ACT Test Scores Plummet

It’s not just the stock market that’s been plummeting of late. ACT scores among high school students are also declining rather dramatically in a post-pandemic world. In fact, this year’s cohort of high school graduates who took the ACT scored lower on the exam than any other graduating class in the last three decades. That’s right. Three decades! Wondering just how low the average ACT composite score slipped? To a 19.8 — the lowest total since 1991!

The New York Post reports on a concerning trend among ACT test-takers.

As Cayla Bamberger reports for The New York Post in a piece entitled “ACT test scores drop to their lowest in 30 years in dramatic pandemic slide,” “Roughly 1.3 million students nationwide took the ACT during their senior year — or 36% of recent graduates. And a greater share of students took the exam more than once compared to 2021 grads. The implications may go beyond the lower scores while applying to college. More than 4 in 10 test-takers did not meet any of the ACT’s benchmarks for ‘college readiness’ in English, reading, math and science — suggesting these students whose high school careers were impacted by COVID-19 for larger stretches may have arrived on campus unprepared for high-level coursework.”

So it’s not just that fewer students are taking the ACT (and the SAT for that matter) in a test-optional college admissions landscape, but the students who are taking the tests, on average, are not performing well — likely because of all the learning opportunities lost during the pandemic. It will be interesting to see how ACT, Inc. (and The College Board for the SAT for that matter) adjust their exams accordingly. Will the tests get easier to accommodate students who don’t perform as well as they did over the last three decades? Or is this the new normal?


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