What is the correlation between GPA & ACT

We hear parents tell us constantly that their student is a really good student who has an excellent GPA, but they can’t seem to get the ACT score they want. So now what? Their student probably is a great student who pays attention in class, completes their homework, and tests well, however the correlation between a students’ GPA and their ACT is wildly different.

There are several factors that lead to this conclusion: grade inflation, test-taking skills, and knowledge of the ACT. Within this blog, we will break down all reasoning as to why GPA has little to do with your ACT score.

Grade Inflation

Does it seem like every high school student you talk to now a days has a 4.0 or higher? That’s because most of them do. Grade inflation is a complex issue with a range of statistics to consider.

The overall trend:

  • Average GPAs have been steadily increasing: Between 2010 and 2022, the average adjusted GPA increased in all core subjects. For example, in math, it climbed from 3.02 to 3.32, representing a significant shift from a B to a B+.
  • More A’s and B’s, fewer C’s and D’s: Across subjects, the percentage of students receiving A’s and B’s increased, while those receiving C’s and D’s decreased.
  • Grade inflation across all student groups: The trend is present for students of all income levels and backgrounds, not just specific demographics.

    Specific details:

    • Math shows the highest inflation: Math grades have seen the most pronounced increase, raising concerns about potential dilution of rigor in these courses.
    • Standardized test scores such as the ACT/SAT don’t reflect GPA growth: While GPAs have risen, standardized test scores like the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) haven’t shown similar improvements, suggesting a disconnect between grades and actual academic mastery.

    Test-Taking Skills

    The correlation between test-taking skills and the ACT score is moderate to strong, but not perfect. Studies have shown that students with better test-taking skills tend to score higher on the ACT, but other factors also play a significant role.

    Here are some stats to illustrate the correlation:

    • Meta-analysis of test-taking interventions: A 2009 meta-analysis found that test-taking strategies improved standardized test scores by an average of 0.19 standard deviations. Applied to the ACT, this translates to roughly 3 points on the composite score, which can make a big impact for college admittance or more scholarships.
    • ACT research: ACT’s own research suggests a positive correlation between specific test-taking skills and performance on different sections of the ACT. Since the ACT is a timed test, most students tend to run out of time in certain sections of the test. However, students who are good at time management and pacing tend to score higher on the Math and Reading section, which has tight time constraints.

    Test anxiety or specific difficulties: For students prone to test anxiety or struggling with certain question types, dedicated test-taking strategies and practice can significantly improve performance, even with a strong knowledge base.

    Knowledge of the Test

    While test-taking skills come in handy and can increase your overall score, knowledge of the test and what the test-makers are looking for is key to unlock the test itself. Our expert Tutor, Caleb Pierce, is adamant that once you know what to look for on the test, learn the strategies, and practice the content of which is on the test (a.k.a. do your homework), students will have all of the confidence to meet or exceed their ACT goals.

    • Understanding the format of the test, question types, and timing strategies can be immensely valuable. While a strong knowledge base is essential, test-taking skills can help maximize that knowledge within the limitations of the format.
    • Prioritize solid understanding of the content. Maximize your ACT math score by prioritizing core skills. Algebra II is a crucial building block for success with the ACT. Conquer it first, and the test will be more manageable.
    • Students with a solid grasp of the material may need less emphasis on test-taking skills and can focus on applying their knowledge strategically during the test. Test-taking skills can still be helpful for managing time and approaching certain question types, but thorough understanding of the subject trumps specific test-taking tactics.

    Overall, dedicated students who have an ACT goal in mind and choose to prioritize that goal are the students who will succeed the most. A solid understanding of the content, alongside relevant test-taking skills form the foundation for success on a standardized test such as the ACT.

    No matter what GPA students have, when they prepare for the ACT with Get Smarter Prep, we build a foundation of knowledge from what we know will be including on the test, test-taking strategies to help build confidence in their testing ability, and most importantly, a significant reduction in stress on test day.

