- High schoolers graduating with the class of 2023 had an average ACT composite score of 19.5, a decline of 0.3 points from 2022's graduates, according to ACT, the nonprofit organization that administers the college admission exam.
- This is the sixth straight year average ACT scores have fallen, with average scores declining in every academic subject, ACT CEO Janet Godwin said in a statement.
- The class of 2023, known as the "COVID cohort" because these students were in their first year of high school when the COVID-19 pandemic began, also had a historic portion of test-takers meeting none of the ACT College Readiness Benchmarks. The benchmarks are based on the minimum ACT test scores required for students to have a high level of success in credit-bearing first-year college courses.
There are college readiness benchmarks for six ACT test scores in a handful of academic subjects, such as English, math and reading. Each benchmark is linked to success in a different college course or set of courses.
Students meeting a benchmark on the ACT test have about a 50% chance of earning a B or better, and about a 75-80% chance of earning a C or better, in the corresponding college course, according to ACT research.
For the class of 2023, 21% met all ACT College Readiness Benchmarks in English, math, reading and science, while 43% met none. In 2022, 22% of high school seniors met all four benchmarks and 42% met none.
"The hard truth is that we are not doing enough to ensure that graduates are truly ready for postsecondary success in college and career," Godwin said. "These systemic problems require sustained action and support at the policy level."
The class of 2023 also had a drop in their average SAT scores compared to the previous year's graduates, according to The College Board, the nonprofit that administers the SAT. This year's graduating class had an average score of 1028, compared to 1050 in 2022.
The College Board has its own benchmark system for gauging college readiness and said 40% of class of 2023 SAT takers met or exceeded both the evidence-based reading and writing and math benchmarks. That's down from 43% in 2022.
Although this year's graduating seniors saw declines in scores on both the SAT and ACT, they also had an increased rate of test-takers compared to the year before.
About 1.39 million students in the class of 2023 took the ACT, compared to 1.35 million in 2022. For the SAT, 1.9 million graduating seniors took the exam, up from 1.7 million in 2022.
While the number of test-takers is increasing, the number of colleges and universities declaring their admissions programs test-optional has also risen. More than 1,900 U.S. colleges and universities are not requiring SAT or ACT scores for the fall 2024 admissions cycle, according to FairTest, a group that advocates for limited application of entrance exams.