Almost No Blacks at the Top of the ACT Scoring Pyramid

For students who take the ACT college admissions test, the nation’s highest-ranked colleges and universities aim to recruit students who score 28 or above. (The ACT test is scored on a scale of 1 to 36.)

Nationwide in 2006, only 1,544 black students scored 28 or above on the ACT test. They made up 1.1 percent of all black ACT test takers. In contrast, 95,391 white students scored 28 or above on the ACT test this year. They made up 12.6 percent of all white ACT test takers. Thus, whites were more than 11 times as likely as blacks to score at a level equal to the mean score of students admitted to the nation’s most prestigious colleges and universities.

These scores demonstrate that in strict race-neutral admissions environments — such as the ones that still prevail at state universities in California, Florida, and Washington State — very few black students will score high enough on standardized admissions tests to qualify for places at the nation’s highest-ranked public universities. The ACT test is the most widely used college entrance examination in the state of Michigan. This November, voters in Michigan will decide whether to abolish race-sensitive admissions programs at the University of Michigan and other state-run universities. If voters take this step, the small number of blacks scoring at the top of the ACT scoring pyramid will result in a huge reduction in black students at the University of Michigan.

There is an even higher racial scoring gap at the very top of the ACT scoring pyramid. Of the 139,000 blacks who took the ACT test this year, not one of these students had a perfect score of 36. On the other hand, there were 143 white students who received the top score of 36. Five black students achieved a score of 35 on the ACT. There were 1,215 white students who scored 35 on the ACT.

But here are the most discouraging statistics in the current year’s ACT report: In 2006, 89 percent of all white test takers scored at or above the median level for blacks. Only 12 percent of all black ACT test takers scored at or above the median level for whites.