Hello again, Magooshers, and welcome to the 2016-2017 school year! Pretty soon the weather will cool down, the leaves will change colors, and pumpkin spice lattes will be back at Starbucks. Yet most importantly, another school year means another crop of students ready to take (or retake) the ACT.
For the ACT newbies out there, you probably have a lot of questions about this upcoming high-stakes test. Today I want to go over the validation of ACT test results. In a nutshell, I’ll be talking about what the ACT measures, and how the good folks at ACT make sure that the test is the best it can be.
What is validity?
Good question. In short, if a standardized test is valid, it means that it measures what it is designed to measure. If a standardized test isn’t valid, you might as well turn the pages into toilet paper.
And before you ask, yes, the ACT is worth a bit more than toilet paper.
The ACT (like the SAT) is intended to be an objective measure of your college potential. Objectivity is important. After a college admissions counselor reads (hopefully) glowing recommendations from your teachers, he or she needs a way to step back and consider you as a potential college student. An objective, valid ACT score gives him or her another picture of your abilities. Of course, grades are still the most important factor of any college application.
How is the ACT validated?
A lot of testing, just not the testing you’ll be doing. You see, when ACT creates a new English, Math, Reading, or Science question, it takes a while to figure out if it’s valid. This means every new question spends a year or more going through trial tests with students like yourself. The results are closely studied. If too many students get the question wrong/right, it needs tweaking. Also, ACT question writers also need to find out if their questions are biased against any group of people. If everything checks out, the question is put into an upcoming test. Old questions go into the myriad of books you find in the ‘test prep’ section of your local bookstore.
As the ACT is administered seven times a year, ACT is always writing and reviewing new questions. Granted, the ACT, like the SAT, recycles its tests, usually 18 months apart. So there is a (small) chance that you might come across the same test more than once. The odds are so teeny-tiny, though, that I wouldn’t worry about it.
So is the ACT valid?
Mostly. Unfortunately for the test writers, it’s impossible to make a 100% valid predictor of student success. In fact, some studies have suggested that certain sections of the ACT are more valid than others.
Now before you go freaking out, rest assured that college admissions counselors know that the ACT is an imperfect instrument. If it were, you wouldn’t need to submit your grades, teacher recommendations, and admissions essays to colleges. Just think about how stressful applying to college would be if 100% of your application was a test score.
Well, I hope you’ve learned a little about the validation of ACT test results. As someone who’s been on both sides of the teacher’s desk, I can confidently say that the ACT is an excellent predictor of college success. Finally, no matter if test day is two months or one year away, my advice remains the same: take those practice tests!
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About Thomas Broderick
Thomas spent four years teaching high school English, social studies, and ACT preparation in Middle Tennessee. Now living in Northern California, he is excited to share his knowledge and experience with Magoosh's readers. In his spare time Thomas enjoys writing short fiction and hiking in the Sonoma foothills.
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