In a year when many test dates were postponed or canceled due to the global pandemic and when many colleges and universities made standardized test scores optional, only 1.2 million members of the 2021 graduating class of high school seniors took the ACT college entrance examination. This was down from 1.6 million in 2020 and more than 2 million in 2017.
For the Class of 2021, the average score on the ACT dropped to 20.3 on a scale of 1 to 36. This was the lowest average score in more than a decade. For the fourth year in a row, the average score for African American students dropped. This year, the average score was 16.3, down from 16.7 in 2020 and 17.1 in 2017. The average score for Whites also dropped to 21.7 from 22.0 in 2020 and 22.4 in 2017.
Based on score results, the American College Testing organization calculates the percentage of students who took the ACT test who are adequately prepared to take on a college-level curriculum. In 2021, 28 percent of Black test takers were rated ready for college-level courses in English, compared to 67 percent of Whites. In mathematics, only 10 percent of Backs were rated college-ready compared to 44 percent of Whites. In science, ACT data shows 11 percent of Blacks were ready for college-level courses compared to 44 percent of Whites. In reading, 18 percent of Blacks achieved the minimal benchmark for college readiness compared to 53 percent of Whites. All of these scores for college readiness for both Blacks and Whites were down from 2020.
The most striking statistic is that only 6 percent of all Black test takers were rated ready for college-level courses in all four areas of English, mathematics, science, and reading. Whites were more than five times as likely as Blacks to be prepared for college-level work in all four areas.