ACT Scores Are Flat

Changes have been negligible over the last five years.

August 22, 2012

Scores on the ACT were flat this year -- with a 21.1 composite average, identical to last year's. Within the four parts of the ACT, the only one to change from 2011 to 2012 was English, which dropped to 20.5 from 20.6

The level scores this year reflect a trend of the last five years. Since 2008, the only year that the composite score has not been 21.1 was 2010, when the composite was 21.0. ACT officials noted, however, that during the last five years, the number of high school students taking the ACT increased by 17 percent, and that these students reflected a more diverse population. Generally, when the testing pool expands, educators expect to see slight declines in scores, so the stability in scores can be seen as a gain of sorts.

As has been the case in recent years, the data from ACT show that students who take a college preparatory curriculum do better on the ACT, section by section, than those who don't. But the share of students who complete that recommended curriculum has also been relatively flat for the last five years.

Only 25 percent of all ACT test-takers have met benchmarks for college preparation in English, reading, mathematics and science this year, the same percentage as last year. The highest preparation levels are in English (67 percent) and the lowest in science (31 percent). By race/ethnicity, Asian students (at 42 percent) are more likely than all other groups to have met college preparation goals in all four subjects. For other groups, the figures are white (32 percent), Pacific islander (17 percent), Hispanic (13 percent), American Indian (11 percent) and black (5 percent).

Given those figures, it is not surprising that ACT scores continue to show notable racial and ethnic gaps. Asians have the highest composite score and have shown the most growth in scores in the last five years.

ACT Composite Score Averages, by Race/Ethnicity

  2008 2009 2010 2011 2012
African American 16.9 16.9 16.9 17.0 17.0
American Indian 19.0 18.9 19.0 18.6 18.4
Asian 22.9 23.2 23.4 23.6 23.6
Hispanic 18.7 18.7 18.6 18.7 18.9
White 22.1 22.2 22.3 22.4 22.4

The College Board typically releases data on SAT scores shortly after the ACT averages come out.



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Scott Jaschik

Scott Jaschik, Editor, is one of the three founders of Inside Higher Ed. With Doug Lederman, he leads the editorial operations of Inside Higher Ed, overseeing news content, opinion pieces, career advice, blogs and other features. Scott is a leading voice on higher education issues, quoted regularly in publications nationwide, and publishing articles on colleges in publications such as The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, Salon, and elsewhere. He has been a judge or screener for the National Magazine Awards, the Online Journalism Awards, the Folio Editorial Excellence Awards, and the Education Writers Association Awards. Scott served as a mentor in the community college fellowship program of the Hechinger Institute on Education and the Media, of Teachers College, Columbia University. He is a member of the board of the Education Writers Association. From 1999-2003, Scott was editor of The Chronicle of Higher Education. Scott grew up in Rochester, N.Y., and graduated from Cornell University in 1985. He lives in Washington.

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