Gender Differences in Test Scores on the ACT College Entrance Examination

In a year when many test dates were postponed or canceled due to the global pandemic and when many colleges and universities made standardized test scores optional, only 1.2 million members of the 2021 graduating class of high school seniors took the ACT college entrance examination. This was down from 1.6 million in 2020 and more than 2 million in 2017.

For the Class of 2021, the average score on the ACT dropped to 20.3 on a scale of 1 to 36. This was the lowest average score in more than a decade.

The average score for women who took the test was 20.6. For men, the average score was 20.3. While the average scores have been declining, the small gender gap in test scores has remained relatively constant over the past decade with only minor fluctuations.

Women held an edge on the English part of the test with an average score of 20.2 compared to a 19.1 average score for men. Women also held an edge in reading scores with an average score of 21.5 compared to 20.6 for men. In mathematics, men had an average score of 20.4 compared to an average score of 19.7 for women. In science, the average score for men was 20.6 compared to an average score for women of 20.4.

Some 60.2 percent of all women ACT test takers were rated as achieving a benchmark score which demonstrated that they were ready for college-level English classes. Only 53 percent of men reached the college-readiness benchmark in English. In contrast, 38 percent of men were deemed ready for college-level mathematics, compared to 34 percent of women who took the ACT. Women held a 46 to 42 edge in reading but men had a 37 to 34 advantage in science.

Some 27 percent of men who took the ACT test were deemed college-ready in all four areas of English, mathematics, reading, and science. For women, 25 percent of all test takers were deemed college-ready in all four areas.

Filed Under: Research/Study

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