About This Report

More than 1.6 million students—roughly half of the graduating class of 2011—took the ACT during high school. Of these students, a little more than 70% enrolled in college the following fall. This report covers such topics as the students’ migration patterns, the time in which they first took the ACT, their participation in ACT’s Educational Opportunity Service (EOS), and their score-sending behavior.

Percent of High School Graduating Class Taking the ACT, 2002–2011

Line graph showing percent of students who took the ACT, 2002 to 2011

Graph reads: 49% of the high school graduating class of 2011 took the ACT.

  • Between 2002 and 2011, the number of high school graduates who took the ACT increased by 45%, from 1,116,082 to 1,623,112.
  • As a share of all high school graduates, students who took the ACT increased by 10 percentage points, from 39% in 2002 to 49% in 2011.
  • The upward trend in ACT participation is due in part to (1) a number of new states (KY, MI, TN, and WY) administering the ACT to all 11th graders, and (2) participation increases in large states such as California, Florida, New York, and Texas. As ACT participation rates have increased, the pool of ACT-tested students has become more representative of the nation’s high school graduates.

Our Unique Added Value

ACT has been measuring the academic achievement of 11th- and 12th-grade students since 1959, their career aspirations since 1969, and their academic preparation in high school since 1985. Since 1996, and every three to five years thereafter, ACT surveys thousands of high school and college educators to pinpoint the knowledge and skills needed for first-year college coursework.

ACT is the only organization with decades of empirical information showing exactly what happens to high school graduates once they get to college or to work and how they can maximize success—based on their preparation from kindergarten through high school. This unique information is an invaluable resource as ACT works closely with states, school districts, and postsecondary institutions to transform them into a better-aligned P–16 education system.

Sources of Information

Unless otherwise noted, all information in this report comes from the ACT-tested high school graduating class of 2011. Information in this report—such as the students’ background characteristics, time of testing, ACT scores, college preferences, participation in EOS, and college choices—is collected when students register for and take the ACT. Enrollment information for the ACT-tested graduating class comes from the National Student Clearinghouse (NSC) and is supplemented by enrollment information from ACT’s Class Profile Service.1

1 More than 3,300 colleges participate in the NSC, and these institutions enroll more than 96% of all undergraduates in the United States. Given this broad coverage, we make the assumption in this report that students not identified by the NSC or by ACT did not enroll in college; however, it is possible that some of these students attended a postsecondary institution that does not currently participate in the NSC or in ACT’s Class Profile Service.