Schools across the United States are getting further into the second semester, which means it’s time for college applications, and not only that, but taking the ACT, which is a test that lasts for a few hours and covers English, reading, science and math.
Is the ACT useful when it comes to academic achievement, or is it just a waste of students’ time and money?
According to the ACT website, the test is useful because it helps you get into college and can determine course placement when you get there.
I remember my high school teachers putting a lot of emphasis on taking the ACT, and they would constantly remind us of preparation tools and what days we could take the test.
I ended up taking the test three times, and I bought a practice book to help me.
However, I didn’t improve much, no matter how many times I took the test or if I used the practice book.
Out of all three tests I took, my score in the math section never went above an 18. Math constantly held me back, and my score didn’t go up.
I knew many classmates who took the test way more than I did, but I didn’t have the time nor the money to take it repeatedly. The ACT costs $55 without the writing portion and $70 with the writing portion.
The cost is even more surprising considering that a few years ago ACT testing was free to public high school juniors in Missouri but was later stopped in 2017 due to cuts in assessment funding.
By the time I got my third test result, I stopped caring about the test because the scores hadn’t changed more than one point throughout the three attempts.
I know that not everyone’s experience with the ACT is the same as mine, but there are many students who have experienced similar struggles with standardized testing.
The more I reflected after my third attempt, I started to dislike the test even more because I felt like it didn’t really assess anything that mattered. The English section was mostly punctuation, and most of the math problems in the math section weren’t related to what I was actually learning in school.
When the pandemic hit, tests were pushed back to later dates for many students, but due to growing concerns and increasing number of cases, tests were canceled altogether.
This spurred some colleges to go a test-optional format, allowing students to decide if they wanted to submit test scores or not. This opened up the opportunity for colleges to emphasize parts of a student’s application aside from standardized test scores, like GPA and letters of recommendation.
There have been a few rising arguments considering abolishing tests such as the SAT and ACT, citing that they aren’t the best measurements of student achievement.
Standardized test scores don’t just affect students’ courses and scholarship awards when they get to college, but they also affect college funding and reputation, according to an article by McKendree University.
The ACT also does not reliably test a student’s aptitude, because it only accounts for the aptitude of one student during one day, and doesn’t take into account the student’s whole academic career.
Furthermore, tests like the ACT don’t test a student’s potential aptitude in school because they don’t actually cover what is being taught in schools, instead relying on other standardized tests for content.
Sadly, standardized testing is a large and integral part of applying to college and determining your path when you get there.
Northwest takes into consideration a “superscore,” which is a composite of your highest ACT scores to award scholarships and course placement. For example, I was able to enroll in Accelerated Composition last semester because I had a high English and reading score on the ACT. I also earned an academic scholarship based on GPA and my overall ACT score.
This can be great for some students who got really good test scores, but detrimental to those who didn’t. It further brings up the issues of students not being able to attempt multiple tests due to financial strain, which can also affect them financially in college.
The former President of the National Education Association Lily Eskelsen Garcia agreed in a statement in 2015 that emphasis on testing should be reduced due to the pressure it puts on students and educators.
Although there is an abundance of evidence citing why standardized tests are unreliable and unnecessary, I don’t see them going away anytime soon.
They will still continue to define future and current college students without accurately representing the whole student.
Students are more than just one test score, and our academic careers shouldn’t be based on one good day or one bad day.