# Information Brief 2012-31

## High School Math, ACT Benchmarks, and College Degree Completion

The highest level of math coursework taken in high school is an important
indicator of likely success in college.^{1} For ACT-tested 2003 high school
graduates who immediately enrolled in a four-year college in fall 2003, the
six-year bachelor’s degree completion rate was 12 percentage points higher
for students who took high school math courses beyond Algebra I, Geometry,
and Algebra II than for those who did not (67% vs. 55%).

However, doing well in courses that are rigorous is more important for
students to gain the skills they need to be ready for college-level work.^{2}
Students who took Algebra I, Geometry, and Algebra II in high school and
met the ACT Mathematics Benchmark had higher bachelor’s degree completion
rates than those who took math beyond Algebra II but did not meet the
Benchmark. Similar results were seen when degree completion rates were
examined by both high school science courses taken and ACT Science
Benchmark attainment.

### Bachelor’s Degree Completion Rates by High School Mathematics Coursework Taken and ACT Mathematics Benchmark Attainment

Solid lines are for those who met the Benchmark and dashed lines are for those who did not meet the Benchmark.

Student Group | Year 4 | Year 5 | Year 6 |
---|---|---|---|

Took coursework beyond Algebra I, Geometry, & Algebra II; benchmark met | 48% | 68% | 74% |

Did not take coursework beyond Algebra I, Geometry, & Algebra II; benchmark met | 41% | 61% | 67% |

Took coursework beyond Algebra I, Geometry, & Algebra II; benchmark not met | 30% | 49% | 57% |

Did not take coursework beyond Algebra I, Geometry, & Algebra II; benchmark not met | 24% | 43% | 49% |

Note: Based on data from a random sample of 18,860 ACT-tested 2003 high school graduates who enrolled in a four-year college in fall 2003. Degree information was obtained from the National Student Clearinghouse.

Degree completion rates were model-based estimates. For a more detailed description of the study, see the full ACT Research Report 2012-2.

^{1}Adelman, C. (2006). The toolbox
revisited: Paths to degree completion
from high school through college.
Washington, DC: U.S. Department
of Education.

^{2} ACT. (2007). Rigor at risk: Reaffirming
quality in the high school core
curriculum. Iowa City, IA: Author.

infobrief@act.org for more information or to suggest ideas for future ACT Information Briefs.