Why the ACT?

Why students take the ACT and the flaws within the system



Highland teacher Kerrie Baughman instructs an ACT prep class.

Halle Backman, Feature Editor

A question that many Highland juniors have been asking themselves this past year is: 

Why do I have to take the ACT? 

It seems like a valid question, because the ACT isn’t a reliable way to measure how smart someone is, though that appears to be its purpose. And the ACT has the power to determine the future of the students who take it. 

That doesn’t seem fair. 

Many schools have gone “test optional” in the past few years, but the rule still stands that the better the score someone gets, the better their chance at being accepted into their dream school. 

Little do most students know that they actually take the ACT to demonstrate college readiness, not how smart they are. It’s supposed to be about how they work under pressure, and for how long they can hold their focus. 

“I think over time, it’s been shown to predict what [colleges] are looking for, but it’s not the only predictor,” ACT prep teacher Kyle Dittmer said. 

The problem is, that doesn’t seem to be common knowledge. Or maybe it is, but that purpose is lost as students become so invested in getting good scores, that they forget the ACT isn’t the only thing that will get them acceptance letters. 

They also forget exactly how to take the test. 

“I think the biggest thing is that people try to bring their past knowledge, like their learning coming into it, and that’s not what the test is about,” Dittmer said. “The test is about your ability to take information you’ve been given right then, except for the math section.” 

For students taking the ACT, that’s hard to remember while they’re testing. In the beginning of the exam, pressure and nerves can affect how students interpret the information they’re given. By the end, it’s simply tiredness in the brain. 

“What was hardest for me was mostly just being able to focus on something for that long,” Highland junior Stella May said. “I know always by the science section I was doing a lot worse, and not being able to focus as well, because at that point I’d been testing for over four hours.”

May thinks the test might have been easier to handle if teachers had spent more time in the weeks leading up to it, helping prepare their students for what it would be like. 

“It’s just not really relatable to what we’re doing in class,” May said. 

The emphasis on the ACT creates a pressure for students that distracts what it’s true purpose is, which is to just demonstrate where they’re at in terms of college. And the test itself is flawed. It’s all about strategy and time management, and some people, even the best of students, simply aren’t good test takers. 

“People are just frustrated because the test stressed them out, and they know they’re not going to be able to perform as well under pressure, even if they know the content.” May said.