ACT scores are good at predicting how well students will do in college. They'd be even better if colleges stopped using the ACT scores for reading and science and focus on math and English scores alone, a study finds.
Jeff Sainlar/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel/AP/File
It’s that time of year when high school seniors are finding out their ACT scores, test results that could determine where they’ll be accepted into college.
It turns out ACT scores do a pretty good job of predicting how well students will do in school – if you ignore the test’s less relevant parts. Students would save a lot of heartache and schools would avoid a lot of recruitment costs if they used the test scores more intelligently, according to a study released in June.
The trick: Pay attention to the math and English scores and disregard the science and reading sections.
By obscuring the predictive validity of the ACT’s math and English scores, “the Reading and Science tests cause students to be inefficiently matched to schools – admitted to schools that may be too demanding – or too easy – for their levels of ability,” write authors Eric Bettinger and Brent Evans at Stanford University and Devin Pope at the University of Chicago.
For example: If student A gets scores of 26 on reading and science and 22 for math and English, their composite ACT score would be 24, the same as student B who got scores of 22 on reading and science and 26 on math and English. But student A is 59 percent more likely to drop out in the first year of college – and 43 percent more likely in the third year – than student B is.