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ACT test scores drops to worst in a generation, examiners say decline began long before COVID-19

Scores have slipped down to levels not seen since 1991

October 13, 2022 4:44pm

Updated: October 14, 2022 9:17am

The average score on the ACT, a major college admissions test, hit their lowest level in more than 30 years in 2022.

According to a report by ACT on Wednesday, the national average Composite Score for the graduating class of 2022 was 19.8, down from 20.3 for the previous class and the lowest average score since 1991.

“This is the fifth consecutive year of declines in average scores, a worrisome trend that began long before the disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic, and has persisted,” said ACT CEO Janet Godwin in a statement.

“The magnitude of the declines this year is particularly alarming, as we see rapidly growing numbers of seniors leaving high school without meeting the college-readiness benchmark in any of the subjects we measure.”

Godwin said the pandemic, which led to school closures and prolonged remoted learning, exacerbated “longtime systemic failures” in high school education.

42% of students who took the test met none of the ACT College Readiness Benchmarks in English, reading, math or science.

A record number of students in the 2022 cohort took the ACT as part of state and district testing during the school day, which it argued made the test a clearer indicator of the instruction received by the average student.

The number of students taking the ACT has declined by 30% since 2018 – a trend that accelerated during the pandemic as testing centers were shut down alongside schools.

Its competitor, the SAT, has seen a similar decline in recent years. The company behind the SAT announced in January that an all-digital version would be arriving in 2024.  

Standardized testing has been dropped by some leading universities who argued it would reduce bias in applications, like unequal access to test prep and wide disparities in race.

Some schools have backtracked on their removal. In March, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology reinstated its standardized testing requirement for future application cycles after suspending it during the pandemic, arguing it helped better assess academic preparedness of future students and find disadvantaged students who did not have access to advanced coursework.