Joey Ferguson">

Which state has the highest average ACT and SAT scores?

Published: Thursday, June 14 2012 6:44 a.m. MDT

The ACT and SAT are two of the most important test for a prospective college student. The more prestigious the school, the tougher the score requirements will be. Here is a ranking of all U.S. states based on average ACT and SAT scores. The Deseret News found the percent correct of both the SAT and the ACT, then averaged the two together to find the rankings. ACT score figures came from The College Board provided the SAT figures. Included in each slide is a chart comparing state ACT scores with the national average. The College Board was unable to provide historical SAT information by deadline. Click here to see how much each state is spending on faculty and staff.
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Orem, UT

Go Utah :)

Murray, UT

Two days ago the Des News published a story showing Utah the lowest in per capita spending. Today they publish a story that says Utah is 13th best in ACT/SAT scores. I guess this means that per capita spending is not an indicator of quality education.

Having said that, they highest average ACT score was 22.9 (MN), while Utah's was 21.8. Back in 1973 when I graduated from a Granite School District high school, neither of these scores would have gotten you into many of the universities. These ACT scores need to come up. Utah educators, you doing well, but you need to do better.

One Angry Salebarn Worker
Madison, SD

Fitz, those ACT scores you're talking about will easily get you in to UU and Utah State, and probably get you a scholarship too.

Flower Mound, TX

If Utah can get these numbers with the lowest paid staff in the country, just think how it would be if they actually paid their teachers. The numbers would soar. More of the best teachers could be hired and the wonderful children of Utah would get the guidance they deserve. Utah! My hometown! How can you do this to your children?

One Angry Salebarn Worker
Madison, SD

Utexmom, I think your UU algebra training done failed you. Five states behind Utah that rank lower in average teacher pay, and 12 rank lower when pay is indexed against the cost of living. Academic performance data says Utah students rank among the highest in the nation--so maybe the salaries are right where they need to be? Truth is, the highest correlate to student academic performance is house hold income--strange as it may seem. Not teacher pay or per pupil expenditure.


Utah is the #1 state in amount spent per capita at $4,993.32 per child. Utah also has the most children under age 18 with a third of the total population under age 18. Utah is the nation’s youngest population with an average age of 28.8.

New York is the #51 state in amount spent per capita at $13,547.52 per child (whoa, I’m glad I don’t have to pay those taxes).

New York has the 24th highest average ACT and SAT scores (1460/23.4), while Utah has the 13th highest average ACT and SAT scores (1667/21.8).

If the people of Utah can still analyze the situation, that means the State of Utah spends less per capita than all other states and has a higher outcome than 75% of the states. I personally consider that an incredible accomplishment.


These numbers look decent, but i want more info. How many children in our state actually take the college entrance exams? What are their demographics? Instead of patting ourselves on the back for a seemingly good score, lets analyze it rigorously and make sure it is truly as wonderful as we would like to think before we are smothered in our own complacency.

Brave Sir Robin
San Diego, CA

One Angry Salebarn Worker, I think your BYU science training done failed you, specifically the part where correlation does not equal causation.

There is some correlation between student academic performance and household income, but the cause of better student academic performance is hours of parental involvement. It's easy to find the data - just google it. It just so happens that in many cases, households with higher income have more free time available to assist in children's education, but there are many other data points that suggest lower income families have higher-performing students if they simply invest the time. Or in other words, if the parents value education the children will value education...household income is incidental.

Glendora, CA

There is only one logical explanation for the ratio of spending, per capita vs outcome, for Utah, family involvement.
It's the brutal reality for the rest of the nation's reflections.

Littleton, CO

Brave Sir Robin hit the nail on the head.

Toro Azzurro
Salt Lake City, UT

First of all, the ACT and SAT scores are not a "percent correct" as written in the article. They are scaled scores that are adjusted so that there will be a comparable distribution of scores from year to year.

Secondly, it is NOT appropriate to rank states based on the simple averages of these "percent correct" for a number of reasons. The main one is that different value is placed on the tests in different areas of the country. In Utah, most college bound students take the ACT, and the average SAT score is going to be inflated by a very small subset of students - probably those who want to go to an Ivy League school or out of state. The inverse is also true. Some of the average ACT scores in other states are going to be based on similarly small numbers of students and may not be representative of the whole population.

This is DNews and no one is going to take this ranking seriously. But, if the editors want to retain any sense of credibility in this realm, they should beef up the review process or run these things by people who know what they're doing.

Tremonton, UT

Deseret News;
I have really developed a strong dislike for your format of presenting survey/study results. It is just irritating beyond measure to have to click through each slide, filled up with fluff of pretty pictures and such, to see the results. It is so annoying that I have found myself less and less willing to look at such results. And each time I yield to my interests, I find my disdain for the format, renewed.

The format makes it practically impossible to make a side by side comparison of the results from each slide. How does one make any real, meaningful use of the data this way? Perhaps that is not your intent. Perhaps all you are trying to give the reader is fluff?

Give us a few summary graphs, showing the data side by side. Give us something we can sink our brains into.

Provo, UT

Every Sophomore in a district or charter school, takes the ACT test. It is one of the newer State Laws mandating what tests students have to take.

Riverton, UT

Wait a minute! We really can't draw any conclusions from this DesNews analysis. It is invalid because the average of the percentage correct on the ACT and SAT is meaningless!

According to the websites mentioned by the author, 73% of Utah graduates (25161 students) took the ACT, but only 2124 students took the SAT. The average SAT score of 1667 corresponds to an ACT score of roughly 24 (according to various sources), which is rather high. Obviously it's not valid to assume that those 2124 students are typical of all Utah students. When the ACT and SAT numbers are averaged together, this small group of students is given much too much weight.

To do this correctly we would also need to deal carefully with students who took both exams.

Riverton, UT

To try to draw certain conclusions from the results, as some of the commenters have done, we would also need to take into account the students who took neither exam. As the CollegeBoard folks say, "Not all students in a high school, school district, or state take the SAT. Since the population of test-takers is self-selected, using aggregate SAT scores to compare or evaluate teachers, schools, districts, states, or other educational units is not valid, and the College Board strongly discourages such uses."

CollegeBoard also says, "A Word About Comparing States and Schools: The SAT is a strong indicator of trends in the college-bound population, but it should never be used alone for such comparisons because demographics and other nonschool factors can have a strong effect on scores."

Finally, you can get an idea what a certain ACT score will get you at USU by going to their "Resident Freshmen Scholarships" page. A score of 22 would probably get you into USU, but unless your high school GPA is 4.0 you are unlikely to get a merit scholarship with that ACT score.

Howard Beal
Provo, UT

I wonder what percentage of students take these tests in each state. That was one important stat that was missing. I figure if a lower percentage of students take the test, the scores would be higher. If a high percentage of students actually took one or both of these tests and the scores are relatively high, I think this would be a better indication of success.

Sanpete, UT

Wahoo. I was average!!!

Sanpete, UT

One Angry Salebarn Worker

Hate to break it to you, but this is a little false. Example: my family.

My father's income for years didn't pass the $20-$25K mark per year. With that, he raised 11 kids.
I am not saying any of this to brag, but merely to prove my point. Of these kids we have:
One Nurse Practitioner
Two Nurse-anesthetists
One LPN--continuing on in Nursing
One Medical School son--to be a surgeon
Five all have their own small business.
The last one, the youngest, is on her mission...yet to determine her career choice.

These are hardly easy subjects to accomplish. Household income has nothing to do with it. As Brave Sir Robin has stated, it's the determination of the parents to help and the individual's willingness to learn.

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