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Improving College Performance and Retention the Easy Way: Unpacking the ACT Exam

Author

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  • Eric P. Bettinger
  • Brent J. Evans
  • Devin G. Pope

Abstract

Improving college performance and retention can be difficult. We propose a simple and low-cost change in the way colleges use the ACT exam in their admission decisions that can greatly increase their ability to identify students at a high risk of underperforming and dropping out. Specifically, we show that only two of the four subtests of the ACT, English and Mathematics, can effectively predict outcomes in college. This result is robust across various samples, specifications and outcome measures. We demonstrate that by eliminating the noise associated with the two nonpredictive subtests, student-college matches can be significantly improved. (JEL I23)

Suggested Citation

  • Eric P. Bettinger & Brent J. Evans & Devin G. Pope, 2013. "Improving College Performance and Retention the Easy Way: Unpacking the ACT Exam," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 5(2), pages 26-52, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aejpol:v:5:y:2013:i:2:p:26-52 Note: DOI: 10.1257/pol.5.2.26
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Rothstein, J.M.Jesse M., 2004. "College performance predictions and the SAT," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 121(1-2), pages 297-317.
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    Cited by:

    1. Black, Sandra E. & Lincove, Jane & Cullinane, Jennifer & Veron, Rachel, 2015. "Can you leave high school behind?," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 46(C), pages 52-63.
    2. Foote, Andrew & Schulkind, Lisa & Shapiro, Teny M., 2015. "Missed signals: The effect of ACT college-readiness measures on post-secondary decisions," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 46(C), pages 39-51.
    3. Yang, Guangliang, 2014. "Are all admission sub-tests created equal? — Evidence from a National Key University in China," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 30(C), pages 600-617.
    4. Bai, Chong-en & Chi, Wei & Qian, Xiaoye, 2014. "Do college entrance examination scores predict undergraduate GPAs? A tale of two universities," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 30(C), pages 632-647.
    5. Bulman, George, 2017. "Weighting recent performance to improve college and labor market outcomes," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, pages 97-108.
    6. Judith Scott-Clayton & Peter M. Crosta & Clive R. Belfield, 2012. "Improving the Targeting of Treatment: Evidence from College Remediation," NBER Working Papers 18457, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Hinrichs, Peter, 2014. "Affirmative action bans and college graduation rates," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 42(C), pages 43-52.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I23 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Higher Education; Research Institutions

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    1. Improving College Performance and Retention the Easy Way: Unpacking the ACT Exam (AEJ:EP 2013) in ReplicationWiki

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