ACT defines its readiness benchmark as a score indicating a student has at least a 50 percent chance of getting a B or higher in a corresponding first-year college course. For English, the ACT benchmark is 18 out of a maximum 36. For math, it is 22.
When students took a strong course load through high school, ACT found, they fared better.
“Our findings once again indicate that taking core courses in high school dramatically increases a student’s likelihood for success after graduation,” ACT chief executive Marten Roorda said in a statement. “That’s why we need to ensure that all students of all backgrounds have access to rigorous courses and that we are supporting them not only academically, but socially and emotionally as well.”
The ACT — one of two major admission tests — assesses students in English, reading, math and science with multiple-choice questions that take nearly three hours to complete, not counting an optional essay-writing exam. More than a dozen states pay for all high school students to take the ACT during school hours, and others fund the testing on an optional basis.
In Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia, more students tend to take the College Board’s SAT.
About 2.2 million students in the Class of 2019 took the SAT. Many college-bound students take both tests.
The average ACT composite score was 20.7 for this year’s class, down from 20.8 in 2018. Average scores were 22.3 in Maryland, 23.5 in the District and 24 in Virginia. But participation rates in those jurisdictions were relatively low: 32 percent of 2019 D.C. graduates took the ACT, with even lower shares in the two neighboring states. That makes comparisons with other states and the nation difficult. About 52 percent of graduates nationally took the ACT.
Among 15 states where officials said nearly all graduates took the test, only four posted an average composite score of 20 or higher: Nebraska, Ohio, Utah and Wisconsin.