Record Number of Hispanic Students Take ACT Test; Many Hispanic Graduates Not...

Record Number of Hispanic Students Take ACT Test; Many Hispanic Graduates Not Ready for College-Level Coursework


Iowa City, IA–(HISPANIC PR WIRE)–August 17, 2005–More Hispanic high school graduates than ever before are taking the ACT and planning to attend college. But, test results from the graduating class of 2005 suggest that many of these students are missing some of the academic skills they’ll need during their first year of college.

The number of Hispanic students taking the ACT has surged in recent years, growing by 40 percent since 2001. More than 83,000 of this spring’s Hispanic graduates—an all-time high—took the exam, up 6 percent from last year. Overall, Hispanic students represented 8 percent of the ACT-tested 2005 graduates nationally.

“The fact that more Hispanic students consider college to be part of their future is very good news,” said Richard L. Ferguson, ACT’s chief executive officer and chairman. “But for many students, there’s a disconnect between plans and preparation. Their ACT scores suggest that many will have a hard time in college, or they’ll need remedial help to fill some of the academic skill gaps.”

Hispanic graduates in 2005 earned an average ACT composite score of 18.6. This is one-tenth of a point higher than last year’s score of 18.5 but significantly lower than the national average score of 20.9.

“Hispanics still fall below the national average, but the increase in their average ACT score this year—even as the number of test-takers expanded—is encouraging,” said Ferguson.

Majority of Hispanic Students Fall Short of College Readiness Benchmarks

The majority of Hispanic students fall short of ACT’s College Readiness Benchmarks, the scores that indicate the likelihood that a student will succeed (earn a “C” or higher) in particular first-year courses in college.

— Just 48 percent of ACT-tested Hispanic students achieved an 18 or higher on the English Test, indicating they are likely to earn a “C” or higher in freshman English composition.

— Only 33 percent scored 21 (the College Readiness Benchmark) or higher on the ACT Reading Test.

— Only 24 percent reached the benchmark of 22 or higher on the ACT Math Test, indicating their readiness for college algebra.

— A meager 12 percent scored a 24 or higher on the ACT Science Test, indicating readiness for college biology.

“Students who don’t reach the benchmark scores could still succeed in college with hard work,” said Ferguson. “But it’s likely they’ll have a harder time than students who are better prepared. Many students who don’t reach the College Readiness Benchmarks will need remedial help in at least one subject in college.

“College readiness is a problem across all racial and ethnic groups in high school,” said Ferguson. “But these math and science scores should be a call to action if Hispanic graduates are going to compete for high-paying jobs that require advanced math and science skills.”

Many Hispanic students plan to pursue college majors that require strong math and science skills, yet most are graduating from high school without these skills. The number-one college major choice among Hispanics is health sciences (named by 21 percent), and other majors receiving significant mention include engineering (8%), science (4%), and computer science (3%).

Course Selection and Rigor at Center of Readiness Problem

What’s causing this disconnect between high school graduation and college readiness? The answer is multi-layered, but at its center is the fact that too many students are not taking the right kind of courses in high school to prepare them for college and work. And, even when the right courses are taken, many are likely not rigorous enough or focused on the higher-level course content that students need to learn.

“Another problem is the number of students arriving in high school without the foundational skills to take challenging courses,” said Ferguson. “We need to identify students at much earlier grades—eighth grade and earlier—to make sure they have a solid foundation of basic knowledge and skills needed for high school-level courses.”

Many Hispanic graduates are not taking the right courses in high school to prepare for college. Just more than half (54%) reported taking the recommended “core” curriculum for college-bound students, which includes four years of English and three years each of math (algebra and higher), science, and social studies.

About the ACT Assessment

The ACT is a curriculum-based achievement test made up of four separate exams in English, reading, mathematics and science. An optional writing test was added to the exam in February. Scores for the ACT Writing Test will be reported for the first time next year.

The ACT is scored on a scale of 1 to 36, with 36 being the highest possible score. ACT scores are accepted at virtually all colleges and universities across the nation. The test is administered in all 50 states and is the predominant college entrance exam in 25 states. Nearly 1.2 million high school graduates in the class of 2005—a record number—took the ACT.

ACT is an independent, not-for-profit organization that provides assessment, research, information and program-management services in the broad areas of education planning, career planning and workforce development. Each year, ACT serves millions of people in high schools, colleges, professional associations, businesses and government agencies—nationally and internationally. Though designed to meet a wide array of needs, all ACT programs and services have one guiding purpose: to help people achieve education and career goals by providing information for life’s transitions.

For more information about ACT, visit



ACT, Inc.

Ken Gullette

Director, Media Relations

Phone: (319) 337-1028


Ed Colby

Senior Communications Associate

Phone: (319) 337-1028

Record Number of Hispanic Students Take ACT Test; Many Hispanic Graduates Not Ready for College-Level Coursework