ACT (nonprofit organization)
|Founders||Everett Franklin Lindquist|
|Janet Godwin (Interim CEO)|
|Products||ACT Standardized Testing|
ACT, Inc. is an American 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization (NTEE classification B90, Educational Services, per the IRS), primarily known for the ACT, a standardized test designed to assess high school students' academic achievement and college readiness. For the U.S. high school graduating class of 2019, 52 percent of graduates had taken the ACT test; the more than 1.78 million students included virtually all high school graduates in 17 states.
Founded in Iowa City, Iowa, in 1959, the organization has more than 1,000 employees. Its Interim CEO is Janet Godwin, who assumed leadership of ACT in 2020. Previous CEOs include Marten Roorda (2015-2020), Jon Whitmore (2010–2015), Richard L. Ferguson, (1988–2010), and Oluf Davidsen (1974–1988).
In addition to the ACT test, ACT programs include ACT Academy, ACT Aspire, ACT CollegeReady, ACT Online Prep, Mawi Learning, ScootPad, PreACT and PreACT 8/9, ACT Tessera, ACT WorkKeys, ACT Work Ready Communities, and the National Career Readiness Certificate.
The ACT was co-founded by University of Iowa professor Everett Franklin Lindquist in 1959. Lindquist earned his Ph.D. from the University of Iowa in 1927, and then immediately joined its College of Education faculty. In 1929, Lindquist constructed the tests used for the Iowa Academic Meet, a contest to identify Iowa's top high school scholars. In 1935, Lindquist and his colleagues developed the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills (ITBS). In 1942, he introduced the Iowa Tests of Educational Development (ITED) for students in grades 9–12. Lindquist also used the ITED tests to help develop the Armed Forces Tests of General Educational Development, better known as the GED.
In 1958 at a conference sponsored by the Educational Testing Service (ETS), Lindquist presented The Nature of the Problem of Improving Scholarship and College Entrance Examinations. Lindquist argued entrance examinations should evaluate students’ readiness to perform college-level work, and should, therefore, be tests of achievement and not of innate intelligence or aptitude, a clear challenge to the test then known as the Scholastic Aptitude Test (now called the SAT).
Lindquist and Ted McCarrel, the University of Iowa registrar, led a team that developed and then delivered the first-ever ACT test to 75,406 students on November 7, 1959.
- On November 7, 1959, the first-ever ACT test was delivered to 75,406 students.
- In 1964, the ACT introduced the ACT Student Profile, which collects information about students’ interests, plans, and accomplishments.
- In 1972, ACT offered its first professional services examination (Ophthalmic Knowledge Assessment Program, or OKAP).
- In 1973, the ACT Interest Inventory, a tool for education and career exploration, was incorporated into the ACT test.
- In 1983, ACT introduced ASSET®, a program for placing students in postsecondary courses, which later became known as Compass®.
- In 1992, WorkKeys assessments provided applicants, employees, and employers a means for assessing work readiness.
- In 1996, ACT changed its name from "American College Testing" to ACT, Inc.
- In 2005, the writing test was introduced as an optional element of the ACT test.
- In 2006, ACT created the National Career Readiness Certificate, a credentialing tool to confirm foundational job skills.
- In 2012, for the first time, more students took the ACT than took that SAT. In 2013, ACT established the ACT Foundation, intended to help working learners.
- In 2014, ACT introduced ACT Aspire, a longitudinal system for connecting student growth from the elementary grades through early high school.
- In 2015, the ACT test began including additional indicators and scores for English Language Arts (ELA); Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM); Text Complexity; and Career Readiness.
- In 2016, ACT created the ACT Center for Equity in Learning, which focuses on issues affecting underserved students in education and the workforce.
Products and services
The ACT test became the leading college readiness assessment in 2012, surpassing the SAT in the number of students taking the exam. For the US high school graduating class of 2019, 52 percent of all graduates took the ACT. The total number of 2019 high school graduates taking the ACT exceeded 1.78 million.
The ACT measures high school students' general educational development and academic readiness to complete first-year college-level work. For the tested students from the high school graduating class of 2019, 37 percent met ACT's College Readiness Benchmarks in at least three of the four subject areas the ACT tests—English, math, reading, and science.
Scores are reported on a 1–36 scale, with a composite score that represents the average scores from each of the four subject area tests. All ACT scores are reported as whole numbers (e.g., a score of 23.5 rounds up to 24). ACT score reports also include a STEM score, an English/Language Arts score, data on text complexity, and a Progress Toward Career Readiness measure. The average composite score earned by 2019 high school graduates taking the ACT was 20.7.
Virtually all four-year colleges and universities in the United States accept the ACT, but institutions place different emphases on standardized tests, relative to other factors including class rank, GPA, and extracurricular activities. Most colleges do not indicate a preference for the ACT or SAT and accept both. Some colleges accept the ACT in place of the SAT subject tests, and some accept the optional ACT writing section in place of an SAT Subject Test.
