SALT LAKE CITY — Students in Utah and across the country who take the ACT college preparation exam will see a different score range on the test's writing portion starting this fall.
Instead of getting a score between 1 and 36, students' writing will be scored on a scale of 2 to 12. The writing test itself won't change, and the English, math, reading and science portions of the test will remain on a 1-to-36 scale, ACT officials announced Tuesday.
Administrators of the national test began converting scores from the writing portion to a 1 to 36 scale last fall to make it appear consistent with the other subjects. But there are inherent differences between the writing test and other subjects that ultimately make them incomparable.
Each student's writing is graded by two judges based on four domains: ideas and analysis, development and support, organization, and language use and conventions. The other four subjects, however, consist entirely of multiple choice answers graded electronically.
Still, students attempted to interpret their reading scores in comparison with the score they got on other subjects, which wasn't an accurate assessment of performance, according to ACT spokesman Ed Colby.
"Of course, it's a logical conclusion for students to look at the 1 to 36 (subjects) and assume that they're all the same. They aren't really," Colby said. "The best way to look at them in terms of how you're performing is to look at the percentile ranks to see how other students do on the test and how you do in comparison to them."
Utah is one of 13 states that administer the ACT to all students. Because of the higher participation, Utah's performance ranks lower than most other states. Last year, Utah's student performance ranked 40th in the country, but it ranked fifth compared to other states with mandatory ACT participation.
Students are required to take the test in order to be admitted to most colleges and universities in the U.S. Each score represents an achievement benchmark required for students to have a 50 percent chance of earning a B in college courses.
Fewer than 1 in 4 Utah students currently meet all four benchmarks, with a statewide composite score of 20.2.