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      South Carolina students post gains on ACT college entrance exam

      ACT college entrance exam scores increased for South Carolina's 2013 public, private, and home schooled students, according to data released by the company Wednesday.

      Participation decreased by 274 South Carolina students over last year.

      The national average composite score for all-students was 20.9, a decrease of 0.2 points from the previous year. The South Carolina all-students average composite score was 20.4, a gain of 0.2 points.

      The South Carolina average composite score for public school students was 20.1, an increase of 0.2 points from 2011.

      "There are real students with real aspirations behind these statistics. Credit for these gains belongs to the students, parents, and teachers. Congratulations to these students for their hard work and perseverance," State Superintendent of Education Mick Zais said.

      Gaps between South Carolina and the national average scores closed for the composite score and four subtests. The biggest gains were made on the ACT Reading subtest.

      "While college admissions tests are imperfect indicators of school effectiveness, these assessments provide useful information about South Carolina students entering higher education. While nationwide assessments continue to show a reading gap between South Carolina and the nation, it is encouraging to see the gap is closing. We must continue to address reading gaps because reading is fundamental to everything else in a student's education. If students cannot read, they will not succeed in school."

      In South Carolina, the average ACT composite score for all white students was 22.3 (increase of 0.1 points), the average composite score for all black students was 16.6 (no change), and the average composite score for Hispanic students was 20.2 (increase of 0.3 points).

      The achievement gap between white and Hispanic students decreased by 0.2 points. The gap between white and black students increased by 0.1 points.

      The newly released state-level ACT scores are from students who graduated in 2013, regardless of when they took the test during their high school careers.

      The ACT is a curriculum-based achievement exam designed to measure the academic skills that are taught in schools and is used as an indicator for success in first-year college courses. The SAT is an implied learning test that measures how students think based on their experiences both in and out of the classroom setting.

      All South Carolina colleges and universities accept either ACT or SAT scores for admission.

      The five South Carolina universities receiving the most scores from all South Carolina ACT test-takers were the University of South Carolina (Columbia), Clemson, College of Charleston, Coastal Carolina, and Winthrop.

      The most popular fields for majors are health sciences & technologies, undecided, business, engineering, social sciences & law, and education.

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