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    Recap of the New York Times Article

    Recap of New York Times Post

    The New York Times recently wrote an article about the misguided information surrounding standardized tests such as the SAT/ACT. Now, some experts and universities are wondering if a test-optional approach is truly beneficial for both the student and university or if it’s time to bring back testing requirements. Below is a recap of the New York Times post.. 

    In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, numerous selective colleges temporarily abandoned SAT and ACT requirements for applicants. While initially framed as a response to pandemic-related challenges, the shift towards test-optional policies has persisted, sparking debates about their impact on equity in higher education.

    Originally hailed as a victory for fairness, some experts and university administrators are now questioning whether the move was a mistake. Recent research indicates that standardized test scores offer valuable insights into predicting college success, graduation rates, and post-college achievements. Despite concerns about test-related stress and biases, proponents argue that these scores provide a more reliable metric than high school grades, which are susceptible to grade inflation.

    Test-Optional Approach

    Critics of the test-optional approach suggest that removing standardized tests makes it challenging for admissions officers to distinguish between applicants likely to excel at elite colleges and those who may struggle. Research has shown that test scores can be particularly beneficial in identifying lower-income students and underrepresented minorities with great potential.

    The debate over standardized testing in college admissions intersects with broader issues of inequality, affirmative action, and the purpose of higher education. While some view tests as an unfair barrier, others argue that they serve as a critical benchmark, especially given existing biases in other parts of the admissions process.

    Data from studies, including one covering Ivy Plus colleges, indicates a limited relationship between high school grades and college success, emphasizing the predictive power of test scores. However, the reluctance to reinstate test requirements is attributed to political factors, with standardized tests facing opposition from progressive circles concerned about racial and economic disparities.

    The article explores the case of M.I.T., which reinstated its test requirement, emphasizing that scores are not the sole determining factor. M.I.T. achieved a diverse class by using test scores to identify promising applicants from less advantaged backgrounds. This approach challenges the assumption that standardized tests hinder diversity.

    College Admissions

    Ultimately, the debate revolves around whether standardized tests should be one of several criteria in admissions decisions. Critics argue for a more fundamental shift in the admissions process, favoring a lottery system based on minimum requirements. However, supporters of standardized tests contend that they provide an objective benchmark amidst the subjectivity of other application components.

    As colleges grapple with the test-optional dilemma, the article suggests that the progressive rejection of standardized tests may be a polarized position not entirely grounded in empirical evidence. While seeking to reduce inequities, the test-optional trend may inadvertently deny opportunities to lower-income, Black, and Hispanic students who could benefit from these tests.


    In conclusion, the article underscores the complexity of the standardized testing debate, emphasizing the need for a nuanced approach that considers both equity concerns and the valuable insights these tests can provide in identifying talented and diverse student populations.


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    Kansas Educational Enrichment Program

    Kansas Educational Enrichment Program

    Kansas Educational Enrichment Program: Boosting Kids’ Learning After COVID-19

    The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted education for many Kansas families. To help kids get back on track and embrace new learning opportunities, the Kansas Educational Enrichment Program (KEEP) is here! This program provides up to $1,000 per eligible student to spend on educational goods and services that spark their curiosity and ignite their academic success.

    Who qualifies?

    • Kids aged 5 (as of August 31, 2023) to 18 years old (as of May 31, 2024).
    • Students above 18 still in high school with active K-12 enrollment proof.
    • Families with income at or below 300% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines (check the chart below to see if you qualify!).


    What can you spend the money on?

    KEEP opens a world of possibilities! Browse an online marketplace filled with educational resources like:

    • Tutoring and academic support: Get one-on-one help for subjects needing extra attention.
    • Enrichment activities: Explore music, art, coding, STEM programs, and more!
    • Summer camps: Immerse your child in new experiences that ignite their passions
    • School supplies and technology: Equip your child with the tools they need to thrive.

    Multiple kids in the family? No problem! Enroll them all and manage their individual award funds easily through a dedicated dashboard. Shared custody or foster care situations? KEEP understands. Only one parent/guardian applies per child, and students in foster care are eligible regardless of income. Just provide the necessary documentation.

