The ACT exam results for the 2010 high school graduating class are being released. The ACTs are used as part of admissions to colleges and universities, and the results show that barely 25 percent of high school graduates are prepared for entry level English Composition (ENC 1101) courses alone. At the same time, not all colleges and universities require that students take English Composition – or subjects such as math and science that are also on the ACT.

The American Council of Trustees and Alumni believes so strongly in the value of subjects such as English Comp that its members graded institutions on their core requirements. ENC 1101 courses provide students the ability to write clearly and accurately, enabling them to better participate in the workforce and society, according to the council’s “What Will They Learn?” website. The site also mentions a survey where employers reported that having excellent writing and reading skills that are a part of English Comp to be important.

For What Will They Learn, the Council gathered information on more than 700 institutions throughout the United States and found that 77 percent of them made ENC 1101 courses a requirement. Even fewer require courses in the other subject areas. Lamar University made the council’s “A” list. This Beaumont, Texas, institution is one of sixteen four-year colleges and universities requiring that students take six to seven of what the American Council of Trustees and Alumni considers core courses: math, science and English Composition, as well as literature, economics, foreign language and US government/history.

Students who take the ACTs are graded on a scale of 1 to 36 in the subject areas of English Composition, algebra, social studies and biology. The ACT also provides a means for determining the “college readiness” of students. ACT results varied among states and demographic groups, with 71 percent of West Virginian students and 59 percent of New Mexican students prepared for college level English Comp, reports from KRQE News 13 and the Huntington Herald Dispatch showed.

In Abilene, Texas, students scored above the statewide college readiness level in this English course and social studies and below it in biology and algebra, according to an article in the Reporter-News. ACT results also suggested that a little more than one-third of Iowa’s African-Americans are prepared for ENC 1101, the Des Moines Register noted. In Minnesota, a representative of one institution told of a new testing and English placement policy where students have to meet certain requirements in order to take required English Composition courses.

With the number of international students attending American colleges and universities on the rise, English Composition courses might take on added significance. International students who are non-native English speaking students particularly often participate in English as a Second Language programs. To help Tulane University’s international students succeed in their educational pursuits, English professor Kathleen Carlin offers an advanced English Comp class, the student newspaper, Tulane Hullabaloo, noted.

The University of Southern California requires that all students take at least two English Composition courses. Depending upon scores for placement tests taken at the institution, the university might also require that they take Introduction to College Writing or its non-native English speaker version, Introduction to College Writing in a Second Language. As part of the University of California’s American Language Institute, students can also gain the skills they need to write dissertations.

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