Average ACT Score for 2020- 2019- 2018- 2017- and Earlier Years



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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 30 years.

Let’s take a look at what’s happening.

Average ACT Scores for Past Years


Let’s look at some charts for average ACT scores over the past couple of decades. These will show us some trends in the ACT world that have led to recent changes in the test.

Average ACT Scores 1992-1996


Year

# of Test Takers

English

Math

Reading

Science

Composite

1992-1993
875,603 20.3 20.1 21.2 20.8
20.7

1994
891,714 20.3 20.2 21.2 20.9
20.8

1995
945,369 20.3 20.2 21.3 21
20.8

1996
924,663 20.3 20.2 21.3 21.1
20.9


Source:

NCES Average ACT Scores 1970-1998

In the 1992-1996 ACT scores, there was a general

increase

in Math, Reading, and Science scores.

Average ACT Scores 1997-2001


Year

# of Test Takers

English

Math

Reading

Science

Composite

1997
959,301 20.3 20.6 21.3 21.1
21

1998
995,039 20.4 20.8 21.4 21.1
21

1999
1,019,053 20.5 20.7 21.4 21
21

2000
1,065,138 20.5 20.7 21.4 21
21

2001
1,069,772 20.5 20.7 21.3 21
21


Source:

NCES Average ACT Scores 1970-2001

In the 1997-2001 ACT scores, there was an increase in English and Math and a decline in Science and Reading. Also, in 1999, the ACT

broke the one million test-taker ceiling

for the first time.

Average ACT Scores 2002-2005


Year

# of Test Takers

English

Math

Reading

Science

Composite

2002
1,116,082 20.2 20.6 21.1 20.8
20.8

2003
1,175,059 20.3 20.6 21.2 20.8
20.8

2004
1,171,460 20.4 20.6 21.3 20.9
20.9

2005
1,186,251 20.4 20.7 21.3 20.9
20.9


Source:

NCES Average ACT Scores 1995-2010

From 2002 to 2005, we see

a slight but steady rise

in all scores across the board.

Average ACT Scores 2006-2011


Year

# of Test Takers

English

Math

Reading

Science

Writing

Composite

2006
1,206,455 20.6 20.7 21.4 20.9 7.7
21.1

2007
1,300,599 20.7 20.8 21.5 21 7.6
21.2

2008
1,421,941 20.6 21 21.4 20.8 7.3
21.1

2009
1,480,469 20.6 21 21.4 20.9 7.2
21.1

2010
1,568,835 20.5 21 21.3 20.9 7.1
21

2011
1,623,112 20.6 21 21.3 20.9 7.1
21.1


Source:

NCES Average ACT Scores 1995-2010

,

2011 Profile Report

As you can see, ACT scores kept increasing until 2007, when there was

an all-time composite score high of 21.2.

After that, however, all subscores except English and Science consistently declined.

Average ACT Scores 2012-2020


Year

# of Test Takers

English

Math

Reading

Science

Writing

Composite

2012
1,666,017 20.5 21.1 21.3 20.9 7.1
21.1

2013
1,799,243 20.2 20.9 21.1 20.7 7
20.9

2014
1,845,787 20.3 20.9 21.3 20.8 7.1
21.0

2015
1,924,436 20.4 20.8 21.4 20.9 6.9
21.0

2016
2,090,342 20.1 20.6 21.3 20.8 19.3*
20.8


Sources:

2012 Profile Report

,

2013 Profile Report

,

2014 Profile Report

,

2015 Profile Report

,

2016 Profile Report


*2016 Writing results are based on ACT Writing from September 2015 to August 2016, when the test was scored on a scale of 1-36.

After 2007’s peak, there was

a general decline in scores across the board for nearly a decade.

In 2013, ACT, Inc. instituted changes to the ACT to better reflect national curricula, which is possibly reflected in the general stability of composites and subscores from 2013 onwards (with the exception of Math, which has steadily decreased since then).