    Getting started is simple! All applicants must provide:

    One of the following documents to prove Kansas Residency

    • Current Kansas Driver’s License or ID renewal postcard
    • Current Kansas vehicle registration
    • Utility bill or equivalent no more than two months old
    • Financial institution documents such as a bank statement, deed, or mortgage with a current Kansas address
    • Rent or lease agreement dated within the last 12 months
    • Kansas Voter Registration Card

    Head over to the KEEP website and apply today! Let’s work together to give every Kansas child the chance to learn, grow, and reach their full potential.


    • Applications are reviewed on a first-come, first-served basis, so don’t wait!
    • Check the website for updates and eligibility details.

    For further questions, please feel free to contact us about how to use the KEEP awards for ACT Tutoring



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    The February ACT - A Smart Choice

    Reasons to take the February ACT

    Taking an official ACT in February can be super beneficial for students since many students can take up to two tests in the same month. For Kansas public school Juniors, the state provides an additional ACT at their school during school hours. This year that test lands on February 27th, so preparing for the February test dates may be a smart decision for a lot of students.

    Two Tests in One Month

    Typically, we encourage students to prepare for the ACT 8-10 weeks prior to the test date, which makes the start of prep for the February 10th ACT the beginning to mid-December. For Kansas Juniors preparing for the February 27th test, the best time to start is the end of December or beginning of January, which is perfect since students will be in the middle of Winter Break.

    With the option of two test dates in February, taking the official ACT on February 10th and then again two and half weeks later, the content will remain fresh, and you will know what to expect when it comes to taking the test. Just remember to keep studying in between test dates and of course, use the strategies your tutor has given you so you can maximize your ACT prep efforts and potentially obtain a higher score.

    Test scores are released typically ten days to two weeks after the test date, so scores should start to be released on February 20th. This gives you an idea of what you need to focus on before you take the next test. Use your time wisely and concentrate on areas that need attention.

    February is also the least popular test date, meaning fewer test-takers and therefore fewer distractions. This could translate to a calmer testing environment. If that’s important to you, then consider the February ACT.

    College Applications

    If your score isn’t what you hoped for, you have ample time to retake the test in April or June, refine your study approach, and still meet early application deadlines. No pressure, just valuable test-day experience.

    Colleges see thousands of applications in the spring. By applying early with your February ACT score, you stand out from the crowd. This can be a significant advantage, especially if you’re aiming for competitive schools.

    Of course, February isn’t for everyone. Student athletes in the midst of basketball or volleyball season may feel completely overwhelmed and this test date may not be for them. Consider your individual study pace, comfort level with early deadlines, and overall testing strategy. But if you’re a motivated student looking for an edge, February could be your ticket to ACT success.

    Remember: Every student is different. Weigh the pros and cons carefully and choose the ACT date that best suits your needs and academic journey. Get Smarter Prep has several ACT Prep options to choose from including three different ACT Prep Courses, ACT Semi-Private Tutoring, and ACT Private Tutoring. Good luck!

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    Requesting ACT Accommodations

    Requesting ACT Accommodations

    If you’re a student prepping for the ACT and need accommodations for the test, make sure you prepare well in advance since ACT has changed the way accommodations are submitted. In the past, students have submitted a request through ACT.  However, to request accommodations now, students need to work with a school official since accommodations requested need to be similar to the accommodations students currently receive in school. Accommodations must still be approved by ACT BEFORE the test date. 

    1. Register for the test.

    Login into MyACT and register for the test. Keep in mind, you will need to link a valid high school into your account before you register to allow ACT to communicate your registration to the associated school official in TAA. You can search for your high school by zip code.

    After you have started the process, select ‘Yes’ when prompted to confirm you need accommodations. If you selected ‘no’, you will need to contact ACT as soon as possible to update your registration if you need to test with accommodations. 

    2. Submit your request for accommodations to your school official.

    Once you are registered, you will receive an email that need to be forwarded onto your school official. You also need to complete a Consent to Release Information to ACT (PDF) form.

    Your school official will need to submit your request for accommodations in TAA before the late registration deadline for your specific test date. This request can take up to 10 days to process.

