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The History of the ACT and its Advantages for Students

Apr 14

For high school students, making the leap from the safety of high school into a university setting can be intimidating. But, before the worries over student loan debt and what to major in begin, the entire process starts with a simple test,the ACT. If you are a high school student debating over whether or not you should take the ACT or the SAT, or a parent, you’re probably familiar with what the ACT is, but may not know much about its history.

A Test Designed to Improve Student Success

Before 1959, the only standardized assessment test available to future college students was the SAT. However, as more students began to enter into the university system and as universities expanded, another assessment test was needed. This is where the ACT came in. In 1959, the American College Testing Program, which is now simply abbreviated to ACT, was created. While the ACT was initially developed as a college testing program, it has now expanded its services for future college students.

Since 1959, the ACT has gained recognition and popularity among students and educators. As of 2009, it was reported that approximately of 45 percent of high school graduates that year signed up and took this standardized testing option. In the past, what forced students to take the SAT versus the ACT was the fact that some colleges and universities in the country did not accept ACT test scores. However, today, all of the four-year colleges and universities in the U.S. accept the ACT and, in some states, like Colorado, Kentucky, and Illinois, the ACT has even been incorporated into state-mandated tests for juniors.

While the ACT is based on subjects you learn in high school, there are still things students can do in order to successfully prepare for this test.

5 Reasons Why You Should Take the ACT

As a budding high school student anxiously awaiting your first college acceptance letter, you may not know whether or not taking the ACT is right for you or whether you should sign up for the SAT. While both standardized testing options have their pros and cons, there are five reasons why you should consider taking the ACT.

1. The Test is Based on What You’ve Learned

The purpose of the ACT is not to test your IQ or what your learning aptitude is. Its function is to strictly test you on things that you have learned throughout your high school career. The ACT consists of three main sections which include reading, math, science, and an optional writing exam. Although you can study for the ACT, as a student you have been preparing for this exam every time you were in a classroom during high school.

2. You Get More than Just a Score

The ACT provides you with an overall score that contributes to your college entrance applications. However, this isn’t the only thing an ACT provides you with. When you take the ACT, you are also given access to an Interest Inventory and Student Profile section that can help your narrow down your university choices and what you want to study.

3. Choose Which Scores Go Where

When you sign up for the ACT, you can choose four universities to have your scores sent to automatically as part of your testing fee. If you take the test more than once, which many students do, you can also select the scores from which test date you want to be sent out.

4. You aren’t Penalized for Guessing

When you’re taking the ACT, you might not know the answers to every one of the questions. If you’re worried about questions wrong, you don’t have to be because your ACT score is based on the number of questions you get right, not which questions you get wrong.

5. You Don’t Have to Take the Writing Test

Every university has different admissions standards. Because of this, you can choose whether or not you want to take the writing portion of the ACT when you sign up. However, before you choose to not take the writing part, make sure that the college you are applying to doesn’t have a writing requirement.

Prep Tips for Students

While the ACT is based on subjects you learn in high school, there are still things students can do in order to successfully prepare for this test. The first thing you should keep in mind as a student is that you should plan on taking the test more than once. When you take the ACT for the first time, take it seriously but view it as a practice run where you can familiarize yourself with the structure and basics of the test. Remember that you can take this test as many times as you want and don’t have to wait until your senior year of high school to take it for the first time. Through the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth or through Duke University’s Talent Identification Program, students can take the ACT as early as seventh grade.

As your ACT test-date approaches, you may find it difficult to set aside a block of time to study for this test. To get in a little bit of studying everyday and refresh your knowledge of the subjects that will be covered on the test, ACT publishes a question of the day on their website. This is a good tool to use to familiarize yourself with the subjects on the test and get in a little bit of extra studying at the same time.

This last tip doesn’t refer to preparation, but what to do when you get your scores back in the mail. Although it may be tempting to share your scores with your friends, don’t do it. This will only make you worried if you scored lower than your friends or give you a false sense of confidence regarding what schools you will get into if you scored higher.

Remember, your ACT score is only one piece of the admissions equation. If you feel like you received a good score and are happy with how it fits into your college applications, don’t let anyone else’s opinion compromise how you feel about your score.