Year

# of Test Takers

English

Math

Reading

Science

Writing

Composite

2017
2,030,038 20.3 20.7 21.4 21.0 6.5
21.0

2018
1,914,817 20.2 20.5 21.3 20.8 —*
20.8

2019
1,782,820 20.1 20.4 21.2 20.6 —*
20.7

2020
1,670,497 19.9 20.2 21.2 20.6 —*
20.6


Sources:

2017 Profile Report,


2018 Profile Report

,

2020 Profile Report


*As of 2018 ACT seems to have opted to no longer provide information about Writing score averages (except indirectly through ELA scores).

In the last four years, the number of ACT test takers has dropped (in conjunction with

the number of SAT test takers rising

), which has correlated with a slow decline in scores across the board.

Average ACT Score Trends: What Do the Numbers Mean?


As the charts above indicate, there was

a moderate and gradual increase in average ACT scores until they peaked in 2007.

After, average scores began to decline until 2014 when they increased slightly before settling back down towards the same levels they were at in 2004.

There has been discussion that the downward trend in average ACT scores could be a result of the

No Child Left Behind Act

and the test-based teaching style in US schools. This slight increase in ACT scores in 2014 could be attributed to the changes ACT, Inc. made to the ACT so that it could better align with high school curricula.

Overall, though, average ACT scores have remained relatively stable.

For a long while it was predominantly students in the Midwest that took the ACT, but lately the test has begun to

spread to the rest of the US

as more and more states are requiring students to take it.

Consequently,

more students started taking the ACT each year until 2016, when the new SAT was introduced

(since when, the number of ACT test takers has declined back down to 2012 numbers).

Even at the peak of more than 2 million students taking the ACT, however, the data shows that students generally do better on the ACT than they do on the SAT—for which there has been a steady, stronger decline in scores. (The long-term results of the

2016 SAT redesign

aren’t yet known.)

One thing to note, though, is that just like with the SAT, the ACT shows

a disparity in scores based on ethnicity

and, very likely, income level. The following chart clarifies these differences between average ACT scores based on ethnicity from 2001 to 2020:


2001

2005

2009

2013

2017

2018

2019

2020

Black or African American
16.9 17 16.9 17 17.1 16.9 16.8 16.7

American Indian or Alaska Native
18.8 18.7 18.9 18 17.5 17.3 17.0 16.7

White
21.8 21.9 22.2 22.1 22.4 22.2 22.1 22.0

Hispanic or Latinx
18.5 18.4 18.7 18.8 18.9 18.8 18.7 18.5

Asian
21.7* 22.1* 23.2* 23.6 24.3 24.5 24.6 24.9

Pacific Islander
19.4 18.4** 18.2 17.9 17.5

Two or More Races
21.1 21.2 21.1 21.0 20.9

No Responses
20.8 20.3 19.8 19.7 19.7


Sources:

NCES Average ACT Scores 1995-2014

,

2016 Profile Report,


2017 Profile Report

,

2018 Profile Report

,

2020 Profile Report


*Averages for Asian and Pacific Islander students were combined until 2011



**Averages for Native Hawaiian students folded into averages for Pacific Islander students starting 2017

Overall, the white, Asian, and two or more races subgroups have the

highest ACT score averages,

with Asian scores consistently increasing. By contrast, African American and American Indian/Alaska Native subgroups have the

lowest ACT averages,

likely because they are typically the most disenfranchised groups.

What’s Next?

Now that you know about the average ACT scores, it’s time to


figure out what a good ACT score is for

you

specifically

.

If you’re

definitely decided on the ACT,

read our in-depth guides to prepping for the ACT. If you don’t have a lot of time left, use our

last-minute ACT cramming tips

.

Got time?

Then learn

how to come up with your own ACT study schedule

.


Not sure whether you should take the ACT or SAT?

Take a look at our article on

the differences between the ACT and SAT to help you determine which test is right for you

.


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