Doorway to College

Impact of ZAPS by Ability Level

The most frequent question students ask about ZAPS test preparation is, “How much can I raise my score?” The guidance office or administration generally wants to know, “What evidence is there to show that this program has a positive impact?” This study attempts to shed light on these questions.

The accompanying tables show the impact of the ZAPS ACT Test-Preparation Seminar for students of various levels of ability. The study included 445 students from three high schools who took the ACT for the first time in October.* In February or March, these students then participated in a five-hour ZAPS seminar and received a supply of practice materials for each ACT subtest: English, Math, Reading, and Science. Following this preparation, students again took the ACT the following April.

Comparing Three Groups by Student Ability

For purposes of this study, the ACT Composite Score of the first test was used to separate the data into three groups. (When students talk about "my ACT score," they’re actually referring to the Composite Score; it is the total of the 4 subtests, divided by 4.)

  • Low-performers, scoring 18 or lower
  • Mid-performers, scoring 19-23
  • High-performers, scoring 24 or above

83.1% of all students realized an increase in their Composite Score. In fact, 24.5% of students increased their Composite Score by 4 or more points.

Generally, the higher a person scores on the ACT, the harder it is to raise that score. It is important to keep in mind that, from the perspective of college admissions and scholarships, an increase of one or two points at the top of the scale is much more meaningful than is a similar increase at the lower end. This study supports these observations. A ZAPS student who scores 18 or lower on the first attempt has a 29.2% chance of raising his or her score by 4 points or more. On the other hand, a ZAPS student who scores 24 or above on the first attempt has only a 15.6% chance of raising his or her score by 4 points or more.


The answer to “How much can I raise my score?” depends on the starting point. The attached tables clarify the possibilities for each ability group. The answer to “What evidence is there to show that this program has a positive impact?” is that this and other studies provide conclusive evidence that ZAPS preparation prior to retesting increases the chance of a favorable outcome.

Douglas J. Paul, Ph.D.
Doorway to College Foundation

View Data Tables

High School Student

I thought I was going to be bored. I was engaged the entire time. I actually enjoyed the class.

Amy, West Albany H.S., OR

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