Majority not ready for college, ACT study shows
Posted September 18, 2012 at 11:14 pm in News
The majority of first-year college students in the United States do not have the fundamental skills to be successful in college, according to a recently released ACT report.
The ACT reported that only 25 percent of students in 2011 met all four of the subject area benchmarks. The standardized exam, which has been testing studentsâ college readiness since 1959, tests high school studentsâ English, math, science and reading skills.
The ACT defines college readiness as the acquisition of the knowledge a student needs to be successful in their first year of courses in a post-secondary institution.
Quentin Berger, an assistant professor in the department of mathematics at USC who primarily teaches freshman students, said the fundamental skills acquired during high school prove important in collegiate level classes.
âStudents must know the basic concepts to move on in higher college level math,â Berger said. âMany of the students I have taught so far this year have needed a refresher in basic concepts.â
Some freshmen said they have also experienced the need to review the fundamentals to succeed in their classes.
âIâm in Thematic Option, and with my writing class, I had to relearn the format and learn the right way to phrase things for an analytical paper,â said Dan Graham, a freshman majoring in international relations.
When looking at first-year students enrolled in a four-year private institution, the percentage of students who have attained the fundamental skills for college is higher. Sixty-four percent of students met three or more of the ACT-determined benchmarks.
Over the years, USCâs average ACT score has slowly risen, showing the rise in academic expectations for its incoming students. For this yearâs freshmen class, the middle 50 percent of students had a composite ACT score between 29 and 33. The highest possible score for the ACT is 36.
Director of Undergraduate Admissions Kirk Brennan said that test scores are an important factor in admission decisions, but they are not the only factor.
âScores are worried about too much,â he said. âWeâre also aware of [the testsâ] limitations âŠ I think that we know when to make a bet on a student who might show other strengths where we think that the score might not be an indicator of future success. Too often people worry about the score when they should worry about pursuing rigorous thought and intellectual growth.â
Thomas Leonard, a freshman majoring in business administration, said he doesnât agree that the ACT is an adequate measure of a studentâs college readiness.
âI donât know if [the ACT] shows ability,â Leonard said. âStandardized tests show how hard you can study and who has the most money for tutors to help them study.â
Katie Murphy, a freshman majoring in electrical engineering, said her own personal experiences show why standardized tests are not always the best predictor.
âI didnât do as well on the science portion as the rest of the test even though I took AP science classes in high school,â she said. âThe science section wasnât, âDo you know how to do this?â but more of, âCan you read this graph quickly?ââ
Despite some USC studentsâ concerns that their ACT scores donât have a strong correlation to their actual academic ability, many still said they believe some benchmark test is needed.
âThere has to be some sort of standard to show someoneâs ability,â Leonard said. âYou have to take tests.â
Though tests carry significance, students believe that standardized tests should highlight other strengths a college-bound person might possess.
âSome students have talents in other areas that a test cannot show,â Graham said. âSome individual talents that make students exceptional cannot always be shown on a standardized test.â