Studying for the ACT Might Not Help

A new report says that a rigorous high school course load is more likely to improve scores.

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Think a last-minute cramming session is going to help you score higher on the ACT exam? Think again. A new study from the University of Chicago found "no evidence that scores benefit from learning testing strategies or from practicing on test questions outside of taking a full, timed practice test."

In 2005, researchers set out to find out why juniors at three Chicago public high schools were not getting the ACT scores they needed to qualify for scholarships and admission to colleges. The students were apparently a highly motivated bunch. Most of them entered high school with grade-level academic skills. What the researchers found was that teachers spent too much time "emphasizing testing skills, practicing test questions, and doing broad, shallow content coverage" rather than focusing on "what really matters—deep analytic work in academic classes." Translation: You can't really "study" for the ACT. Students who take their high school education seriously will most likely do well on the test—assuming their high schools took their job seriously.

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