    Note: If you have approved accommodations, you do not need to submit a new request.

    3. Review the notification with your school official.

    Stay in contact with your school official. You can review the decision notification with your school official and if the request was denied, you have until the late registration deadline to submit an appeal.

    If you haven’t received an update within 10 days, please contact your school official directly.

    4. If you are approved for special testing, plan accordingly.

    Students are expected to make arrangements with their school official to test within the special testing window at their own school. If your school cannot administer the test, please contact ACT to make other arrangements.

    5. Be sure to print your admission ticket.

    All students must upload a photo by a certain date, so be sure to do this and review your admission tickets to ensure it shows your accommodations. Double check your testing center to be certain the location provides your accommodations.

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    Building a High School Resume

    Building a High School Resume

    A high school resume is not just a document; it’s a reflection of your journey, experiences, and potential. Building a strong high school resume can open doors to college admissions, scholarships, and future opportunities. In this blog, we’ll explore the essential steps to create a compelling high school resume that showcases your skills, achievements, and character.

    Start Early

    Building a high school resume is a gradual process that should begin as soon as you enter high school. The earlier you start, the more time you’ll have to accumulate experiences and shape your narrative. It’s never too early to set goals and plan your path to success.

    Academic Achievements

    Your academic achievements are the foundation of your high school resume. Maintain a strong GPA, take challenging courses, and strive for excellence. Highlight any honors, awards, or recognition you receive, such as being on the honor roll, winning academic competitions, or receiving scholarships.

    Extracurricular Activities

    Participation in extracurricular activities can demonstrate your interests, leadership skills, and commitment. Join clubs, sports teams, or student organizations that align with your passions. Leadership roles, like club president or team captain, can make your resume stand out.

    Volunteer Work

    Volunteering not only contributes to your community but also adds depth to your resume. Document your volunteer work, emphasizing the impact you’ve made and the skills you’ve developed. Consider volunteering in areas that relate to your future goals, whether it’s healthcare, education, or environmental conservation.

    Work Experience

    Part-time jobs, internships, or summer employment can provide valuable experience and skills. Describe your roles, responsibilities, and achievements in each job, emphasizing skills like communication, teamwork, and problem-solving.

    Personal Projects

    If you have personal projects, hobbies, or passions that are relevant to your future aspirations, include them on your resume. For example, if you’re an aspiring filmmaker, mention any films you’ve created, film festivals you’ve participated in, or workshops you’ve attended.

    Leadership and Achievements

    Highlight any significant accomplishments or leadership roles in your activities. Whether it’s winning a debate competition, organizing a charity event, or leading a community project, these experiences showcase your character, initiative, and potential.

    Skills and Abilities

    Incorporate a section that lists your skills and abilities. This can include language proficiency, computer skills, artistic talents, or any certifications you’ve earned. These skills can set you apart and make you a well-rounded candidate.

    Awards and Honors

    Don’t forget to showcase any awards or honors you’ve received. This could be recognition for academic excellence, community service, or achievements in specific areas like music, sports, or science competitions.


    Include references from teachers, mentors, or supervisors who can vouch for your character and abilities. Their endorsements add credibility to your resume.

    A well-crafted high school resume is a powerful tool for opening doors to your future. It not only helps with college admissions but also lays the foundation for success in your personal and professional life. As you work on your high school resume, remember that it’s not just about the quantity of activities but the quality of your experiences and the stories you can tell. Start early, stay committed to your goals, and let your resume reflect your unique journey and potential. Your high school years are an opportunity to build a resume that will help you achieve your dreams. If you need guidance building a high school resume, we have tutors who are here to help you every step of the way. 

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    National Average ACT Score

    The Struggles of a Shrinking ACT Score

    The Struggles of a Shrinking Average ACT Score: Adverse Effects on College-Bound Students and how Test Prep Can Help.

    The landscape of college admissions has recently seen a significant shift, with the average ACT score plummeting to 19.5. This change has brought about unforeseen challenges for students preparing to embark on their college journeys. While we’ll explore the adverse effects of this new norm on aspiring college students, we’ll also review the benefits of test preparation in more aspects than just the ACT.

