Inside the ACT...
November 21, 2011
Last month, many juniors elected to take a practice ACT exam; results from this test are showing up in mailboxes throughout the district. We thought we’d offer some general information about the ACT and its use in college admissions.
First and foremost, the ACT is NEVER the most important or sole factor in a college’s admission process! While it certainly is a vital piece of information on a student’s application, the ACT takes a back seat to a student’s high school curriculum and academic performance here at Stevenson. Nearly every college rep who visits us in the fall tells our students that they are far more interested in how a student performs over the course of 3 or 4 years of high school than how they tested for 4 hours on any given Saturday.
As you examine the results of this practice ACT, you might want to see how your score "stacks up" at colleges in which you’re interested. We encourage you to log on to Naviance [click here
or the tag on the left rail of our website for information and log-on] and look at colleges’ scattergrams [or "graphs"] to see just how your combined ACT score and gpa might have been considered in the admission pool over the past two years.
College admission offices don’t speak about cut-off ACT scores or even average ACT scores; rather, they report the middle 50% of their test scores. A school with an ACT range of 21 – 27 is reporting that 25% of its admitted students scored below a 21, 25% scored above a 27, and 50% scored between 21 and 27 on the ACT. So it’s important to realize there is more flexibility in the use of standardized tests than you might imagine.
So – what are next steps a junior can take regarding the ACT? Our teachers inculcate test-taking skills into their classes on a daily basis, but many students here decide to take a test prep class offered by a variety of companies in the community. While we don’t endorse any of these agencies, as a service, we do provide contact information about programs in the area; you can find an updated list (ACT/SAT Prep Courses
2011-12) in the lower right corner of our webpage under "Docs and Downloads."
All juniors will take an ACT test as part of the Prairie State Assessment Exam on April 24th; this test can be used for admission at every college in the country. Please note that the Writing portion of the ACT will not be included as part of the PSAE this year. We encourage all students to take the Writing portion of the ACT during a Saturday administration of the ACT, as many colleges want to see a Writing score from a student. [Curiously, we don’t know of a college that requires a minimum Writing score in its admission process; most schools collect these Writing scores as part on ongoing research on factors influencing the college selection process.]
Speaking of taking the ACT, we are often asked how many times a student should take the ACT? Quite frankly, we feel that taking the test only once on a Saturday and again as part of the Prairie State assessment should be sufficient for most students. The ACT is not a measure of how intelligent you are or how potentially successful you might become; rather, it is one tool used by colleges to admit students. If your ACT score places you in a college’s pool of likely-to-be-admitted students, then it has served its purpose and you shouldn’t have to worry about testing and retesting.
We are also often asked if students should send their ACT scores to colleges at the time they register for the test. Your $34 fee includes the ability to send your score to up to four colleges; you can always send a college your score at a later date but also at an additional fee. We would advise you to send your score at the time your register to any college that you are fairly certain you will be applying to next fall to save you some time and money. Colleges will always take the highest ACT score you send them, so there is no damage done if you send Really Good University your February ACT score which ends up being two points lower than your June score.
Some colleges will actually "superscore" your ACT tests, which means they will mix and match subscores from different test dates in order to create a new, higher, ACT composite for you. If a school does superscore, it’s to your advantage to send every ACT score to them. Colleges list their test policies on their admission websites.
If all this talk of standardized tests makes you dizzy, know that there are nearly 850 colleges and universities that are "test-optional" in their admission procedures. These schools either don’t require or don’t use the ACT when they make admission decisions; the most notable newcomer to this test-optional list is Chicago’s own DePaul University. For a complete list of these schools, go to www.fairtest.org
We hope that we’ve been able to shed some light on how the ACT is used in the college admission process and eased some of your concerns. Just remember: your ability to succeed in college cannot be defined by a test score alone. You are not your test score!!