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Course-taking and Test Performance

The American College Testing (ACT) Assessment is another national college-entrance examination whose results are used by many college administrators as part of their admissions procedures. [13] Students taking the ACT are asked to self-report details of the high school curriculum they have taken.
ACT officials have identified a certain series of high school courses as "core" courses, i.e., those that are recommended as college preparatory courses. [14] By correlating the self-reported coursework data with the ACT test scores, ACT officials are able to compare the scores of students who have taken at least the core courses with the scores of students who have taken less than the core curriculum.
In every racial/ethnic group, students who completed the core subjects scored higher on the ACT tests than those who had not taken all the core courses. (See figure 3-5.) The composite scores of the students who took the core courses were at least 12 percent above the composite scores of those who had not.

Figure 3-5

An analysis of students taking the core courses reveals that there is a pattern of less participation by the underrepresented minorities. While 68 percent of Asians and 55 percent of whites took the core courses, a majority of black, American Indian, and Puerto Rican students did not take the core course series, and the number of Mexican Americans who took the core courses was virtually even with the number who did not. As would be expected from this pattern, the composite scores of the students in these latter four groups were lower than the scores of whites and Asians. (See appendix table 3-7.)
A higher proportion of both sexes among whites, Asians, and Puerto Ricans/Hispanics took the basic core courses than did not. For American Indians, however, the majority of students of both sexes did not take the minimum core courses. Fifty percent of black females took the core courses, although less than half of black males took the basic core curriculum (47 percent). The situation was reversed among Mexican Americans: The majority of males took at least the core courses, while the majority of females did not.
Mirroring the results in the SAT scores, in all racial/ethnic groups the ACT composite scores for males were higher than for females. (See appendix table 3-7.) Females in all racial/ethnic groups scored higher in English than their male counterparts and scored virtually even with males in reading. Males scored higher than females in math, however, and in science/reasoning the scores ranged from 3 percent higher for black males than females to 8 percent higher for American Indian males than females.


13. ACT officials report that college-bound students who take the ACT Assessment are in some respects not representative of college-bound students nationally. First, students who live in the Midwest, Rocky Mountains and Plains, and the South are overrepresented among ACT-tested students as compared with college-bound students nationally. In addition, ACT-tested students tend to enroll in public colleges and universities more frequently than do college-bound students nationally (American College Testing Program 1993). Up arrow

14. The ACT core courses consist of 4 or more years of English, 3 or more years of mathematics, 3 or more years of social studies, and 3 or more years of science. Up arrow


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