The ACT Holistic Framework

Planning for Future Success Starts Now

What is the ACT Holistic Framework? 

Shifts in education and the workplace are changing how we must think about college and career readiness in America.

To help people navigate these shifts from kindergarten to career (K–Career), ACT has created The ACT® Holistic Framework™ for understanding education and work readiness, navigating life’s transition points, and achieving success.

Built on More than 50 Years of Research

In the early 2000s, it was clear that receiving a diploma and passing a graduation test did not ensure readiness for postsecondary experience. In fact, research and policy reports showed the opposite. Research shows the importance of nonacademic factors for predicting outcomes such as retention, persistence, and engagement in college as well as graduation from college. The ACT® Holistic Framework™ was developed based on this research and knowledge. It defines the new standard for preparing and measuring student readiness for college and careers. 

Building on research conducted at ACT over the last fifty years, ACT’s Holistic Framework provides a more complete description of the knowledge and skills individuals need to know and be able to do to succeed at school and at work.

Applying the ACT Holistic Framework to College and Career Readiness: From Research to Action

Almost two years ago, the National Council for Community and Education Partnerships (NCCEP) welcomed Career & College Clubs into its portfolio of programs. The journey since, expanding the program’s content and sharpening its impact, would have been more difficult–and less successful–without the ACT Holistic Framework and partnership with the ACT research team.

"What Career & College Clubs had been doing in a piecemeal, almost serendipitous way, ACT had codified and systematized in the Holistic Framework. The Holistic Framework’s acknowledgement that academic readiness alone is not sufficient preparation for college and career success strongly resonated with Career and College Clubs’ on-the-ground experience. The work between NCCEP and ACT has been a true partnership. With the Holistic Framework, NCCEP has built a more effective curriculum informed by ACT’s research and expertise, and ACT will be able to measure the effects of the Holistic Framework using a robust dataset. Most importantly, thousands of students will receive the support they need to pursue their goals and aspirations."

Betty Paugh Ortiz, VP of Programs, NCCEP

Betty Paugh Ortiz

The Four Key Domains

Learn more about the four, key domains that emphasize a broad range of skills and encourage a more expansive vision of the outcomes that help to define student success.

Core Academic Skills

Skills that are mapped to learning progressions from K-career.

Cross-Cutting Capabilities

Critical thinking, collaborative problem solving, and information and technology skills.

Behavioral Skills

Skills related to success in education and the workforce.

Education and Career Navigation Skills

Skills related to exploration, planning, and decision making.

Core Academic Skills

Building Upon Well-Defined Foundations

A holistic model of education and workplace success must be anchored in core academic content areas.  While these skills are necessary for success, they do not account for the full range of knowledge and skills that one needs for success.

Learn more about ACT solutions that you can leverage toward improving Core Academic Skills:

Cross-Cutting Capabilities

Enhancing Education and Career Success

The nature of work is evolving. Individuals must now possess cross-cutting capabilities—including information and technology, teamwork, and critical thinking—to enhance learning and application in most, if not all, disciplines and careers.

Learn more about ACT solutions that you can leverage toward improving Cross-Cutting Capabilities:

Social Emotional Learning Skills

Measuring Behavior to Predict Success

While not readily identified on tests or resumes, social and emotional learning skills play an important role in predicting future success. Understanding a student’s behavior can help educators determine potential problems and intervene to help students succeed.

Learn more about ACT solutions that you can leverage toward improving Social and Emotional Learning Skills:

Education and Career Navigation

Progressing Through the Education and Career Journey

Personal journeys through education and career pathways are often filled with challenges and obstacles, making progress difficult and compromise frequent. 

Successful navigation of education and career paths include taking the right high school courses, selecting a college that best meets an individual's needs, exploring and choosing majors, deciding on and pursuing a specific occupation, or changing occupations during a work career. 

Learn more about ACT solutions that you can leverage toward improving Education and Career Navigation:

Additional Resources

Building on research over the last 50 years, ACT has created a holistic framework that can provide a more complete description of the knowledge and skills individuals need to know and be able to do to succeed at school and work. The framework is organized into four broad domains: Core Academic Skills; Cross-Cutting Capabilities, Behavioral Skills, and Education and Career Navigation Skills

General Resources

Behavioral Skills

Education and Career Navigation

Also of Interest

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