Has college admissions testing ever been this competitive? I’m not speaking from the test taker’s perspective, though today’s teens seem to fighting harder than ever for seats at name-brand colleges. But the test makers are under massive pressure from each other, traditional testing opponents, and even upstarts trying to break into the lucrative admissions exam market. Economists assure us that competition benefits consumers by driving performance and innovation. One way ACT, Inc. seeks to maintain the top position in the admissions test arms race is by delivering more value in the basic ACT score report.
The test maker out of Iowa City has tracked what it calls ACT College Readiness Benchmarks. The College Readiness Benchmarks describe, for each ACT section, the minimum score associated with a 50% chance of earning a B or better and approximately a 75% chance of earning a C or better in the corresponding college course or courses. With recent reports declaring only a third of U.S. teens ready for college, readiness is certainly worth tracking.
Usually, the topic of benchmarks would rarely come up, except for that time of year ACT issues the annual Condition of College & Career Readiness. But now they are moving front and center in the enhanced ACT test score reports premiering in the 2016–2017 academic year:
Each reporting category also will show the ACT Readiness Range, which will enable students to see at a glance how their performance on each reporting category compares to students who have met the ACT College Readiness Benchmark for that specific subject.
Reporting categories, which are also new, are simply multiple-choice section scores broken down by more useful skill or content areas than the current subscore scheme. The combination of reporting categories and readiness ranges delivers actionable information in each student’s score report. Knowing, for example, that you are weaker in Knowledge of Language than you are in the other two functional ACT English areas is one thing, but seeing that you don’t even meet the College Readiness Benchmark in that area is quite another. Innovations like these add greater educational value to admissions exams, helping to ensure the test that helps get you into college can help you stay there.