The number of Utah students taking the ACT college entrance exam fell by 11 percent as schools closed at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, but average composite scores rose from 20.2 in 2020 to 20.6 this year. Nationally, 22 percent fewer students took the ACT while average composite scores dropped from 20.6 to 20.3, according to data released today by ACT.
Utah students bucked the national trend in individual components of ACT seeing average scores rise in English, Mathematics, Reading, and Science while individual test scores fell nationally, ACT noted. Utah scores for all racial and ethnic groups except for students who identify as Pacific Islanders also rose. Scores for students who are Pacific Islanders slipped from 17.0 in 2020 to 16.7 in 2021.
Many factors could have contributed to 2021 results. All Utah public school take the ACT, but only students who took the 11th grade ACT test in the first testing window of 2020 were able to take the test at school due to the statewide soft closure of school buildings. Utah students who were set to take the 11th grade ACT test during either of the other two in-school testing windows were given vouchers and had to arrange to take the test on one of the ACT national testing dates available through 2020. ACT data showed that a disproportionate number of students who identify as other than white or Asian and students who are economically disadvantaged were more likely to be part of the 11 percent who did not take the test. On the other side of the equation, ACT also notes that students who take the ACT multiple times are more likely to improve their scores and the number of Utah students who took the ACT multiple times in 2020 dropped by 36 percent.
“The past two school years have been challenging for everyone,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Sydnee Dickson. “The great news of our ACT results is a reflection on the students, teachers, and parents who made this happen through their commitment to education. This year we need to continue focusing on ensuring that all students who are age eligible take the ACT which will help them expand their choices and opportunities for the future.”
Utah’s ACT results compared to national results
Percentage of students who met college readiness benchmarks:
Utah 2021 disaggregated ACT scores compared to 2020 results:
Two or more races
More information about Utah scores is on the ACT site.