Most colleges use ACT scores as only one factor in their admission process, as a supplement to the secondary school record and to help admission officers put local data—such as coursework, grades, and class rank—in a national perspective.
Traditionally delivered in a paper format, the ACT was the first national college admissions test to be offered in a digital format in 2014.
Every three to five years ACT conducts its ACT National Curriculum Survey, which collects data about what students should know and be able to do to be ready for college-level coursework in English, math, reading, and science. The results of the survey are used to inform the ACT College and Career Readiness Standards. The standards are empirically derived descriptions of the essential skills and knowledge students need to become ready for college and career.
ACT also publishes the ACT College Readiness Benchmarks. The benchmarks are scores on the ACT subject-area tests that represent the level of achievement required for students to have a 50% chance of obtaining a B or higher or about a 75% chance of obtaining a C or higher in corresponding credit-bearing first-year college courses. These college courses include English composition, college algebra, introductory social science courses, and biology.
In addition to its use in college admissions, multiple states and thousands of individual school districts use the ACT to assess the performance of schools, requiring all high school students to take the ACT, regardless of whether they are college bound. The states that tested virtually all (95% or more) students in their 2019 graduating classes were Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
Exam fees and fee waivers
The ACT (no writing) test costs $55.00 for the 2020-2021 testing year. The ACT with writing costs $70.00. Additional fees are charged for services including late registrations, test date changes, test center changes, and standby testing.
Fee waivers are available to students currently enrolled in high school in the 11th or 12th grade; who are either a United States citizen or testing in the US, US territories, or Puerto Rico; and meet one or more indicators of economic need listed on the ACT Fee Waiver form. During the 2018–2019 academic year, 487,749 students were awarded fee waivers to test at no cost.
Other ACT programs
- ACT Academy  is a free online learning tool and test practice program designed to help students prepare for the ACT test.
- ACT Aspire  measures readiness in English, math, reading, science, and writing from the elementary grades through early high school (grades 3–10). Performance on ACT Aspire predicts performance for early high school students on the ACT. Tests are available in paper and online formats.
- ACT CollegeReady  is a student success tool that identifies knowledge and skill gaps in math and English and creates a personalized learning path that empowers students to address their individual academic needs. It is administered at the high school and pre-college levels.
- ACT | Mawi Learning  is a CASEL-aligned and research-based comprehensive SEL solution that includes professional development and student curriculum.
- The National Research Center for College and University Admissions (NRCCUA), a membership organization that links colleges and universities to the nation's largest college and career planning program for students seeking post-secondary guidance.
- ACT Online Prep  provides learning content to help students prepare to take the ACT. The program includes lessons covering all four ACT subject tests (English, math, reading, and science), and two prompts for the optional writing test. Students can also take a full-length practice test, which will provide a predicted ACT score.
- PreACT  and PreACT 8/9  are assessments designed to help 10th grade students practice for the ACT test. The PreACT program simulates the ACT testing experience within a shorter test window on all four ACT test subjects and provides scores on the ACT 1-36 scale.
- ScootPad  is a personalized, adaptive learning platform to accelerate classroom and at-home learning.
- ACT Tessera  is a comprehensive next-generation assessment system designed to measure social and emotional learning (SEL) skills. It provides assessments to help K-12 educators measure and evaluate 6-12th grade students’ SEL skills, determine their strengths and areas for improvement, and identify interventions to help them succeed
- ACT WorkKeys  is a skills assessment system that helps employers select, hire, train, develop, and retain their workforce. Its assessments measure foundational and soft skills deemed essential to workplace success. Successful completion of WorkKeys assessments in Applied Mathematics, Locating Information, and Reading for Information can lead to earning the National Career Readiness Certificate (NCRC).
- The National Career Readiness Certificate (NCRC)  is a WorkKeys-based portable credential. Issued at four levels (platinum, gold, silver, bronze), the NCRC certifies that its holder has essential work skills needed for success in jobs across industries and occupations. The NCRC has been earned by more than 3 million people across the United States.
- The ACT Work Ready Communities  program has been adopted by states, counties, and economic development agencies across the United States as a means of providing employers evidence of a skilled workforce
- ACTNext is a research and development center founded by ACT in 2016 with a mission to help people achieve education and workplace success by integrating psychometric theory and data, educational technology, machine learning and artificial intelligence algorithms to support learning and assessment.
- Global Assessment Certificate is a university preparation and foundation studies program that provides students from mostly non-English-speaking backgrounds with academic knowledge and skills to prepare them for western-style postsecondary study. It is owned and developed by ACT Education Solutions, Ltd. (AES), an international subsidiary of ACT, Inc.
ACT's research seeks to inform decisions at the individual, institutional, system, and agency levels. The ACT has supported a holistic view of college and career readiness, in which academic readiness is one of four critical domains in determining an individual's readiness for success in college and career. Crosscutting skills, behavioral skills, and the ability to navigate future pathways are also important factors affecting student readiness for postsecondary education.
