ACT scores rose slightly in 2004, but college-bound students are no more prepared to succeed in college math and science classes than in the past. The average score rose one tenth of a point to 20.9 in 2004. The average was 21 before 2002, but dipped when Illinois and Colorado required all students — including those not planning to attend college — to take the ACT.
The ACT score results indicate that many high school graduates still have not mastered the key academic skills they need to be ready for first-year college science and math courses. Only a fourth (26%) of 2004 graduates earned a score of 24 or higher on the ACT Science Test, while just four in 10 earned a score of 22 or higher on the ACT Math Test. Students who reach these score levels have a high probability (75%) of earning a C or higher — and a 50/50 chance of earning a B or higher — in credit-bearing college biology and algebra courses, respectively. These figures are unchanged from 2003.
Two-thirds of ACT test-takers scored well enough to indicate they’ll probably earn a C or better in writing.
Many students who plan to go to college don’t take a college-prep curriculum in high school. Only 62 percent of ACT-tested graduates in 2004 “took the recommended core coursework for college-bound students Ñ at least four years of English and three years each of mathematics (algebra and higher), natural sciences and social sciences,” ACT notes. This hasn’t changed in eight years. Not surprisingly, students who take college-prep classes score higher than those who don’t, and are more likely to earn a degree.