    Reduced Competitiveness:

    With the average ACT score declining to 19.5, many students may feel that they need to work even harder to stand out in the increasingly competitive world of college admissions. Lower average scores could create the illusion that admissions have become less selective, pushing students to improve their applications and seek out additional extracurricular activities to compensate for lower scores.

    Less Clear Benchmark:

    Standardized tests like the ACT have traditionally provided a benchmark by which students could gauge their readiness for college. A lower average score can confuse students about what is considered a competitive score for their desired institutions, leading to increased uncertainty and stress during the application process.

    Increased Reliance on Other Factors:

    As standardized test scores become less prominent, colleges will likely place more emphasis on other factors like GPA (even inflated GPA), letters of recommendation, and extracurricular activities. While this may seem beneficial, it can also create a more significant burden on students to excel in these areas and make it even more challenging for them to differentiate themselves from their peers.

    Impact on Scholarships and Financial Aid:

    Scholarships and financial aid packages often consider standardized test scores when awarding funds. A lower average ACT score might result in fewer opportunities for merit-based aid. Students who could have qualified for financial assistance may find themselves with limited options due to the reduced importance of standardized test scores.

    Educational Preparedness:

    The lower average ACT score could be seen as an indication of declining educational preparedness. While the test’s validity has been questioned, it has historically aimed to assess students’ knowledge and readiness for college-level work. The lower average score might raise concerns about the quality of pre-college education.

    Get Smarter Prep Students:

    While the average ACT score continues to drop, students who have come through GSP for ACT prep have seen more than just an increase in their own ACT scores. When preparing for the ACT, students build knowledge in English, Math, Reading, and Science which in turn helps their overall ability to score better in their core subjects in high school. Overall, students are more likely to increase their high school math scores, write more affluent essays, and test more confidently since applying test taking strategies. With multiple options for ACT Prep including our ACT Prep Course, Semi-Private or Private Tutoring, Get Smarter Prep students have a much higher rate of increasing their ACT scores. 

    The new average ACT score of 19.5 reflects a changing landscape in college admissions. While it may ease the pressure on some students, it introduces a new set of challenges, especially for those who aspire to attend selective institutions or those who want to attain scholarships. Ultimately, a comprehensive approach to college admissions should consider not only standardized test scores but also a student’s entire academic journey, experiences, and potential to thrive in a college environment.



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    Planning Ahead

    Planning Ahead

    In a prior blog, we wrote about what we at GSP consider the Top 10 Test Prep Traps that students and parents can fall into. The first item on that list was “taking the test too early” – before the end of sophomore year. But, understandably, as many parents (and students!) find themselves overwhelmed with the whole junior and senior year process, parents vow to start earlier next time. “You’ll see!”, they think. “Davey will start preparing for the ACT in 7th grade!”

    It sounds reasonable, at first. Planning ahead is a responsible thing to do. Taking one’s time with a project or task is generally more enjoyable than saving it until the very last minute, and there’s so much going on during junior year that it might feel like there’s not nearly enough time to do the necessary work.

    The main reason we cited in our previous post for not beginning so early is that students generally haven’t had the necessary coursework tested by the ACT and SAT before the end of their sophomore year. But that isn’t the only reason. It’s also important to consider that the tests do change periodically – sometimes in small ways, sometimes via larger overhauls.

    Practicing for the SAT years before taking it is akin to attempting to write college essays years in advance – not only is it unlikely that a student has the necessary experience and knowledge to be successful, it’s also nearly certain that the requirements will actually change, meaning that much (if not all) of that effort would be wasted.

    We at GSP have had some conversations about this concept of “too early,” and how to answer the question, “but what should we do, then?”. Here are some tips and suggestions we’ve come up with for how younger students – and their parents – can best prepare for the standardized tests of the future.