Each year ACT publishes its Condition of College and Career Readiness report, which reports on the progress of US high school graduates relative to college readiness. In addition to the national report, ACT releases focused reports with organizations such as Excelencia in Education, the United Negro College Fund, the National Indian Education Association, and the Asian and Pacific Islander Scholarship Fund to report on academic achievement within those demographic groups.
Policy, advocacy, and government relations
ACT has articulated policy recommendations in the form of policy platforms in three areas: K–12 education, post-secondary education, and workforce development. In addition to the platform-level policy papers, ACT publishes more targeted policy publications.
In June 2020, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, SAT and ACT tests have been waived and according to The Washington Post, "States are learning they can live without them, having been given permission by the Department of Education to not give them this past spring." A lot of universities and colleges have set aside the requirement for an SAT or ACT score for school year 2020-2021 and some even until school year 2022.
- "ACT INC ORGANIZATION PROFILE". National Center for Charitable Statistics. Urban Institute. Archived from the original on 30 December 2016. Retrieved 30 December 2016.
- "ACT College and Career Readiness Report 2019" (PDF). The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-08-24.
- "Iowa Top Employers - IA Major Employers". www.mba-today.com. Retrieved 2016-08-10.
- "Richard L. Ferguson". www.iowalum.com. Retrieved 2016-03-30.
- "Code of Fair Testing Practices in Education". apa.org. Retrieved 2016-03-30.
- "Code of Professional Responsibilitie". www.ncme.org. Archived from the original on 2016-05-22. Retrieved 2016-03-30.
- "ACT Policy Platforms | ACT". forms.act.org. Archived from the original on 2016-05-15. Retrieved 2016-03-30.
- Hoover, Eric (2016-06-22). "ACT Plans Center to Help Underserved Students Succeed in College and Work Force". The Chronicle of Higher Education Blogs: The Ticker. Retrieved 2016-08-10.
- Strauss, Valerie (2012-09-24). "Why ACT overtook SAT as top college entrance exam". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2016-03-30.
- "The Condition of College and Career Readiness 2019" (PDF).
- "National Curriculum Survey". www.act.org. Retrieved 2016-03-30.
- "ACT College and Career Readiness Standards | ACT". www.act.org. Retrieved 2016-03-30.
- "College Readiness Benchmarks | ACT". www.act.org. Archived from the original on 2016-04-08. Retrieved 2016-03-30.
- Heitin, Liana. "Two-Thirds of U.S. 11th Graders Now Taking ACT, While Scores Drop Slightly". Education Week - Curriculum Matters. Retrieved 2016-08-24.
- Adams, Caralee J. (2014-10-29). "State Initiatives Widen Reach of ACT, SAT Tests - Education Week". Education Week. Retrieved 2016-03-30.
- "Current ACT Fees and Services". www.act.org. ACT. Retrieved 19 July 2016.
- "The Condition of College and Career Readiness 2019 (Infographic)" (PDF).
- "ACT Academy".
- "ACT Aspire".
- "ACT CollegeReady".
- "ACT | Mawi Learning".
- "National Research Center for College and University Admissions".
- "ACT Online Prep".
- "PreACT 8/9".
- "ACT Tessera".
- "ACT WorkKeys".
- "National Career Readiness Certificate".
- "ACT Work Ready Communities".
- "South Carolina WorkReady Communities". dew.sc.gov. Archived from the original on 2016-06-30. Retrieved 2016-08-10.
- "ACT Holistic Framework of Education and Work Readiness". www.act.org. Retrieved 2016-03-30.
- "The Condition of College and Career Readiness 2019".
- "National Research Leader in College and Workforce Readiness". ACT. Retrieved 2016-08-10.
- "The Condition of College & Career Readiness 2015 - Hispanic Students | Excelencia in Education". www.edexcelencia.org. Retrieved 2016-08-10.
- "Achievement Inches Forward for African American Students, Though Large Gaps in Readiness Persist | UNCF". www.uncf.org. Retrieved 2016-08-10.
- "National Indian Education Association". www.niea.org. Retrieved 2016-08-10.
- "APIASF: Asian & Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund. Today's Minds, Tomorrow's Future®". www.apiasf.org. Retrieved 2016-08-10.
- "ACT Policy Platforms | ACT". forms.act.org. Archived from the original on 2016-05-15. Retrieved 2016-03-30.
- "Policy Publications | ACT". forms.act.org. Retrieved 2016-03-30.[permanent dead link]
- "It looks like the beginning of the end of America's obsession with student standardized tests". The Washington Post. June 21, 2020.
- "Ohio State waives ACT, SAT score requirement for 2021-22 applicants". The Lantern. 2020-06-22. Retrieved 2020-07-16.
- Justin, Raga (2020-06-19). "Texas universities are shelving SAT and ACT requirements as coronavirus scrambles admissions process". The Texas Tribune. Retrieved 2020-07-16.
- "SUNY schools waive SAT, ACT requirements amid coronavirus pandemic". syracuse. 2020-07-01. Retrieved 2020-07-16.