ACT Test Scores Hit 30-Year Low

The organization administering the test reported a decline in composite scores for the sixth year in a row. The average English, math, reading, and science scores also dropped.
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Published on October 12, 2023
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  • The average composite ACT score dropped from 19.8 for the class of 2022 to 19.5 for the class of 2023.
  • More students in the class of 2023 took the ACT test from the previous year.
  • More students met none of the ACT benchmarks, compared to the previous year.
  • ACT CEO Janet Godwin said not enough is being done to ensure graduates are ready for college and these problems require action and support at the policy level.

High school students' ACT test scores have dropped to their lowest level in more than 30 years, according to the nonprofit organization that administers the test.

It marks the second year in a row that scores on the college entrance exam have hit their lowest mark in over three decades.

The average composite score on the ACT dropped for the sixth-straight year from 19.8 for the class of 2022 to 19.5 for the class of 2023, according to ACT, the nonprofit organization administering the exam. Average English, math, reading, and science scores also declined from 2022.

"We are also continuing to see a rise in the number of seniors leaving high school without meeting any of the college readiness benchmarks, even as student GPAs continue to rise and students report that they feel prepared to be successful in college," ACT CEO Janet Godwin said in the announcement.

ACT said that the proportion of the "COVID cohort" seniors — who were first-year high school students when the pandemic hit — who met none of the four ACT college readiness benchmarks hit a historic high in 2023: with 43.3% of seniors meeting no benchmarks, up from 41.6% in 2022.

Despite only 20.8% of high school seniors meeting all benchmarks, some 1.4 million high school seniors took the ACT test, an increase over the 2022 graduating class, according to the organization.

"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. This is not up to teachers and principals alone — it is a shared national priority and imperative."

The COVID-19 pandemic prompted a wave of colleges and universities to move to a test-optional admissions process.

BestColleges previously reported that the University of California system removed SAT and ACT requirements until at least 2024, while Harvard College suspended standardized testing requirements up to the entering class of 2030.

Similar to the ACT, the College Board reported a 10.1% increase in the class of 2023 SAT test takers — with 1.9 million high schoolers taking the SAT, up from 1.7 million the previous year. However, the average score decreased from 1050 for the class of 2022 to 1028 for the class of 2023.