2013 ACT Report: Only 26% of High School Students Are College Ready

Recently, ACT, Inc., the makers of the ACT exam, released a college readiness report which stated that 54% of 2013 high school graduates took the ACT exam. This is a critical jump up in the number of students who took the ACT rather than the SAT, a standardized exam that is published by the College Board. Data released in the ACT Condition of College & Career Readiness states that only 26% of students who took the ACT exam this year scored well enough to be considered ready for college or a career.

The ACT tests students in four areas: English, reading, math and science. ACT officials said they set college readiness benchmarks that reflect the minimum scores students need to achieve a 75% chance of earning a C or higher and a 50% chance of earning a B or higher in a typical first-year college course.

Of the 54% of 2013 high school graduates who took the ACT, 64% percent met the English benchmark, 44% met the mark in reading, 44% met the mark in mathematics and 36% reached the science benchmark. According to the 2013 ACT Report, the overall performance of students remains unchanged since 2009, with the average score falling slightly this year, from 21.1 to 20.9; the maximum score that can be attained is 36 points.


In response to the report, Education Secretary Arne Duncan stated, “This report demonstrates that we must be honest about our students’ performance and implement higher standards if we’re serious about improving educational outcomes.”

Jon Erickson, president of ACT’s education division, says, “Our country’s commitment to college readiness for all students is a good one, but we’ve got a lot of work to do.”

As a whole, the majority of states are largely unprepared. The exceptions are Minnesota and Wisconsin where more than half of the 2013 high school graduates met three or more of the ACT benchmarks. Of the 1.7 million students who took the ACT exam, as many as 290,000 were within 2 points of meeting at least one of the four readiness benchmarks.

“There is a group that’s on the fence,” Erickson said. “Sometimes it just takes a refresher, or one more course, or working with students on some skills that they haven’t mastered.”

Erickson remarked, “With a little further instruction or motivation, perhaps some additional remediation or refreshing some of their past skills, they may be able to achieve that benchmark.”