). Global Assessment Certificate Achievement as a Predictor of Meeting the ACT College Readiness Benchmarks. ACT Research & Policy Technical Brief[2] ACT subject scores associated with a 50% chance of earning a B or higher grade in a related first-year, credit-bearing course at a typical tertiary institution in the US.