NewsLEX 18 In-Depth


National average ACT score reaches lowest level in 30 years

Posted at 6:00 PM, Oct 14, 2022
and last updated 2022-10-14 18:23:07-04

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — New data released by ACT shows staggering numbers regarding the national average ACT score for high school students in 2022.

According to the report, more than 40% of seniors meet none of the college-readiness benchmarks.

Sean Smith, Lexington college planner and president of The College Project, hasn’t seen a change in the ACT’s material in recent years, but the outcome of the exam is consistently dropping.

In 2022, ACT saw its lowest national score average in 30 years. Each subject score declined, with the national average composite score falling to a 19.8 out of 36.

While Smith only works with a small group of Kentucky high school students, he hasn't seen the decline shown in national data. In fact, most of his students improve two to three points per exam, according to Smith. Considering the discrepancy, the answer behind the decline may be as perplexing as the multiple choice found on the ACT itself.

“A lot of schools and teachers have spent time practicing with their students, and that didn’t happen during the pandemic, I think, as much, so maybe that’s the case,” said Smith.

One of his college prep students, Lance Hixson, chimed in regarding the pandemic’s impact on test prep, “We were all affected, motivation was down, people weren’t really encouraged to focus on that type of thing, so it was really tough.”

For fellow test prep student Jenna Hallman, the decline is due to something else. “I think a lot of it has to do with schools not taking ACTs anymore, I think kids don’t take it as seriously now that it’s not required on their common app or even for any of their colleges,” speculated Hallman. “They think if it’s not necessary we don’t have to try as hard for it.”

One thing is for certain, colleges aren’t prioritizing the ACT like they once did. According to FairTest, this year, 80% of four-year colleges aren’t requiring the SAT or ACT for admission.

“GPA and course rigor have always been the most important factors in college admissions,” explained Smith. “ACT is just to supplement a student’s application."

Well above the national average, Hixson with a 35 and Hallman with a 31, the two prove to be an exception to ACT national averages. Although they’re not required to include the test in college applications, they hope their scores and the decision to take the exam will stand out.

“I think getting that perfect test that benefits you in the right ways is important, if it takes seven or eight times, so be it, you’ll get it eventually,” said Hixson.

“I wanted something that backs up ‘this is who I am, this is what I know, this is what I can do,’” said Hallman.