Far too many students are not ready for high school and college and are unsuccessful in transitioning throughout the educational pipeline. This is why it is critical to monitor student readiness early and often. EXPLORE® is based on a philosophy that the best way to determine students' readiness for further education and careers is to measure as directly as possible the knowledge and skills students will need in those settings.

Through various studies, ACT has reviewed the factors that are impacting student readiness and achievement. The Forgotten Middle, a study conducted in 2008, shows that, under current conditions, the level of academic achievement that students attain by eighth grade has a larger impact on their college and career readiness by the time they graduate from high school than anything that happens academically in high school. The report also reveals that, on average, eighth-grade students who are not on target for college and career readiness are much less likely to be ready for college and career by high school graduation than eighth-grade students who are on target.

How has ACT's research informed college and career readiness?

As a national leader in policy research on college and workforce training readiness, ACT has decades of empirical data that have informed the following:

  • ACT's College Readiness Standards
    Our College Readiness Standards are detailed, research-based descriptions of the skills and knowledge associated with students' knowledge and abilities as they progress through school.
  • ACT's College Readiness Benchmarks
    While the College Readiness Standards describe the skills students likely have, ACT's College Readiness Benchmarks empirically establish college readiness as measured by performance on EXPLORE, PLAN®, or the ACT® test.
  • Common Core State Standards
    Our longitudinal data and long-standing commitment to all students becoming college and career ready uniquely established ACT as a valuable partner in—and advocate for—the Common Core State Standards Initiative. ACT's College Readiness Standards, upon which EXPLORE is based, are aligned with the Common Core State Standards. ACT data were used to develop the Common Core State Standards, which reflect a shared goal of preparing students for credit-bearing college courses and for careers and are consistent with international standards that promote high student performance.