History of ACT

The concept for the American College Testing Program emerged in the 1950s, and the organization itself was founded in 1959. At the time, U.S. political and demographic developments were inspiring major changes in attitudes about, and approaches to, higher education.

Photo of classroom, 1959 Prior to 1959, there was just one national college-entrance testing program, a program that focused on identifying the most academically able students for admission to the nation's selective universities. The remainder of college students were admitted either on the basis of scores earned on entrance exams offered by individual states or colleges or on the basis of family ties.

In the late 1950s, large numbers of students were approaching college age and wanted to attend college. Financial aid to students was increasing, and most colleges desired increasing enrollments. It was in this environment that ACT's founders established The American College Testing Program, Inc., now known as ACT. ACT's first testing program, the ACT Assessment, was designed to serve two purposes:

As the nation's view of education evolved to embrace lifelong learning, ACT's programs and services have similarly grown and evolved—helping people plan for, and assess, learning and training throughout their lives, while in school or the workplace. As a result, ACT has played an increasingly important role in the nation's educational enterprise, by contributing to the scope of the nation's educational vision and delivering programs that support that vision.

In late 1996, we changed our name from American College Testing to ACT (pronounced "A - C - T"). This new name, already recognized and used by students and educators around the world, formally reflects ACT's diverse and evolving roles:

In 2002, we officially acknowledged our growing role in supporting both education and the workforce. A new corporate structure was announced, comprising two divisions: Education and Workforce Development. The new governance structure consists of a 14-member Board of Directors, and the expanded advising structure retains the ACT State Organizations but now also includes two distinct Advisory Boards, one for each of the new divisions. These changes all undergird our ongoing commitment to providing information for transitions into both education and the world of work.

ACT Goes International

In 2005, the creation of ACT International, B.V. enabled us to build upon the services we had developed over the past five decades and to extend them to individuals and organizations throughout the world.

ACT International has two subsidiaries:

The move into the international arena is in close accord with ACT's mission. ACT is still an independent, not-for-profit organization, dedicated to helping individuals attain their educational and career goals through assessment programs with solid research foundations.