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The scores of high school students in their ACT exam for admission to colleges have fallen to the lowest level in more than a quarter of a century, which indicates an inability of students to prepare for college-level courses according to the non-profit organisation that conducts the test.

Scores have dropped for six consecutive years but the decline accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic. Students from the 2023 class whose scores were released on Wednesday were just beginning their first year at High School when it swept across the U.S.

“The hard truth is that we are not doing enough to ensure that graduates are truly ready for postsecondary success in college and career,” said Janet Godwin, chief executive officer for the non-profit ACT.

Average ACT Composite score of U.S. students was 19.5 out of 36. The median score for students was 19.8.

The average scores for math, reading and science all fell short of the benchmarks that the ACT recommends students achieve to have a good chance of success in their first year of college courses. The average score for English was just a bit higher than the benchmark, but it was still lower when compared to the previous year.

A number of universities have made admissions tests mandatory amid concerns that they favour the rich and place students with low incomes in a disadvantage. Certain universities, including those in the University of California system do not accept ACT as well as SAT scores even though they have been they are submitted.

Godwin said that the results are still useful for putting students in the appropriate college classes and for preparing academic advisors to help students.

“In terms of college readiness, even in a test-optional environment, these kinds of objective test scores about academic readiness are incredibly important,” Godwin stated.

In Denise Cabrera’s high-school in Hawaii All students must take the ACT in junior year. She told me it was something she’d have done the test regardless to increase her chances of gaining admission into college.

“Honestly, I’m unsure why the test was ever required because colleges can look at different qualities of the students who are applying outside of just a one-time test score,” said Denise an 17-year-old senior at Waianae High School.

Denise is looking into schools like those at the California Institute of Technology, which has imposed an enactment of a five-year moratorium on requirement for standardized test scores during the outbreak. Denise admitted that she is aware that the school doesn’t take into account scores, but she does not want to be restricted in her choices elsewhere.

Around 1.4 million students from the U.S. took the ACT this year, a rise over last year’s. But, the numbers have not recovered to levels prior to the pandemic. Godwin stated that she isn’t convinced these numbers will ever return, due in part to tests-optional admission policies.

Of the students examined just 21% of them met the standards for college-level classes across every subject. The research conducted by the non-profit shows that students who meet these benchmarks have a 50percent chance of earning a grade B or better, and nearly 75% of achieving a grade C or better in the corresponding classes.

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