Information Brief 2014-8

How Particular Outcomes of Test Preparation Relate to ACT Scores

Jeff L. Schiel and Michael J. Valiga

Composite Score Changes of Students Who Took the ACT on Two Occasions

Test Preparation ActivityAverage Score Change
Did not help me understand subject matter (n=883)1.1
Helped me understand subject matter (n=3,720)1.5
Did not refresh my memory of content areas (n=456)1.2
Refreshed my memory of content areas (n=4,202)1.4
Did not familiarize me with the test (n=348)0.9
Familiarized me with the test (n=4,290)1.4
Did not build my confidence (n=665)0.8
Built my confidence (n=3,972)1.5

Note: These findings are based on data from 9,654 students who took the ACT twice, either for the first time in spring 2012 and the second in fall 2012, or for the first time in fall 2012 and the second in spring 2013. The students also completed a survey of their test preparation activities.

We know from ACT research that test preparation is modestly related to positive changes in scores on the ACT® college readiness assessment.1 For students who took the ACT twice, we wanted to know how particular outcomes of preparation, such as experiencing increased confidence or becoming familiar with the test format, related to test scores.

  • Students who believed their preparation built their confidence for the second test earned ACT Composite scores about 1.5 points higher on average than on the first test. Students who did not have this belief experienced smaller score changes (average of 0.8 points higher).
  • Students who reported their preparation for the second test familiarized them with the test so that they knew what to expect outperformed students who did not (average Composite score change of 1.4 versus 0.9 points, respectively).
  • Students who reported their preparation for the second test refreshed their memory of the content areas had somewhat larger average Composite score changes (1.4 points) than students who did not (1.2 points).
  • Students who believed their preparation for the second test helped them better understand particular subject matter experienced larger score changes than those who did not have this belief (average Composite score change of 1.5 versus 1.1 points, respectively).

1 Students who reported preparing for a second ACT test earned Composite scores on that test that averaged about 1.4 points higher than their scores on the first test (see Information Brief 2014-6). In addition, the more time students spent preparing, the higher the average Composite score change from the first to the second test (see Information Brief 2014-7).


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