Classroom Technology

High-Achieving Students More Likely to Try AI, ACT Survey Finds

By Alyson Klein — December 21, 2023 2 min read
Woman using computer chatting with an intelligent artificial intelligence asks for the answers wants. ChatGPT Chat with AI or Artificial Intelligence technology. knowledge on the internet, e-learning,
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Top scorers on a national college entrance exam were more likely to have used artificial intelligence tools like ChatGPT for school assignments, hobbies, entertainment, or just experimentation than students with low or average scores, concludes a survey released this month by ACT, the nonprofit organization that administers the exam.

Nearly half of high school students who responded to the survey—46 percent—said they had used AI tools. But more than half who scored in the top quartile of the test nationally—53 percent—said they had used AI tools at some point, ACT reported.

That’s compared to 45 percent among students who scored in the middle 50 percent on the exam, and 36 percent among those who scored in the bottom quartile.

The finding that top scorers were more likely to have used AI tools at some point may seem counterintuitive to those who expect students would only use AI to cheat on class assignments.

But it came as no surprise to Leigh Ann DeLyser, the executive director and co-founder of CSforALL, a nonprofit that seeks to improve computer science education.

“These tools can be powerful to assist learning, and it takes instruction and collaboration between teachers and students to reach that point,” she said.

She suggested that teachers emphasize a “mastery-based approach” when learning with AI (meaning working to understand something deeply) as opposed to a more transactional approach of working just to get a particular grade or pass a course.

The most commonly used AI tool among all students in the survey was ChatGPT, which 83 percent of those who had used AI had tried, followed by Dall-E 3 (17 percent), Bing Chat (11 percent), and Google’s Bard (8 percent).

Among the 54 percent of students who said they didn’t use AI tools, 83 percent said they simply weren’t interested. Nearly two-thirds said they didn’t trust the information the tools provide, and more than half—55 percent—said they didn’t know enough about the tools to use them.

Top scorers were also less likely to report that they don’t know much about AI tools than those who scored in the bottom quartile. Sixty-nine percent of low-scoring students said they didn’t know much about AI, compared with 47 percent of top scorers. The ACT report was based on information from a survey of more than 4,000 high school students conducted earlier this year.

High-scoring students were also more likely to say that they had access to AI tools. Just eight percent of top scorers said they hadn’t used AI because they lacked access, compared with 31 percent of students scoring in the bottom quartile.

That makes sense to Andrew Smith, who teaches computer science and math at Woodstock Union High School in Vermont.

Students who are good at “accessing resources have probably figured out how to use ChatGPT just to be better learners,” he said. For instance, one student recently asked for Smith’s help in writing code after also consulting ChatGPT for guidance and coming up short.

This student clearly didn’t want AI to “write the code for him because he was in here talking to me” for help, Smith said. “He sees it as a tool.”


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Student Well-Being Webinar
Attend to the Whole Child: Non-Academic Factors within MTSS
Learn strategies for proactively identifying and addressing non-academic barriers to student success within an MTSS framework.
Content provided by Renaissance
Classroom Technology K-12 Essentials Forum How to Teach Digital & Media Literacy in the Age of AI
Join this free event to dig into crucial questions about how to help students build a foundation of digital literacy.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Classroom Technology Spotlight Spotlight on Academic Integrity & AI
This Spotlight will help you examine how teachers are combatting AI cheating, discover how to structure lessons in AI literacy, and more.
Classroom Technology Opinion The Promise and Peril of AI for Education
As GPS did for our sense of direction, AI could erode students’ connection to knowledge.
8 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
Classroom Technology What Educators Need to Know About AI’s Impact on Black Students
Four experts weigh the balance between providing access to AI and protecting students from its dangers.
3 min read
Teacher Helping Female Pupil Line Of High School Students Working at Screens In Computer Class
Classroom Technology Q&A Google Executive: What AI Can and Can't Do for Teachers
Jennie Magiera, Google's head of education impact, discusses the role AI should have in K-12 education.
8 min read
Close-up stock photograph showing a touchscreen monitor with a woman’s hand looking at responses being asked by an AI chatbot.