Research

ACT Engage® College scores are important predictors of GPA and retention. They can be used in conjunction with other measures (e.g., prior academic achievement) to help select students who have high levels of risk.

See the annotated bibliography for an overview of research materials supporting ACT Engage.

This application was examined using a sample of students at four-year institutions. Specifically, the selection accuracy of different sets of predictor variables was compared. The effectiveness indicator used to assess the incremental value of measuring ACT Engage scores was the percentage of selected students accurately identified as having dropped out or experiencing academic difficulty (defined by semester GPA < 2.0).

Several procedures were compared: (1) random selection, (2) using an achievement test score (e.g., ACT® Composite score), (3) using ACT Engage scores, and (4) the combination of achievement and ACT Engage scores.

Percent of 4-Year Students Identified to Be At-Risk

Selection Method Accuracy of Identification
Drop OutAcademic Difficulty
Random 10%20%
ACT Composite Score Only* 16% 44%
ACT Engage Only* 24%46%
ACT Composite Score + ACT Engage* 25% 51%

*Students scoring in the bottom 5% of these populations were flagged.

The numbers shown in the table are the percentages of students who were predicted to either drop out or experience academic difficulty and who actually did.

In predicting which students will experience academic difficulty, using random selection will yield accurate predictions 20% of the time, using ACT scores alone raises accuracy to 44%, with the highest accuracy achieved using both ACT and ACT Engage scores in combination.

Predicting students who drop out of college follows the same trend.

Thus, using ACT Engage scores alone provides an improvement over current selection methods available to institutions. And, by using ACT Engage scores in combination with traditional predictors, the rate of accurate identification of high-risk students is maximized for both dropout and academic difficulty.

ACT tested over 14,000 students at 48 postsecondary institutions using ACT Engage College and tracked these students through their college careers. Results show that ACT Engage is a valid predictor of academic performance and persistence. It provides additional information that more accurately identifies students who are at-risk of poor grades and drop out, beyond measures of academic achievement alone (Robbins, Allen, Casillas, Peterson, & Le, 2006; Allen, Robbins, Casillas, & Oh, 2008). The figure shows how the psychosocial factors measured by ACT Engage help explain academic performance in college (Robbins et al., 2006). Note that these findings are very similar to the findings for middle school.