The report released Tuesday by the University of Chicago found schools that spent 40 percent of their class time on the ACT tended to produce lower scores than schools that spent about 20 percent of their time on preparing for the test.
"Across the board, scores were lower in schools that emphasized more ACT prep," Elaine Allensworth, lead author of the report, told the Chicago Sun-Times. "They are spending all this time and energy on work that doesn't help their scores."
The newspaper said the results of the survey flew in the face of conventional wisdom. The survey found the eight of 10 students who took part believed test-taking skills were the determining factor in ACT scores.
But Allensworth told the Chicago Tribune the key is performance in individual classes.
"They think it's all about gaming the test and learning test strategies, but in fact it's not at all about test strategies; it's strongly related to doing deep good work in classes," she said. "There's no quick fix."
The Chicago study was based on interviews with an unspecified number of high school juniors and teachers in 2005 and 2007. Students generally take the ACT in their junior year.