The ACT Test Problem

Apparently the ACT (American College Testing), the standardized test used for college admissions in the United States that is the sole competitor to the SAT, might not be so valid.

According to an article by Caralee Adams at Education Week:

The study, Improving College Performance and Retention the Easy Way: Unpacking the ACT Exam, by Eric P. Bettinger, Brent J. Evans, and Devin G. Pope, suggests that two of the four sub tests of the ACT, English and mathematics, are highly predictive of positive college outcomes, while the other two, science and reading, provide little or no additional predictive power.

I’m not really sure why this should surprise us. Of course the ACT doesn’t entirely predict success, we know that. As is true for the other standardized tests, it seems reasonable to suggest that English and mathematics are more predictive of college success, since they’re standard measures of intelligence. Since science (and reading as ACT measures it) may not matter much in many students’ college experiences, no surprise that a test that measures such things doesn’t predict much.

Still, the head of ACT insists that the new study is off, not because, you know, science and reading actually do predict success in college. Rather Jon Erickson, ACT’s interim president of education division, “says the ACT is an achievement-based test that is used for multiple goals and purposes beyond just admissions…” according to the Adams article.

Yea, sure it is.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer