OPINION: The ACT should include a social studies section


The standard bubble sheet lingers under a pencil, a common sight for many students preparing to take a test. Image licensed under Creative Commons CC0.

Andrew Meiners, Social Media Director

Taking the ACT is a crucial part of the college application process. Students spend dozens of hours studying test content and often spend hundreds of dollars on test prep books and classes. However, out of the ACT’s four tests, one core subject is missing: social studies. While language arts, for example, is represented in two separate tests, English and reading (three if the optional writing portion is considered), the only mention of social studies content is the social sciences passage in the reading test.

There are two potential ways social studies could be added into the ACT without increasing the length of the test. One approach would include combining the English and reading tests into a single language arts test, and adding in a social studies section to maintain the four-test structure. Another way to add social studies content would be to replace the reading passages with social studies-based excerpts, incorporating both subjects into a single test.

As many young people will take the ACT at some point in their life, and therefore will likely commit a significant amount of time to study for it, including a social studies test would require students to have a strong grasp of history and global affairs before advancing into adulthood. Incorporating social studies into the ACT would round out student knowledge before advancing to college, especially in terms of political participation and understanding of the political process.

Increasing civic engagement

It’s a well known fact that young people vote at a lower rate than older generations. Many factors have been attributed to this phenomenon, including busy schedules and inaccessibility. However, political apathy is consistently cited as a key reason for lower youth turnout.

In order to have a politically active youth demographic, the foundation must be laid for them before they reach adulthood. Closing the generational gap between electoral turnout would be healthy for both young people and our republic, and the best way to accomplish this goal is to educate the youth about their rights and duties before they are expected to participate in the political process.

A social studies section on the ACT could greatly benefit students’ understanding of our government and historical events which will help make them a more informed citizen after high school and, if they choose to attend it, college.