Student performance on ACT steady and improving

-A A +A
By Reece Murphy

Lancaster County student performance on the ACT college entrance exam improved overall for the school district this year, with two schools showing significant gains.

ACT is a curriculum-based test intended to assess college-bound students’ academic skills and ability to complete college-level work.

The 215-question multiple-choice test covers four subjects – English, math, reading and science – with a highest possible score of 36.

According to the S.C. Department of Education results released last week, local high school seniors earned a mean composite score (the average of all subjects) of 19.6 points, an increase of 1.3 points from last year.

ACT considers a change of .3 points statistically significant.

The 261 school district seniors who took the ACT in 2014 averaged 18.3 points in English, 20.1 in math and reading and 19.4 in science.

The overall English score of Lancaster County School District students exceeded the ACT’s college readiness benchmark score of 18, but fell slightly below the 22-point benchmark score for math and reading, and the 23-point benchmark in science.

ACT defines its benchmark scores as the minimum test scores for students to have a high probability of success in college.

ACT officials say the benchmark scores mean students have a “50 percent chance of obtaining a B or higher” and a “75 percent chance of obtaining a C or higher” in the corresponding for-credit first-year college courses.

Individual schools

Two of the county’s four high schools showed significant improvement in student scores, while two remained virtualli the same.

Indian Land High School showed the greatest improvement over the prior year, with an average composite score of 22.2 points, up 1.6 from 2013. That result is higher than both the national and state levels.

The 64 ILHS students who took the ACT averaged 21.5 points in English and math, 23.1 in reading and 22 in science.

Lancaster High School and its 111 ACT test takers also showed improvement over last year, with a mean composite score of 18 points, up 1.3 points from last year.

LHS students averaged 16.2 points in English, 19.1 points in math, 18.5 points in reading and 17.7 points in science.

Andrew Jackson High School’s 40 seniors who took the ACT earned a mean composite score of 20.1 points, an increase of .2 points over last year’s 19.9 points.

AJHS students averaged 21.5 points in English, 20.2 points in math, 20.7 points in reading and 20.3 points in science.

Buford High School students’ mean ACT composite score was 19.3, down .1 of a point from last year. 

However, that is not considered a statistical decrease.

BHS’s 46 test takers averaged 18.2 points on the English portion of ACT, 20.2 in math, 19.4 in reading and 19 points in science.

With a 19.6 point mean composite score, Lancaster County School District students outperformed Chester and Chesterfield county schools, with 18.8 and 19.4 points respectively, but fell short of Kershaw County schools’ 20.8 point and Fort Mill schools’ 23.3 mean composite score.

State results

The mean composite score for all South Carolina public school students was 20.2. The average composite score for “all students,” a designation that includes private and home school students, was 20.4.

The state’s 20,782 public school students who took the test averaged 19.2 in English, 20.1 in math, 20.6 in reading and 20.2 in science.


The ACT is one of two widely accepted major college entrance exams, along with the SAT.

Compiled ACT scores released for any given year include only scores of students who graduated that year, regardless of when they took the test.

The ACT test is curriculum-based, with an emphasis on material students have covered. It is intended to test the student’s “mastery of the material.”

The SAT, which has no science section, is a logic-based test intended to test the student’s understanding of subject area concepts.

Students may take either test, or both, as both are universally accepted by institutions of higher learning in the United States.


Contact reporter Reece Murphy at (803) 283-1151