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Juliana Reitz

The flaws associated with the ACT

January 11, 2018

You’re stuck in a room that is most likely too hot or too cold surrounded by people. It’s 7 am, and you’re taking a test that you have never taken before in your life. This vigorous three hour and 35 min long test will play a tremendous part in determining the college you’ll get admitted too, your finances if you get a scholarship or not, and basically your future after high school. You will be given a number out of 36 that will predict where you will go in life after high school.

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More than a million high school students take the ACT each year. The ACT is a standardized multiple choice test which includes areas pertaining to Math, Reading, Science, English, and Writing (optional). The ACT was developed as an alternative to the SAT to help colleges and universities make admission decisions easier. In my opinion, I believe that there are several imperfections regarding the ACT.

The first of many flaws with the ACT is that it can be pretty biased if you really think about it. Those who don’t speak English fluently and those who are from a lower socioeconomic class have an unfair disadvantage.  Taking the ACT can be extremely expensive especially if you plan to take it more than once or twice. Money is a huge factor because not everyone has $62.50+ laying in their bank account waiting to be used. Also, those who can afford more can afford outside courses and tutors to help them. The ACT is also unfair towards those who might not be as fluent in English as others. If you’re like me and you don’t understand what a question is asking right away then it’s harder for you to answer that question. Think if you were a transfer student from a different country taking the ACT. You’ve only been in America for a few years and have yet to understand the English system. In my opinion, I believe the creators of the ACT purposely re-word the question to make it harder on the test taker, so I feel like it would be extremely difficult to decipher what the context of the question is trying to ask if you don’t fully understand English.

Another fault that I think is associated with the ACT is that entire subjects that are a part of the high school curriculum are completely brushed aside. Social studies, geography, and history are left out of the ACT. Not saying I want it in there per say, I’m more announcing how students who excel greatly in those subjects don’t get the chance to prove what they are good at and possibly enjoy. The ACT only focuses on math, areas of English, and science.  Since we’re talking about science, it’s main focus is on reading complicated graphs and interpreting numbers and results which is only a small portion of what science is really about. Not only do they ignore subjects like history, they also disregard the personal electives that students could be strong in. Electives including business, art, engineering, music, gym and many more subjects are not included in the test. Why should someone who is passionate and talented in art or music have to take a test that doesn’t highlight what they are best at? If a student wants to go to a college to become an artist, the college should be able to look at what they know about art rather then how to read a graph about dogs and eating habits.

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We all know colleges look at your ACT scores along with many other components to decide if you are a good candidate for that college. The big question though is how accurate is the ACT test? According to data from the ACT, the margin of error is 1.55 pts in English, 1.43 in Math, 2.20 in Reading, and 1.75 in Science. That being said if a student were to retake the test, there would be a high chance that their score would be 1.55 higher or lower from a previous time on the English test. While some may think these numbers are too small to do anything, it can actually have significant consequences when colleges require a cut off score. I know of several people who did decent the first time, then did worse the second time. Taken from my standpoint, I think that the fact that you can do worse the second time shows that the ACT doesn’t truly show where you stand as a student. A huge factor that goes into taking the test is how well you feel that day. You can feel great your first time and score well but then the second time you lack sleep which makes you do worse. To me, the ACT or any standardized test shouldn’t be the biggest requirement that determines your future. Taking into account the margin of error and how much it can affect your score as a whole, it truly does matter how you feel that day of the test. Why should someone who is already high in stress have to stress even more about a test where your results can mostly come from how you feel during the test rather than the knowledge you actually have???

Lastly, the weakness of the ACT shines greatly through with its foreign format. The ACT is not at all like how you would normally test in high school. There are no true and false questions, no short answers, and no fill in the blank. There are multiple choice questions but that’s it. You would think high schools would give tests similar to how an ACT test is to help prepare them or the ACT format would be similar to the tests high school students take for four years. I highly believe that the ACT is a test that focuses not on how well you can think through a problem or voice your thoughts, but rather is about being able to memorize information that is needed to meet the time requirement. The ACT is planned to be taken near the end of junior year for most which are when schedules are filled with AP/college classes and extremely high levels of stress. To expect an average junior to manage their busy schedule filled with sports and high-level classes while studying for the ACT is immensely unfair and somewhat unrealistic.

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Parents and adults believe that the ACT is this wonderous test that can easily compare students from all across America. Well, they’re wrong. With these flaws taken in mind, how well does the ACT actually compare every student going to college? Not well at all. If colleges really wanted to analyze how well a student is, they should look more at their personal work like volunteer hours, GPA, grades, jobs, social media, etc. rather then a number that comes with several defects. You could be the smartest person in your entire grade but also be the biggest partier. The type of personality and who you are as a person should stand out more to colleges rather than a score from 1-36. While there are some colleges out there that don’t require an ACT score, I hope in the future other colleges and universities become more lenient towards requiring an ACT score because I sincerely think that the ACT is not what should determine your life after high school especially with vast flaws like stated above. Students should be able to focus on improving their own skills and actually learn information that could be relevant to their lives, not memorize answers to a test that will serve no purpose in the far future when you’re 79 years old telling childhood stories to your grandkids.

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