From Alabama to Wyoming: Which states have the highest average ACT and SAT scores

Published: Thursday, Nov. 7 2013 9:33 p.m. MST


With graduation around the corner, students are finishing up their college applications for 2014.

An important part of college applications are the ACT and SAT tests. Although not every school requires both tests to be taken for admittance, students generally chose one test or the other to take.

Here is a compilation of the highest ACT and SAT score averages in the country. The average ACT score and SAT score were combined to create the total score a state received.

The national average for the ACT and SAT are 20.9 and 1498, respectively. Nationally, 54 percent of high school graduates took the ACT and 50 percent took the SAT.

ACT information for 2013 was found on ACT.org and SAT test information was compiled by the Commonwealth Foundation for Public Policy Alternatives.

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Apo, AP

You've really got to question this scoring method which adds the ACT to the SAT and creates the composite score. It assumes that 1 point on the ACT is equivalent to 1 point on the SAT, so a state like MA with an average ACT score of 24 could be below a state like Alabama with a 20.4 average because of a slight difference in the SAT.

Former Sports Director
Ogden, UT

This is a really stupid list. Adding the 2 average scores together tells you nothing. If you notice the states that do the best have the lowest % of students taking the SAT. That is because in those states only the students wanting to go to a top notch east or west coast college (the ones that require the SAT) are going to take it so if only 5% of students from a state take the test then it is the smartest 5% who are going to have a very high average score on the SAT. And since that is nearly 100 times as important in determining the State average that state is obviously going to do very well.

A better way might have been to turn each score into a % and then weight that % by the % of students taking the test then add those numbers together.

Irony Guy
Bountiful, Utah

Utah is average! How exciting.

Delta, UT

Heaven forbid we create a table. Nothing like clicking and scrolling through 51 slides. Talk about an un-friendly user experience.

Chandler, AZ

Echoing the previous comments, what a waste of bits and bytes. Good explanation by Former Sports Director.


Someone spent a great deal of time pulling the state capitol pics for each state and managing the content for this piece, but it would have been much better if DN had just published the list in a table where we could actually compare the state's results.

Howard Beal
Provo, UT

I'm sure there are ads on every page we have to scroll through to see this list...

Howard Beal
Provo, UT

Here's the hidden fact on the stats. Utah will do better in the SAT average vs. the ACT average. The state of New Jersey will do the opposite. Why? Most students in Utah will attend local colleges which take the ACT. Same for New Jersey but colleges on the east coast typically like the SAT. If a Utah students wants to venture to say an Ivy League school he takes the SAT. He is probably a pretty smart kid and thus the relatively few Utah students that take the SAT will score well making Utah look good there. But again most Utah students take the ACT and that will bring the average down. Now let's say there are a few New Jersey students that want to venture west and go to Stanford or even BYU. They take the ACT test. Again, these are pretty smart and motivated students. They will make New Jersey's ACT average look good. But since most people in New Jersey take the SAT, there average there won't look as good. So you really need to look inside the numbers to get the real story.

Orem, UT

Not a very useful way to sort the list, but when I counted just ACT, I counted 30 states better than Utah. We need to pick up the slack, guys!

Former Sports Director
Ogden, UT

The problem with sorting on either the ACT or the SAT from this list is selection bias. States that have high percentages of students taking the test are going to have lower scores than those with low percentages taking it. Because if there are few taking the test it is the smart ones looking to get into a prestigious school that requires it.

Even doing what I suggested above does not give you anything better. Nor just making the score a % and averaging. Basically what I am trying to say is this list is garbage for making any type of comparison between states and education. The DNews had done everyone a huge disservice by putting this out there. They might as well just make up random numbers and list the states by that.

Saint George, UT

I went to high school in NJ and came to BYU for college. My high school pushed the SAT with all kinds of prep classes to help us get into east coast colleges. I had to take the ACT for BYU. I asked my guidance counselor when the ACT test was and she said "I have no idea, why would you even want to take that?" I explained that it was required by the school I wanted to attend and then it took her awhile to find out when and where and how to sign up for it.

