College & Workforce Readiness

Students Increasingly Take ACT Before Senior Year

By Caralee J. Adams — November 12, 2014 2 min read
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A new report out today from ACT, Inc. shows that 75 percent of high school students in the class of 2014 took the ACT before their senior year, up from 66 percent nearly 10 years ago.

It’s a positive trend, according to the Iowa City, Iowa-based testing company, because it can get students started in the college process earlier.

The shift is not a big surprise as statewide administration of the ACT for juniors expands, says Phil Trout, a school counselor at Minnetonka High School in suburban Minneapolis and the president-elect of the National Association for College Admission Counseling.

Since the ACT is a subject-mastery test, Trout says counselors try to get students to stall until at least the second semester of their junior year to take it, so they have a chance to learn the material. Yet, many are anxious to take the exam even earlier. “Parents think it’s important to get a jump and to be ahead of the curve,” he says.

Taking college-entrance exams in 11th grade can be good to give students a sense of how they can perform and set realistic goals for where they might apply to college, says Trout. It can also create an avenue for students to take the exam again as a senior and prep for certain subjects, he says.

Nationwide, ACT officials report that 44 percent of students take its exam more than once, up from about 37 percent in 2004. About half of SAT test takers repeat the exam, often taking it once as a junior and again as a senior, according to the College Board.

Elsewhere in the new College Choice Report, ACT finds that 48 percent of ACT-tested 2014 graduates chose not to send their scores to specific colleges for free when they registered to take the ACT. In 2005, just 28 percent skipped the option of selecting four schools to automatically receive their test results. Instead, most students are waiting to see their scores and then pay a fee to send them with their application.

While ACT notes that not giving colleges the scores immediately means passing up the option of letting colleges recruit students earlier, Trout says the reluctance is understandable.

“Kids and parents are scared to death. They don’t want colleges to see anything bad and they are frightened to get a score that is not what it should be,” he says.

Still, Trout tells students if they take the test again, colleges will recognize the higher score.

Trout suggests ACT consider allowing student to “bank” at least two score reports to have them sent later at the request of the student for free.

A version of this news article first appeared in the College Bound blog.