Aug 18, 2010

ACT Continues to Grow in Popularity and Importance

The ACT continues to grow in popularity and importance as a tool for determining college readiness, according to the Condition of College and Career Readiness Report, released today.

While scores remain basically static, the number of high school students taking the ACT in 2010 rose to 1,569,000. This represents an increase of 30 percent since 2006, when 1,206,000 students sat for the exam.

Over the same five-year period, students taking the ACT in Maryland and DC increased by 54 percent and 41 percent respectively. But in Virginia, the numbers have dramatically risen from 11,519 in 2006 to 19,236 or about 22 percent of the Commonwealth’s high school graduates in 2010. This represents an increase of 67 percent in five years.

Why would this be? Perhaps it's because the test is considered by many to be more “consumer-friendly” than competing College Board products. And at an increasing number of colleges, the ACT with Writing may be substituted for both the SAT Reasoning and Subject Tests—saving the test-taker considerable time and money.

But more important to college applicants is the fact that nearly every college and university in the country will accept either the ACT or the SAT. Because the tests are virtually interchangeable, students may elect to submit scores from whichever test they choose—usually the one on which they scored best.

"The Catholic University of America saw an increase in the number of applicants submitting the ACT compared to last year. In fact, in Fall 2009 about 5.6% of our new freshmen submitted the ACT only and for this Fall 2010 that rose to 10%," said Christine Mica, CUA dean of admission. "CUA recruits nationally and for years has accepted both the ACT and the SAT. Allowing students to submit just the SAT, just the ACT or both, gives them the ability to highlight their standardized testing skills in a format in which they feel most comfortable."

The ACT is a first cousin to the Iowa Test of Basic Skills, which many of us took annually in grade school (long before computers were there to score them). It is a “curriculum based” achievement test designed to measure the skills necessary to succeed in the first year of college.

For those keeping count, our area scored very well on the ACT this year. Virginia’s average composite score went up by .4 to 22.3, well above the national average of 21.0. The average composite in Maryland was also 22.3, and in DC, it was 19.8. Subscores in Maryland and Virginia were virtually identical with Maryland doing slightly better in Math (22.3 vs. 22.1), and Virginia doing better in Reading (22.5 vs. 22.4) and Science (21.9 vs. 21.8).

Interestingly, the most frequently listed major/career interest among students in both Maryland and Virginia was Health Sciences & Allied Health. In DC, the most frequently cited major was Business and Management.

And somewhere in the DC region, 11 students earned perfect composite scores of 36—one in the District, five in Maryland, and five in Virginia.

For more a more complete summary of ACT national and state test results, visit the ACT website.

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