J in ID
Idaho Falls, ID

The error in adding the 2 scores together is only part of the problem. You also have to look at the % of students that took the test. If only 25% took the SAT, then that 25% consists of the smarter students who plan to go to college. If a state has 99% of the students that took the test then naturally they will have a lower average score. This whole list is a joke.

Farmington, UT

Irony Guy, Utah is just barely in the top third, not average.

J in ID
Idaho Falls, ID

Lets compare the top of the list (Illinois) to the bottom of the list (Idaho - yes my home state).

Idaho was better on the ACT (22.1 vs 20.6), but only 49% of the graduates took the test compared to 100% for Illinois. The flip side is that Illinois had a great SAT score (1807) but only 5% (the smartest students) took the test, while Idaho scored low (1364) but 99% took the test.

All these means is that we have no idea which state is better.

optic yellow
Ogden, UT

This data is inaccurate.

Utah's info states "Percent of graduated high school students who took the ACT: 100"

So very untrue.

There are numerous students who graduate in Utah and do not take the ACT.

Heidi T.
Farmington, UT

Look again Irony Guy.

Kelly D
Eastvale, CA

Why are we comparing these and looking at how bad our state is why are we not saying WOW what is Illinois doing right? How can we mirror what they are doing to better qualify our kids for college and a future. Heaven knows we are spending an enormous amount of money on education here in CA and what are we not doing the Illinois is? We are now taking Pre-SAT test in HS~ EVERY STUDENT. The District is paying for it. But if we are not preparing them to take it, it is just money wasted. All of our test prep is spent on State Star testing. We have something to learn here. Great job Illinois!


Don't get too excited, Kelly D. The only reason that Illinois ranked so high is because the 5% of students that took the SAT did absolutely amazing!! But most of them took the ACT and their scores were pretty bad. The ones who should be commended are New Hampshire and Massachusetts. That is impressive!

Plano, TX

Stanford accepts the SAT. Just FYI.

Taylorsville, UT

This kind of statistic does well at showing how well a state does with the bottom and middle of the academic levels. We don't have any inner city, which helps us bring up the average quite a bit.

However, it does not show how we are doing as a state with the top of our academic kids. We have one of the lowest PSAT scores for kids getting into National Merit Semi-finalist status. Some other states are as high as 223, and Utah is 204-208. As a state and as a country, we would gain more prosperity, long term, if our brightest kids were also challenged.

Durham, NC

You combined the scores to come up with a total? Are you kidding me?

What about a simple exercise of weighting the two scores as a percentage of the total possible scores - then merging those. Its a simple spreadsheet project.

DN, come on. Surely you know better than this. This report isn't worth... well... much.

Provo, Utah

I see you are still calling this a list, even though it is definitely not a list. Call it a slide show or a set of graphics or something that doesn't mislead your users. Whatever you call it, a true list or table would have been much a much more useful way to present this information to anyone who has a life and doesn't have time to page through 51 slides to find out where any state he is interested in stands.

This same comment applies to many of the other so-called lists printed almost daily by the DN which are really slide shows and should be list or tables to be user friendly. If the information you are presenting is best presented as a slide show, fine, call it a slide show or presentation, but please don't mislead your readers who are busy and don't have time to play your games by causing them to expect to see a list when it is not.

I agree with the many comments that point out the virtual worthlessness of the information as it is presented.

Salt Lake City, UT

Interesting data, somewhat. The ACT average for incoming freshmen at Utah's universities is also interesting.

Salt Lake City, UT

I noticed that a lot of the states that had higher average scores had fewer students taking the exam. I think the exams should be required for 100% of the students of all reporting schools to get a more well-rounded view of how well all students are doing instead of comparing one school's smartest students to another school's entire class.

Sandy, UT

The scores only help if you compare like conditions. Those states where 100 percent took the SAT gives a fair comparison. If only 10 percent took the ACT, the results are not relevant because they are likely among the top students. Likewise, a state that has 75 percent take the ACT is not relevant because those 25 percent who did not take it are more likely the one who would bring the numbers down. It is interesting though when you hear that execs from other states are worried about moving to Utah because of education. Compare both tests and Utah tests higher in one for most states.

While more money would be nice, the biggest factor is how much emphasis parents give to their children's education.

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