The ACT may serve as the world’s most popular college entrance exam, but this iconic test, in conjunction with variations designed for younger grades, fills other assessment roles as well. The ACT has been used by a number of states over the years in lieu of specific state tests to assess academic achievement and college readiness. Consequently, ACT score reports provide a lot more information than most college admissions offices pay attention to, including ACT Reporting Categories.
Reporting categories, which we used to know as subscores, provide a more granular analysis of performance in each section of the ACT. Subscores were generally ignored by both colleges and students in the past, especially since they didn’t really add additional insight into performance. The one exception might have been ACT English subscores; the Usage & Mechanics vs. Rhetorical Skills dichotomy framed the differences between the science and art of effective written English quite nicely. Unfortunately, those subscores are no more, replaced by three different reporting categories:
Conventions of Standard English
More than half (51-56%) of all ACT English questions require students to apply an understanding of the conventions of standard English grammar, usage, and mechanics. Students should be able to address issues in Usage, Punctuation, and Sentence Structure and Formation.
Production of Writing
Nearly one-third (29-32%) of ACT English questions require students to apply their understanding of the purpose and focus of a piece of writing. As we always say, the ACT is fundamentally a reading test. Thus, even on the English section, test takers must read passages and determine whether a text or part of a text has met its intended goal without digression or superfluity. This reporting category demands understanding of both Topic Development and Organization, Unity, and Cohesion.
Knowledge of Language
The ACT never challenged vocabulary mastery to the extreme that the SAT once did. However, students need to come to this test with a fundamental mastery of the finer points of English, including commonly misused phrases, malapropisms, and word choice. This reporting category may not represent much (13-19%) of the English Test as a whole, but many test takers struggle to improve precision and concision in word choice and consistency in style and tone.