Aug 17, 2011

Virginia Scores High on the ACT

The ACT continues to grow in popularity and importance as a tool for determining college and career readiness, according to the Condition of College & Career Readiness 2011 report released today.

While national scores remain basically static, the number of high school students taking the ACT in 2011 rose to 1,623,112. This represents an increase of 25 percent since 2007 and an all-time record for ACT test-taking.

In 26 states, at least 60 percent of high school graduates took the ACT. And in 12 states—all in the county’s midsection—at least 80 percent of high school graduates took the test.

Over the past five years, the number of students taking the ACT in Maryland and DC increased by 37 percent and 28 percent respectively. But in Virginia, the numbers have dramatically risen from 11,519 in 2006 to 20,526 or about 24 percent of the Commonwealth’s high school graduates in 2011.

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 time, money, and aggravation.

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

“The University of Mary Washington is happy to accept either the ACT or SAT as part of the application for admission," said Kim Johnston, UMW dean of admission. "We want the students to feel comfortable that they are sending application materials that best represent their abilities and potential for success at UMW. Many students are taking both tests and if they do, our admissions committee will use the test, SAT or ACT, that has the higher scores when making the admissions decision."

And they are increasingly choosing the ACT. Five years ago, only 14 percent of freshmen submitted ACT scores to the University of Richmond. Last year, 42 percent provided ACT’s, according to Common Data Set information on the Richmond website. During the same period, the percent of freshmen at James Madison University submitting ACT's went from 21 to 33 percent.

American University reports a 7.2 percent increase in ACT score submission from applicants this past year. At Catholic University, about 5.6 percent of freshmen submitted the ACT only for the fall of 2009. Last fall, that number rose to 10%. And at Johns Hopkins the percent of freshmen submitting ACT's increased to 41 percent from 26 percent in 2007.

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

For those keeping count, our area continues to score very well on the ACT. Virginia’s average composite score was 22.3, well above the national average of 21.1. The average composite in Maryland was 22.1 (down from 22.3 last year), and in DC, it was 20.0—up from 19.8. Subscores in Maryland and Virginia were very similar with Virginia scoring slightly higher in all areas.

And somewhere in the DC region, 14 students earned perfect composite scores of 36—ten in Maryland, and four in Virginia.

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

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