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.”


Jobs Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.
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.
Reading & Literacy Webinar
Science of Reading: Emphasis on Language Comprehension
Dive into language comprehension through a breakdown of the Science of Reading with an interactive demonstration.
Content provided by Be GLAD
English-Language Learners Webinar English Learners and the Science of Reading: What Works in the Classroom
ELs & emergent bilinguals deserve the best reading instruction! The Reading League & NCEL join forces on best practices. Learn more in our webinar with both organizations.

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 AI Is Common Thread Through the Big Challenges Schools Are Facing, New Report Says
Recruiting and retaining educators, cybersecurity, and scaling innovation across schools are some of the biggest challenges.
3 min read
School-aged boy using laptop in classroom.
iStock / Getty Images Plus
Classroom Technology 8 Tips for Schools to Avoid Chaos in the Age of AI
Most district leaders are in the beginning stages of figuring out how to integrate AI into K-12 education.
6 min read
A group of researchers studies elements impacted by artificial intelligence
Kathleen Fu for Education Week
Classroom Technology What Is Age-Appropriate Use of AI? 4 Developmental Stages to Know About
Child development experts and teachers offer advice on when K-12 students should start using AI-powered tech and for what purposes.
11 min read
Elementary, Middle, and High-school age children interact with a giant artificial intelligence brain.
Kathleen Fu for Education Week
Classroom Technology New York City Schools Went Online Instead of Calling a Snow Day. It Didn't Go Well
The nation's largest school system attempted remote learning again since the pandemic, but got it interrupted by technical difficulties.
5 min read
A woman plays with a child who is sledding in New York's Central Park Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024. Technology glitches kept many New York City teachers and students from virtual classes Tuesday—the first attempt by the country's largest school system to switch to remote learning for a snow storm since the COVID-19 pandemic.
A woman plays with a child who is sledding in New York's Central Park Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024. Technology glitches kept many New York City teachers and students from virtual classes Tuesday—the first attempt by the country's largest school system to switch to remote learning for a snow storm since the COVID-19 pandemic.
Frank Franklin II/AP