SEO Headline (Max 60 characters)

Study: Grades Are 5 Times Stronger Than ACT Scores

January 29, 2020

High school grade point averages are five times stronger than ACT scores at predicting who will graduate from college, according to a new study published Tuesday in Educational Researcher.

The study was based on data from 55,084 students who graduated from the Chicago public school district between 2006 and 2009 and immediately enrolled in a four-year college. Across all high schools in the study, which included high schools with sharply differing performance, each incremental increase in GPA is associated with an increase in the odds of graduating college. The study did not find similar gains based on ACT scores.

“While people often think the value of GPAs is inconsistent across high schools, and that standardized test scores, like the ACT, are neutral indicators of college readiness because they are taken by everyone under the same conditions, our findings indicate otherwise,” said Elaine M. Allensworth, who conducted the study with Kallie Clark, both of the University of Chicago. “The bottom line is that high school grades are powerful tools for gauging students’ readiness for college, regardless of which high school a student attends, while ACT scores are not.”

Ed Colby, a spokesman for ACT, said, “Research has found that test scores often show larger correlations with first-year grades for certain student subgroups, college majors or institutional characteristics. Second, and more importantly, that’s not the point. These measures are not in competition with each other. High-stakes decisions such as admissions to college aren’t, and shouldn’t be, based on a single measure. Rather, the point is to take a holistic view of students and consider multiple factors. Therefore, the goal is not to identify the single best predictor but the combination of relevant factors needed for college success -- factors that are predictive of future performance and provide unique information about an applicant’s readiness to succeed.”

Share Article

Scott Jaschik

Scott Jaschik, Editor, is one of the three founders of Inside Higher Ed. With Doug Lederman, he leads the editorial operations of Inside Higher Ed, overseeing news content, opinion pieces, career advice, blogs and other features. Scott is a leading voice on higher education issues, quoted regularly in publications nationwide, and publishing articles on colleges in publications such as The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, Salon, and elsewhere. He has been a judge or screener for the National Magazine Awards, the Online Journalism Awards, the Folio Editorial Excellence Awards, and the Education Writers Association Awards. Scott served as a mentor in the community college fellowship program of the Hechinger Institute on Education and the Media, of Teachers College, Columbia University. He is a member of the board of the Education Writers Association. From 1999-2003, Scott was editor of The Chronicle of Higher Education. Scott grew up in Rochester, N.Y., and graduated from Cornell University in 1985. He lives in Washington.

Back to Top