Validity of Low ACT Scores

Different uses of the ACT Assessment emphasize different intervals on its 1–36 score scale. Its use by colleges for applicant selection and course placement emphasize the middle and upper intervals of its score scale, and these uses have been extensively validated.

Its uses by school districts and state departments of education to assess high school students and evaluate high school performance potentially utilize more of the ACT score scale. The purpose of this study was to investigate the meaningfulness of lower ACT scores to inform the appropriate use of the ACT as an every-student-test for all high school students, not just college bound high school students.

Predictive and concurrent criterion validity approaches were used in combination with non-parametric regression to examine the usefulness of low ACT scores. Predictive validity was demonstrated for the ACT Composite score using first-year college grade point average, and meaningful distinctions between ACT Composite scores were observed down to a score of 12. Concurrent validity between WorkKeys tests and the ACT math and reading tests was investigated using non-parametric regression. Meaningful distinctions among ACT math scores were observed down to a score of 11, and ACT reading score distinctions were observed down to a score of 7.

Considering that nearly all students earn scores in the range where meaningful distinctions were observed, results indicate that nearly all high school students - not just college bound high school students - have meaningful ACT scores. Hence, it is appropriate to use the ACT as an every-student-test to assess students’ achievement of the high school curriculum.

Validity of Low ACT Scores

The ACT is an achievement test typically taken by junior and senior high school students. Colleges and universities use ACT scores for applicant selection and course placement. In recent years, the ACT has been used increasingly by school districts and state departments of education to assess individual high school students and evaluate high schools.

Uses of the ACT in secondary and post-secondary education are intimately related. The ACT is designed to measure knowledge and skills taught in high school, and its success in predicting academic performance in college depends on its success in measuring mastery of the high school curriculum. However, these different uses of the ACT emphasize different intervals on its 1–36 score scale. The middle and upper intervals of the score scale are of greatest concern for college applicant selection (depending on the selectivity of the college). Assessment at the high school level potentially involves a broader range of the ACT score scale.