Appropriate ACT Test Use

Since its founding more than 60 years ago, ACT has served its nonprofit mission of helping people achieve education and workplace success. With core values pursuing equity in education and placing the student at the center of everything we do, ACT has long provided guidance for students, education and scholarship agencies, and postsecondary institutions regarding intended uses, benefits, and outcomes for ACT test scores and data.

The primary purpose of the ACT test is to measure students’ level of college and career readiness in core academic areas. The test is a comprehensive system of data collection, processing, and reporting designed to help high school students develop postsecondary education plans and to help institutions meet the needs of their students.

This document provides an overview of appropriate and recommended test use according to ACT. When considered in the context of the whole student, ACT suggests test scores and data have appropriate uses in the cases outlined below.

  • ACT test scores should only be used in conjunction with other data and information that students provide to institutions regarding their individual interests and motivations. Effective student recruitment programs leverage this information to better understand and serve students throughout the pre-enrollment process.
  • In addition to a test score, ACT results provide institutions with valuable information about a student’s academic background, postsecondary plans and interests, and progress toward career readiness.
  • ACT test scores should be weighed as one of multiple elements to paint a clear picture of the whole student as an institution considers whether to admit an applicant. Other elements in a holistic process may include high school transcripts, interviews, portfolios, letters of recommendation, extracurricular activities, and essays.
  • While test scores should never be the sole factor considered, appropriate weight should be given to their ability to reveal potential incongruities between a student’s high school GPA and probability of timely college graduation in good academic standing.
  • As a partial measure of academic achievement, ACT test scores can be valuable when weighed as one of multiple elements to determine scholarship awards in a review of the whole student.
  • As ACT’s College Readiness Benchmarks outline the minimum scores required for a student to have a high probability of success in standard first-year college coursework, institutions are encouraged to incorporate ACT data in course placement decisions.
  • Details of a student’s measured competence in areas such as mathematical functions, interpretation of scientific data, conventions of standard English, and understanding of complex reading texts can effectively inform specific academic interventions and supports they may need.
  • When students indicate to ACT whether they expect to seek help with education planning, writing, reading, math, or study skills, institutions should consider proactive interventions to provide related support as early as possible.
  • Data from ACT’s Interest Inventory, a guide to help students identify personally relevant educational and occupational career options, offers an effective way to help consider whether their choice of academic major is a low-, medium-, or high-fit.