RICHMOND — Virginia students outperformed their peers nationwide by significant margins this year on the ACT college-admissions test, but the number of high school seniors who took the ACT in the commonwealth was down by more than half compared with participation among 2020 graduates.

Nine percent of Virginia’s 2021 graduates took the ACT, compared to 19% of 2020 graduates. ACT attributed the decline in participation in the state and nation to factors related to the pandemic.

The percentage of Virginia’s 2021 graduating seniors who met the ACT’s college-readiness benchmark in each content area was 30 or more points higher than the percentages for graduates nationwide, with students performing as follows: 

  • 86 percent of Virginia seniors met the benchmark in English, compared with 56 percent nationwide;
  • 75 percent met the benchmark in reading, compared with 44 percent.
  • 68 percent met the benchmark in mathematics, compared with 36 percent.
  • 67 percent met the benchmark in science, compared with 35 percent.
  • 56 percent met the benchmarks in all four subjects, compared with 25 percent.

“Given the impact of the pandemic on participation, the latest ACT results represent a snapshot of achievement during a challenging year,” Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane said. “But even so, the ACT – like the more widely taken SAT – shows that Virginia students continue to demonstrate a much higher level of college readiness than their peers nationwide.”

The college-readiness benchmarks identify students whose ACT scores indicate that they are prepared for first-year college English composition, reading, algebra and biology. ACT results are reported on a scale of 1 to 36, with 36 being the highest score. Virginia students achieved an average composite score of 25.5, compared with 20.3 for graduates nationwide.