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Average ACT Score For the High School Class of 2022 Declines to Lowest Level in More Than 30 Years

More than 40 percent of seniors meet none of the college-readiness benchmarks as decline in college readiness continues among U.S. high school graduates

IOWA CITY, Iowa—The national average ACT Composite score for the high school class of 2022 was 19.8, the lowest average score in more than three decades, according to data released today by ACT, the nonprofit organization that administers the college readiness exam. It is the first time since 1991 that the average ACT Composite score was below 20.0. 

“This is the fifth consecutive year of declines in average scores, a worrisome trend that began long before the disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic, and has persisted,” said ACT CEO Janet Godwin. “The magnitude of the declines this year is particularly alarming, as we see rapidly growing numbers of seniors leaving high school without meeting the college-readiness benchmark in any of the subjects we measure. These declines are not simply a byproduct of the pandemic. They are further evidence of longtime systemic failures that were exacerbated by the pandemic. A return to the pre-pandemic status quo would be insufficient and a disservice to students and educators. These systemic failures require sustained collective action and support for the academic recovery of high school students as an urgent national priority and imperative.”

Consistent with recent data on nine-year-old student achievement reported by the National Center for Education Statistics, ACT has found that scores have continued to decline during the pandemic, and that these declines have returned student achievement to levels last observed in the early 1990s. Understanding disrupted learning through assessment data plays a more critical role than ever to policymakers, school systems, state leaders, educators, and parents in supporting students who were affected by school-related closures and learning disruptions during the pandemic.

The proportion of seniors meeting none of the ACT College Readiness Benchmarks also continued to rise. The ACT College Readiness Benchmarks demonstrate the minimum ACT scores required for students to have a higher probability of success in credit-bearing first-year college courses. ACT research continues to show that students meeting a benchmark on the ACT have approximately a 50% chance of earning a B or better and approximately a 75% chance of earning a C or better in the corresponding college course or courses. 

Among the 2022 graduating class, 22% of students met all four ACT Benchmarks, while 42% of students met none of these benchmarks. The percentage of students meeting all four benchmarks dropped three percentage points, from 25% of students in 2021 to 22% of students in 2022, whereas the percentage of students meeting no benchmarks increased by four percentage points, from 38% of students in 2021 to 42% of students in 2022. 

Other findings:

  • The average Composite score declined by 0.5 points, from 20.3 in 2021 to 19.8 in 2022. It is the first time that the average Composite score has been below 20.0 since at least as far back as 1991.
  • Between 2021 and 2022, average English scores declined 0.6 points (from 19.6 to 19.0), average mathematics scores declined 0.6 points (from 19.9 to 19.3), average reading scores declined 0.5 points (from 20.9 to 20.4), and average science scores declined by 0.5 points (from 20.4 to 19.9).
  • Slightly less than one-third of ACT-tested graduates in the class of 2022 (32%) met at least three out of four ACT College Readiness Benchmarks. More than 40% of ACT-tested graduates in the class of 2022 (42%) met none of the benchmarks. 
  • Participation in the ACT State and District Testing program continued to grow in the 2021-2022 academic school year. This is a trend that has been increasing since 2015, when only 27 percent of ACT-tested graduates took the test as part of a statewide or districtwide administration. For the 2022 graduating class, 60 percent of students tested at least once through the program. The ACT State and District Testing program provides students the opportunity to earn college-reportable ACT scores by taking the test in their own classrooms during regular school hours on a weekday. School day testing availability expands access to education opportunity for all students, but especially for students from low-income families, those who would be the first in their families to go to college, and students in rural areas. 
  • For the class of 2021, the college enrollment rate was 57 percent, down from 59 percent for the previous class. 

About the Data  

The data released include ACT score results from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, including 16 states that required all students to take the ACT as part of their statewide testing programs, and another seven states that funded ACT testing on an optional basis.

View the data via the online dashboard.


About ACT

ACT is a mission-driven, nonprofit organization dedicated to helping people achieve education and workplace success. Grounded in more than 60 years of research, ACT is a trusted leader in college and career readiness solutions. Each year, ACT serves millions of students, job seekers, schools, government agencies, and employers in the U.S. and around the world with learning resources, assessments, research, and credentials designed to help them succeed from elementary school through career. Visit us at

Contact: ACT Media Relations;