Black Scores on the ACT College Entrance Examination Are in Freefall

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, many colleges and universities have made standardized test scores optional. As a result, the number of students taking these tests has declined dramatically, 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. In 2023 the number of test takes increased to 1.4 million.

For the Class of 2023, the average score on the ACT dropped to 19.5 on a scale of 1 to 36. This was the lowest average score in more than a decade.

The average score for Blacks who took the test was 16.0, down from 16.8 in 2019. For Whites, the average score was 21. While the average scores have been declining, the racial gap in test scores has remained relatively constant over the past decade with only minor fluctuations.

Black test takers did the best on the reading part of the test with a score of 16.4. Whites had an average reading score of 21.8. Blacks scored the lowest on the English section with an average score of 14.8. Whites had a 20.3 average score in English.

Only 26 percent of all Black ACT test takers were rated as achieving a benchmark score which demonstrated that they were ready for college-level English classes. Only 17 percent of Blacks reached the college-readiness benchmark in reading. A mere 8 percent of Black test takers were deemed ready for college-level mathematics and only 5 percent of Blacks were deemed college ready in science.

Some 20 percent of all Whites who took the ACT test were deemed college-ready in all four areas of English, mathematics, reading, and science. For Black, just 3 percent of all test takers were deemed college-ready in all four areas.

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