ACT scores of Minnesota high school test takers
In Minnesota, the most commonly taken standardized college entrance exam is the ACT. An estimated 78 percent of Minnesota's high school graduating class in 2015 took the assessment. Minnesota's average composite score of 22.7 was the highest in the nation among the 30 states in which more than half the college-bound students took the test in 2015. The national composite score was 21.0.
ACT Mean Composite Scores in Minnesota and Nationally for the School Years Ending 2006 to 2015
The underlying data correlating student preparation and characteristics to test scores indicate that:
- Students who take rigorous high school courses consistently perform better on the ACT.
- Minnesota outperformed the nation in English, reading, math and science on the ACT.
- Minnesota students are not as ready as they could be for college level work, especially in mathematics and science even though they are more ready than national total.
- Achievement and test participation gaps persist for students of color.
- Enrolling in postsecondary education is a goal of 89 percent of test-takers. In 2014, while 91 percent of test-takers aspired to enroll in postsecondary education 76 percent did enroll.
A higher percent of Minnesota test-takers are more college ready than national according to ACT data.
College-Readiness* of ACT Test-Takers in Minnesota and Nation, 2015
*Percent of test-takers meeting college-ready benchmark scores. A benchmark score is the minimum needed on an ACT subject-area test to indicate a 50 percent chance of obtaining a B or higher or about a 75 percent chance of obtaining a C or higher in the corresponding credit-bearing college course.
Since 2007 the number of test-takers taking the minimum core or more courses in high school has increased from 54 percent of test-takers to 87 percent. Even so, only 39 percent of Minnesota students were considered college-ready in all four subjects areas tested (English, mathematics, science and social science) as determined by their test scores compared to 28 percent nationally. Readiness varied by race/ethnic background reported by test takers.
College-Readiness* of Minnesota Test-Takers Meeting All Four Benchmarks by Race/Ethnicity, 2015
Reports released by ACT emphasize the need for students to take a specific sequence of courses in secondary school to be ready for college and work beyond high school. For over 20 years ACT has recommended that high school students take a certain number of courses in high school to be ready for college. ACT stresses the need for high school students to take challenging courses. Additional research found that "the level of academic achievement that students attain by 8th grade has a larger impact on their college and career readiness by the time they graduate high school than anything that happens academically in high school."
ACT has identified the courses listed below as contributing most to college readiness and considers them the minimum college preparatory curriculum. New Minnesota high school graduation standards will be in alignment with the ACT recommended core curriculum starting in 2015:
- Four years of English
- Algebra 1, algebra 2 and geometry
- Biology, chemistry and physics
In addition, ACT found that taking a course such as speech, in addition to English in grades nine through 12, improved students college readiness. Foreign language courses also improved student's English language readiness. One (or more) mathematics course such as trigonometry, pre-calculus, or calculus in high school boosted college-readiness in mathematics.
About the Test
Seventy-eight percent of Minnesota high school graduates in 2015 took the assessment. The number of Minnesota test takers increased 4.3 percent from 44,952 in 2011 to 46,862 in 2015. Some students took the test in their junior year, some took it during their senior year, and some took it in both years or twice in one academic year. For students who took the test multiple times, only the most recent score was included in this analysis.
The ACT test comprises four subject areas: English, reading, mathematics, science and an optional writing test. The ACT assessment helps colleges determine how well students are prepared for college. Colleges use the ACT scores for student admissions, advising, and placement. Minnesota's state universities generally require a composite score of 21 or higher for admission. The highest possible ACT score is 36. In 2015, 58 Minnesota students achieved a perfect composite score; meaning they scored a 36 in all four subject areas.
A perfect score was achieved in the following subject tests by Minnesota test takers:
- 195 in English
- 214 in Mathematics
- 471 in Reading
- 348 in Science
The ACT assessment reveals helpful information for over 78 percent of aspiring college students in Minnesota high schools who took the test. It reveals nothing about the 22 percent of high school graduates who never took the test. Thirteen states, Alabama, Colorado, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, North Carolina, North Dakota, Tennessee, Utah and Wyoming require all of their high school seniors to take the assessment.
The ACT results are more representative of Minnesota than the SAT. Only about 10 percent of Minnesota college bound seniors take the SAT, compared to 46 percent nationally. Minnesota students taking the SAT are typically applying to selective out-of-state colleges.
The Minnesota Office of Higher Education reports state-level ACT test data. ACT test-taker scores at individual Minnesota high schools are available from the Minnesota Department of Education in a downloadable spreadsheet. Alternatively, ACT data on individual high schools can be viewed via SLEDS.
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