Study: ACT Test May Not Accurately Predict College Success

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While students have long contested (and whined about) the dreaded standardized test — a new study shows the ACT test may not be a valid predictor of college success.

The study from the National Bureau of Economic Research found that parts of the ACT standardized test — the science and reading sections, which are the two sections that set the test apart from the SAT test — have “little or no” ability to help colleges predict whether applicants will succeed.

The ACT, once called the American College Testing assessment, was originally introduced in 1959 as a competitor to the SAT (formerly, the Scholastic Aptitude Test). Today, it is accepted by every four-year university in the nation and has roughly an equal market share to the SAT.

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While the study found the test’s two other parts — sections on English and mathematics — were “highly predictive” of college success, the entire test’s validity is in question as for the most part colleges rely on the composite score rather than individual subject scores.

“By introducing noise that obscures the predictive validity of the ACT exam, the reading and science tests cause students to be inefficiently matched to schools, admitted to schools that may be too demanding — or too easy — for their levels of ability,” the study says.

For their part, ACT fired back against the study, issuing a statement that read: “ACT has decades of research supporting the predictive validity and application of the four ACT subject test scores and the composite score in college enrollment, performance and retention. We were not aware of the study in question until this morning, and we are in the process of reviewing its methodology and findings.”

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I always tested very well--no different than some people can draw or sing--anyway, this past year I watched my daughter take the ACT--and my observation is they are introducing "time" as a very significant factor in their measurement--I am very comfortable with asking questions to see what you know-- but when "how fast you can do it" becomes a very major factor, how do you know whether you are measuring depth or speed? All tests measure something, but I have serious doubts if the ACT folk could possibly know just what they have measured. One can always say "Well, we will look at how they do--and then say we must have measured something"--I would be much more comfortable to see the "time factor" removed-- find out what they know--not how fast they read and write--I am ok if they want to put one "speed" part--but limit it to that. I also would like to see how allowing more time affects one's score