Close to two-thirds of students across the country who graduated high school this year took the ACT college entrance exam, earning scores that suggest a majority of them are unprepared for the coursework they will encounter in college.
According to the testing company, just 38% of graduating seniors who took the exam scored high enough to be considered to be college-ready in at least three of the four core subjects, which include English, reading, math, and science. This percentage is down from 40% last year.
In addition, the average composite score was also found to drop, going from 21 to 20.8 this year. Each of the four tests are scored on a scale of one to 36. The average of the four scores finds the composite. The majority of colleges across the United States use the composite for admissions.
Paul Weeks for ACT said that a decrease in scores was to be expected, as the demographic of the testing population changed.
"Almost 2 out 3 students are taking the ACT and what's happened is the testing cohort has become increasingly representative of students at large," said Weeks, senior vice president for client relations, in an interview.
A group of states also administer the ACT to all 11th-grade students. "That group of new states showed up in this year's grad class report so we would have expected it to have an impact" on scores, Weeks said.
In all, around 2.1 million graduating seniors took the ACT this year, an increase from 1.9 million last year.
Meanwhile, 1.7 million graduating seniors took the SAT in 2015, the other popular college entrance exam. Updated numbers for the 2016 exams are expected to be released by the College Board later in the fall, writes Melissa Korn for The Wall Street Journal.
Of the high school graduates who took the ACT this year, 61% met the English benchmark of 18 points. A score of this level suggests a student is ready for college-level English and would earn at least a "C" in these classes. As for reading, 44% met the 22-point benchmark. 41% met the math readiness score of 22 points, and 36% received a score of at least 22 points for science.
At the same time, 34% did not meet any of the four benchmarks. Weeks referred to that number as "alarming," saying that these students are more likely to struggle in their first-year classes. As a result, students may end up in remedial courses which could cause a delay in the completion of their degrees and increase the cost of attending college.
In terms of race, the report found 49% of white test-takers achieving three or more benchmarks in comparison to 11% of African-Americans and 23% of Hispanic students.
Other report findings show Massachusetts with the highest composite score at 24.8. Connecticut and New Hampshire closely followed, both with an average composite score of 24.5, writes Olivia Quintana for The Boston Globe.
The number of students who noted they plan to attend vocational or technical school and two-year degrees has increased by 2%. Meanwhile, the number of students who stated plans to attend higher education has dropped by 6%.