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Average ACT Score for 2017, 2016, 2015, and Earlier Years

Posted by Anna Aldric | Aug 19, 2017 10:00:00 PM

ACT General Info

 


feature_AverageACTscore.png

In recent years, more and more students have been taking the ACT than ever before. But what does this change in participation rate mean for the average ACT score?

As you'll learn in this article, while ACT scores have been fairly stable in the last few years, there have been some dips and peaks in scores in the last 25 years. Let’s take a look at what’s happening.

 

ACT Scores for Past Years

Let's look at some charts for ACT scores for the past few years. They'll show us some trends in the ACT world that led to some recent changes in the test.

 

ACT Scores 1992-1997

Year

Number

English

Math

Reading

Science

Composite

1992-1993

875,603

20.3

20.1

21.2

20.8

20.7

1993-1994

891,714

20.3

20.2

21.2

20.9

20.8

1994-1995

945,369

20.3

20.2

21.3

21

20.8

1995-1996

924,663

20.3

20.2

21.3

21.1

20.9

1996-1997

959,301

20.3

20.6

21.3

21.1

21

 

In the 1992-1997 ACT scores, there was a general increase in Mathematics, Reading, and Science scores.

 

ACT Scores 1997-2001

Year

Number

Composite

English

Math

Reading

Science

1997

959,301

21

20.3

20.6

21.3

21.1

1998

995,039

21

20.4

20.8

21.4

21.1

1999

1,019,053

21

20.5

20.7

21.4

21

2000

1,065,138

21

20.5

20.7

21.4

21

2001

1,069,772

21

20.5

20.7

21.3

21

 

In the 1997-2001 ACT scores, there was an increase in English and Math and a decline in Science and Reading. And in 1999, ACT broke the 1-million test-taker ceiling for the first time.

 

ACT Scores 2002-2005

Year

Number

Composite

English

Math

Reading

Science

2002

1,116,082

20.8

20.2

20.6

21.1

20.8

2003

1,175,059

20.8

20.3

20.6

21.2

20.8

2004

1,171,460

20.9

20.4

20.6

21.3

20.9

2005

1,186,251

20.9

20.4

20.7

21.3

20.9

 

From 2002-2005, we see a slight but steady rise in all scores across the board.

 

ACT Scores 2006-2010

Year

Number

Composite

English

Math

Reading

Science

Writing

2006

1,206,455

21.1

20.6

20.7

21.4

20.9

7.7

2007

1,300,599

21.2

20.7

20.8

21.5

21

7.6

2008

1,421,941

21.1

20.6

21

21.4

20.8

7.3

2009

1,480,469

21.1

20.6

21

21.4

20.9

7.2

2010

1,568,835

21

20.5

21

21.3

20.9

7.1

 

Scores keep increasing until 2007, when there was an all-time composite score high of 21.2. After that, however, all subscores but Science consistently decline.

 

ACT Scores 2011-2016

Year

Number

Composite

English

Math

Reading

Science

Writing

2011

1,623,112

21.1

20.5

21

21.3

20.9

7.1

2012

1,666,017

21.1

20.5

21.1

21.3

20.9

7.1

2013

1,799,243

20.9

20.2

20.9

21.1

20.7

7

2014

1,845,787

21.0

20.3

20.9

21.3

20.8

7.1

2015

1,924,436

21.0

20.4

20.8

21.4

20.9

6.9

2016

2,090,342

20.8

20.1

20.6

21.3

20.8

19.3*

2017

2,030,038

21.0

20.3

20.7

21.4

21.0

6.5

*2016 Writing results based on ACT Writing from Sep 2015-August 2016, when test was scored from 1-36.

After 2007's peak, there is a general decline in scores across the board for nearly a decade. In 2013 ACT instituted changes in their test to reflect national curricula and there's been a slight increase since then (with the exception of 2016).

 

ACT Score Trends: Discussing the Numbers

There was been a moderate and gradual increase until a peak in about 2007, after which there was a trend of declining average scores until 2014, when it increased slightly. However, 2016 saw a drop in scores again.

There has been discussion that the downard trend could be a result of the No Child Left Behind Act and the test-based teaching in our nation’s schools. The slight increase in scores in 2014 could be attributed to the changes that the ACT instituted in their tests, as announced in 2013, to better align with high school curricula. Overall, however, ACT scores have remained relatively stable,.

For a long while it was predominantly Midwestern students taking the ACT, but lately, it has spread to the rest of the US as more states have started to require the test. Therefore, more students have been taking the ACT every year for the past decade. Even with more students taking the ACT, the numbers show that students generally do better on the ACT than the SAT—where there has been a steady and stronger decline in scores. (However, the long-term results of the 2016 SAT redesign aren't yet known).

One thing to note, however, is that just like with the SAT, the ACT shows a disparity in scores based on ethnicity and, very likely, income level.

 

Year 1997 2001 2005 2008 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
Black or African American 17.9 16.9 17 16.9 17 17 17.1 17 17.1
American Indian or Alaska Native 20.4 18.8 18.7 19 18 18 17.9 17.7 17.5
White 22.8 21.8 21.9 22.1 22.1 22.3 22.4 22.2 22.4
Hispanic or Latinx 19.9 18.5 18.4 18.7 18.8 18.8 18.9 18.7 18.9
Asian 22.5 21.7 22.1* 22.9 23.6 23.6 23.9 24 24.3
Pacific Islander 22.1* 19.4 18.6 18.8 18.6 18.4**
Two or More Races 20.9 21.1 21.3 21.2 21 21.2
No Responses 20.8 21.7 20.8 20.8 20.6 20.1 20.3

*Averages for Asian and Pacific Islander students were combined in 2005
**Averages for Native Hawaiian students folded into averages for Pacific Islander students starting 2017.

Overall, the white and Asian subgroups have the highest score averages with Asian scores consistently increasing, followed by the mixed race subgroup. African American and Native American subgroups had the lowest averages, perhaps because they are usually the most disenfranchised groups.

 

What’s Next?

Take a look at our article on ACT vs SAT: Which Students Should Take Which? If you are decided on the ACT, look into our articles on Last Minute ACT Prep Programs or ACT Results: How to get and interpret them. If you already took them and want to cancel your ACT scores, then check out article on Canceling your ACT Scores here

 

Want to improve your ACT score by 4+ points? Download our free guide to the top 5 strategies you need in your prep to improve your ACT score dramatically.

Raise Your ACT Score by 4 Points (Free Download)

 

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Anna Aldric
About the Author

Anna graduated from MIT where she honed her research interests in Earth Science and Social/Political Science. She has years of tutoring experience, loves watching students learn and grow, and strongly believes that education is the cornerstone of our society. She is passionate about science, books, and non-profit work.



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