NEW YORK — Average scores on the ACT, the predominant college entrance exam in 28 Midwestern and Western states, dipped slightly during the 1986-87 school year, but minority students registered strong gains for the third straight year.
The national composite average on the four-part multiple-choice test was 18.7 on a scale of 1 to 36, down from 18.8 in 1985-86, the American College Testing Program in Iowa City, Iowa, said Monday.
Averages among black students were up sharply, to 13.4 from 13.0 in 1985-86 and 12.5 in 1984-85. But they still trailed white students by a wide margin, even though average scores by whites fell slightly, to 19.6 from 19.7 a year earlier.
Other minority groups also gained: American Indians and Alaskan Natives averaged 14.6, contrasted with 14.4 the year before; Mexican-Americans, 15.4, up from 15.2; Asian-Americans, 19.8 contrasted with 19.6, and Puerto Ricans and other Latinos, 16.9, up from 16.5.
The ACT was taken by about 777,000 high school students graduating in 1987. The test measures academic ability in English, mathematics, social studies and natural science, and results are used at more than 3,000 postsecondary institutions and agencies.
Average scores on the rival Scholastic Aptitude Test, taken by nearly 1.1 million college-bound students nationwide, will be released today by the College Board.
Despite the small drop in ACT composite scores among 1987 high school graduates, the national average has hardly varied in more than a decade. Since 1975-76, the average has never been less than 18.3, nor more than 18.8.
Males continue to outperform females in all test areas except English, the ACT program said, with a composite of 19.5 in the latest test, contrasted with 18.1 among females.
ACT officials attributed much of the improvement by minority-member youngsters to more rigorous high school preparation.
"Over the past several years, the proportion of ACT-tested students from minority groups taking a core high school curriculum has increased noticeably," said Samuel D. Cargile, director of ACT's office of minority education.