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Chapter 4: Academic Preparation and Achievement

Indicator 24: College Entrance Exams

A higher percentage of males than females met the ACT benchmark scores in mathematics (49 vs. 41 percent) and science (34 vs. 26 percent) in 2011. In contrast, a lower percentage of males than females met the benchmark scores in English (64 vs. 69 percent) and reading (51 vs. 53 percent).

College entrance exams are typically required for acceptance at 4-year postsecondary institutions. This indicator focuses on student performance on the two most prominent college entrance exams (the ACT and the SAT) using ACT college readiness benchmark scores and SAT scores. In 2011, some 25 percent of all students who took the ACT met or exceeded the ACT college readiness benchmark score in all four subject areas (English, mathematics, reading, and science). A higher percentage of males than females (28 vs. 22 percent) achieved all four ACT college readiness benchmark scores. This pattern held across all racial/ethnic groups. Higher percentages of males than females achieved the four benchmark scores within the Asian (44 vs. 37 percent), White (35 vs. 28 percent), Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander (18 vs. 12 percent), Hispanic (14 vs. 9 percent), American Indian/Alaska Native (14 vs. 10 percent), and Black (5 vs. 4 percent) racial/ethnic groups.

In the same year, 45 percent of all students met the ACT mathematics benchmark, and 30 percent of all students met the science benchmark. A higher percentage of males than females met the benchmark score in mathematics (49 vs. 41 percent) and in science (34 vs. 26 percent). These patterns held within all racial/ethnic groups in both mathematics and science. For example, 29 percent of American Indian/Alaska Native males met the ACT mathematics benchmark, compared with 22 percent of their female peers; and 18 percent of Hispanic males met the science benchmark, compared with 12 percent of their female peers.

The percentages of students who met the ACT benchmarks in mathematics and science in 2011 differed across racial/ethnic groups, but exhibited similar patterns. The highest percentage of students meeting the science and mathematics benchmarks were Asian students (71 and 46 percent, respectively), followed by White (54 and 37 percent), Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander (36 and 19 percent), Hispanic (30 and 15 percent), American Indian/Alaska Native (25 and 15 percent), and Black (14 and 6 percent) students. The same racial/ethnic patterns of performance were found for both males and females.

In 2011, some 66 percent of students met the ACT English benchmark score, and 52 percent met the ACT reading benchmark score. Lower percentages of males than females met the benchmark scores in English (64 vs. 69 percent) and reading (51 vs. 53 percent). Males also met the English benchmark at a lower rate than females by race/ethnicity. For example, 31 percent of Black males met the ACT English benchmark, compared with 38 percent of Black females. The percentages of White, Black, Asian, Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, and American Indian/Alaska Native males who met the ACT reading benchmark were lower than the percentages of their female peers who met it. This pattern was not observed, however, in reference to the percentages of Hispanic males and females who met the ACT reading benchmark.

The percentages of students meeting the ACT English and reading benchmarks varied across racial/ethnic groups. Higher percentages of White (77 percent) and Asian (76 percent) students met the English benchmark than Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander (55 percent), American Indian/Alaska Native (47 percent), Hispanic (47 percent), and Black (35 percent) students. This racial/ethnic pattern was also observed for the percentages of students meeting the reading benchmark. Similar racial/ethnic patterns of performance in English and reading were observed for both males and females.

In terms of SAT scores in 2011, the average score on the SAT critical reading section was 497 out of 800. Males had higher critical reading scores, on average, than females (500 vs. 495 points). This trend was observed for White, Hispanic, Asian/Pacific Islander, and American Indian/Alaska Native students, with the largest difference observed between Hispanic males and females (a 9-point difference) and the smallest difference observed between Asian/Pacific Islander males and females (a 1-point difference). In contrast, Black males scored 5 points lower than females on the critical reading section.

Average critical reading scores on the SAT varied across racial/ethnic groups. The highest average score on the critical reading test was achieved by White students (528 points), followed by Asian/Pacific Islander (517 points), American Indian/Alaska Native (484 points), Hispanic (451 points), and Black students (428 points). The same racial/ethnic patterns of performance were found for males and females.

In the same year, the average score on the mathematics section of the SAT was 514 points. Males had higher mathematics scores, on average, than females (531 vs. 500 points). This pattern held for all racial/ethnic groups. The largest male-female score difference occurred for Hispanic students (a 33-point difference), followed by White and American Indian/Alaska Native (a 32-point difference for each), Asian/Pacific Islander (a 25-point difference), and Black students (a 13-point difference).

Average mathematics scores varied across racial/ethnic groups. Asian/Pacific Islander students had the highest average mathematics score (595 points), followed by White (535 points), American Indian/Alaska Native (488 points), Hispanic (463 points), and Black students (427 points). The same racial/ethnic patterns of performance were found for males and females.

In 2011, the average score on the writing section of the SAT was 489 points. Males had lower average writing scores than females overall (482 vs. 496 points), as well as within racial/ethnic groups, with the largest average writing performance difference between males and females occurring for Black students (a 21-point difference), followed by White students (a 17-point difference), American Indian/Alaska Native students (a 16-point difference), Asian/Pacific Islander students (a 13-point difference), and Hispanic students (an 8-point difference).

Racial/ethnic patterns of performance for writing scores were similar to the racial/ethnic patterns of performance for mathematics scores. Asian/Pacific Islander students achieved the highest average writing score (528 points), followed by White (516 points), American Indian/Alaska Native (465 points), Hispanic (444 points), and Black students (417 points). The same racial/ethnic patterns of performance were found for males and females.

Technical Notes

The ACT consists of four sections: English, mathematics, reading, and science. Scores for each section range from 0 to 36. College readiness benchmark scores are based on the actual performance of approximately 90,000 college students from a nationally representative sample of 98 institutions and represent the level of achievement required for students to have a 50 percent chance of obtaining a B or higher or about a 75 percent chance of obtaining a C or higher in corresponding credit-bearing first-year college courses. These college courses include English composition, college algebra, an introductory social science course, and biology. The benchmarks are median course placement values for these institutions and as such represent a typical set of expectations. The benchmark scores, out of a total possible score of 36, are 18 for English, 21 for reading, 22 for mathematics, and 24 for science. Estimates are based on all students who took the ACT assessment during their sophomore, junior, or senior year and who graduated from high school in the spring of the respective year shown. The SAT includes a critical reading section, a writing section, and a mathematics section, each scored on a scale ranging from 200 to 800 points. Data are for seniors who took the SAT anytime during high school (through March of their senior year). If a student took a test more than once, the most recent score was used. The SAT information on Asians and Pacific Islanders is presented as a combined category because the data were collected in a manner that does not permit separate reporting. Since 96 percent of all Asian/Pacific Islander 5- to 24-year-olds are Asian, this combined category substantially reflects the situation for Asians, rather than Pacific Islanders. Data used to calculate gaps discussed in the text are unrounded and, therefore, may be different from calculations using the rounded data from the accompanying table. For more information, please see the introduction to this report.

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Figure 24-1 Percentage of ACT test-taking population meeting all four college readiness benchmark scores, by race/ethnicity and sex: 2011

Figure 24-2 Average SAT scores for the 12th-grade SAT test-taking population, by subject, race/ethnicity, and sex: 2011

Table E-24-1 Percentage of ACT test-taking population meeting college readiness benchmark scores, by subject, sex, and race/ethnicity: 2010 and 2011

Table E-24-2 Average SAT scores for students who took the SAT during high school, by subject, sex, and race/ethnicity: Selected years, 200811


  
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