    1. READ!

    Every tutor I spoke with listed reading as the number one thing students should focus on. Here’s what some of them said about the importance of developing good reading habits:

    “Just read regularly. Can be books, news, magazines, or whatever. […] Most test taking strategies are about time use, but if you can’t understand what they’re saying then there’s little point.” – Logan Terry

    “[Students should] read whatever they can get their hands on for reading comprehension, to see how proper punctuation and grammar are used, and to familiarize themselves with vocab words.” Madison Huber-Smith, former tutor

    “The best thing a 7th grader can do to prepare for the ACT/SAT/PSAT/LSAT/MCAT/GMAT/LIFE is to read everything and anything. The more varied a kid’s reading experiences, the better prepared they are to do well on standardized tests. Reading is so important for every section of standardized tests — even math and science. […] Test prep works best for students who have a solid grasp of reading comprehension and the ability to make mental leaps from step A to B to C in a multi-step problem. All the test taking strategies in the world won’t help if you can’t understand the words you are reading and can’t problem solve. ” Gina Claypool

    2. Encourage “a spirit of curiosity and learning.”

    From Gina,: “Read with your kid. Discuss books, magazine and news articles (that way, you know if your kid is comprehending what they are reading), documentaries, etc. If your kid shows an interest in a subject you know nothing about, say “let’s learn about that together”. I’m kind of a nerd, but, in the summers before going to work, my mom would leave a logic puzzle for my sisters and me to solve, and I loved it. I think doing fun logic puzzles was a key factor in my enjoyment of math and science.”

    3. Address difficulties with math as they arise.

    It’s not unusual that students have forgotten some of the math they’ve learned by the time start preparing for the ACT and SAT – and that’s OK! Reviewing that content is part of what we do. But it’s more time-consuming to address math topics that a student didn’t really understand the first time around. Madison: “I have students complain that they had bad teachers for certain classes, and it affects them when it comes time to review for the ACT. A strong, early grasp of algebra is so key!”

    4. Relax!

    “Don’t worry about it too much. Do your homework, stay in school, and get involved in things that interest you. The ACT isn’t going to determine how successful you become. It’s just one of the first hoops you have to jump through in life.” – Caleb

    Audrey Hazzard is a Tutor at Get Smarter Prep.

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    ACT Percentiles

    ACT Score Percentiles

    The ACT is one of the most popular standardized tests in the country, and its scores are used by colleges and universities to determine whether you are eligible for admission. Once you receive your scores, you may be wondering how you compared to everyone else who took the ACT.

    ACT percentile rankings are based on a simple calculation. When you take the ACT, your score is calculated against the scores of all other students who have taken the test at a given time. The lowest possible percentile rank is 1st, which means that you scored better than 99% of all test-takers. The highest possible percentage rank is 99th, which means that you scored better than 99% of all test-takers.

    For example, let’s say you scored a 19 (a 19.8 is the national average) on your ACT. That typically means you did better than 53% of test-takers. A score of 28 would be better than 90% of all test-takers.

    The chart below is a good visual to compare ACT Score National Ranks.

    National Distributions of Cumulative Percents for ACT Test Scores ACT-Tested High School Graduates from 2023 & 2024
    ACT Score Percentiles Chart

    Other Factors

    As a reminder, your ACT score and national rank are a piece of what colleges are looking at when you apply. Each college will be different and there are other factors as well such as GPA, challenging high school curriculum, extra-curriculars, leadership skills, well-written & thoughtful essays, demonstrated interest, letters of recommendation, etc. Get Smarter Prep has tutors available to help guide you through the process. Learn more about our College Counseling.

    Not every student needs to score in the 30’s. Let’s say you are interested in attending University of Kansas. KU has an acceptance rate of 92%. Students that get into KU have an average ACT score of 21-29, which is between 64%-92%. Now let’s take a look at Northwestern University in Illinois. Their acceptance rate is 7% and students have an average ACT score of 34-35, which is in the 98-99% of the ACT National Percentages.

    Regardless of where you are in the ACT Score National Ranks, we are here to help. Get Smarter Prep offers one-on-one, Private Tutorials, in-person ACT Prep Courses, and Online ACT Courses for every ACT test date. Prepare now. Look at your course load, your extra-curriculars and see when you can best fit in ACT prep. We can help you choose the right test date for you and help you put your best foot forward.


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