ACT, Inc. is an American 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization (NTEE classification B90, Educational Services, per the IRS), primarily known for the ACT, a standardized test designed to assess high school students' academic achievement and college readiness. For the U.S. high school class of 2016, 64 percent of graduates had taken the ACT test; the nearly 2.1 million students included virtually all high school graduates in 20 states.
Founded in Iowa City, Iowa, in 1959, the organization has more than 1,000 employees. Its CEO is Marten Roorda, who assumed leadership of ACT in 2015. Previous CEOs include Jon Whitmore (2010–2015), Richard L. Ferguson. (1988–2010), and Oluf Davidsen (1974–1988).
In addition to the ACT test, ACT programs include ACT Aspire, ACT Engage, ACT Kaplan Online Prep Live, ACT Profile, ACT QualityCore, PreACT, WorkKeys, and the National Career Readiness Certificate.
|Founders||Everett Franklin Lindquist|
|Marten Roorda (CEO)|
|Products||ACT Standardized Testing|
The ACT was co-founded by University of Iowa professor Everett Franklin Lindquist in 1959. Lindquist earned his Ph.D. from the University of Iowa in 1927, and then immediately joined its College of Education faculty. In 1929, Lindquist constructed the tests used for the Iowa Academic Meet, a contest to identify Iowa's top high school scholars. In 1935, Lindquist and his colleagues developed the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills (ITBS). In 1942, he introduced the Iowa Tests of Educational Development (ITED) for students in grades 9–12. Lindquist also used the ITED tests to help develop the Armed Forces Tests of General Educational Development, better known as the GED.
In 1958 at a conference sponsored by the Educational Testing Service (ETS), Lindquist presented The Nature of the Problem of Improving Scholarship and College Entrance Examinations. Lindquist argued entrance examinations should evaluate students’ readiness to perform college-level work, and should, therefore, be tests of achievement and not of innate intelligence or aptitude, a clear challenge to the test then known as the Scholastic Aptitude Test (now called the SAT).
Lindquist and Ted McCarrel, the University of Iowa registrar, led a team that developed and then delivered the first-ever ACT test to 75,460 students on November 7, 1959.
The ACT test became the leading college readiness assessment in 2012, surpassing the SAT in the number of students taking the exam. For the US high school class of 2016, 64 percent of all graduates took the ACT, up from 59 percent in 2015 and 52 percent in 2012. The total number of 2016 high school graduates taking the ACT was 2,090,342. Approximately 1.7 million graduating seniors took the SAT, the ACT's primary competitor, in 2015.
The ACT measures high school students' general educational development and their ability to complete college-level work. For the tested students from the high school graduating class of 2016, 38 percent met ACT's College Readiness Benchmarks in at least three of the four subject areas the ACT tests—English, math, reading, and science. About a third of graduates taking the ACT, 34 percent, did not meet any of the four benchmarks.
Scores are reported on a 1–36 scale, with a composite score that represents the average scores from each of the four subject area tests. All ACT scores are reported as whole numbers (e.g., a score of 23.5 rounds up to 24). ACT score reports also include a STEM score, an English/Language Arts score, data on text complexity, and a Progress Toward Career Readiness measure. The average composite score earned by 2016 high school graduates taking the ACT was 20.8.
All four-year colleges and universities in the United States accept the ACT, but institutions place different emphases on standardized tests, relative to other factors including class rank, GPA, and extracurricular activities. Most colleges do not indicate a preference for the ACT or SAT and accept both. Some colleges accept the ACT in place of the SAT subject tests, and some accept the optional ACT writing section in place of an SAT Subject Test.
Most colleges use ACT scores as only one factor in their admission process, as a supplement to the secondary school record and to help admission officers put local data—such as coursework, grades, and class rank—in a national perspective.
Traditionally delivered in a paper format, the ACT was the first national college admissions test to be offered in a digital format in 2014.
Every three to five years ACT conducts its ACT National Curriculum Survey, which collects data about what students should know and be able to do to be ready for college-level coursework in English, math, reading, and science. The results of the survey are used to inform the ACT College and Career Readiness Standards. The standards are empirically derived descriptions of the essential skills and knowledge students need to become ready for college and career.
ACT also publishes the ACT College Readiness Benchmarks. The benchmarks are scores on the ACT subject-area tests that represent the level of achievement required for students to have a 50% chance of obtaining a B or higher or about a 75% chance of obtaining a C or higher in corresponding credit-bearing first-year college courses. These college courses include English composition, college algebra, introductory social science courses, and biology.
In addition to its use in college admissions, approximately 20 states use the ACT to assess the performance of schools, and require all high school students to take the ACT, regardless of whether they are college bound. The states that tested virtually all students in the their 2016 graduating classes were Alabama, Alaska, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
The ACT (no writing) test costs $42.50 for the 2016–2017 testing year. The ACT with writing costs $58.50. Additional fees are charged for services including late registrations, test date changes, test center changes, and standby testing.
Fee waivers are available to students currently enrolled in high school in the 11th or 12th grade; who are either a United States citizen or testing in the US, US territories, or Puerto Rico; and meet one or more indicators of economic need listed on the ACT Fee Waiver form. During the 2015-2016 academic year, 617,022 students were awarded fee waivers to test at no cost.
ACT's research seeks to inform decisions at the individual, institutional, system, and agency levels. The ACT has supported a holistic view of college and career readiness, in which academic readiness is one of four critical domains in determining an individual's readiness for success in college and career. Crosscutting skills, behavioral skills, and the ability to navigate future pathways are also important factors affecting student readiness for postsecondary education.
Each year ACT publishes its Condition of College and Career Readiness report, which reports on the progress of US high school graduates relative to college readiness. In addition to the national report, ACT releases focused reports with organizations such as Excelencia in Education, the United Negro College Fund, the National Indian Education Association, and the Asian and Pacific Islander Scholarship Fund to report on academic achievement within those demographic groups.
ACT has articulated policy recommendations in the form of policy platforms in three areas: K–12 education, post-secondary education, and workforce development. In addition to the platform-level policy papers, ACT publishes more targeted policy publications.