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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Freshmen entering the University of Tennessee this fall may be the best prepared ever, based on ACT entrance exam scores that exceeded state, regional and national averages.

UT President Joe Johnson said ACT scores were the highest ever among freshmen entering UT-Knoxville and UT-Chattanooga. Test scores of entering freshmen at UT Martin were exceeded only by last fall’s class.

Johnson attributed the scores to students taking more advanced courses in high school, higher UT admission requirements, more UT scholarships, and the recruiting efforts of UT admissions officers. He will report the information to the UT board of trustees at its meeting Friday.

“Support for scholarships at UTK, UTC and UT-Martin has increased 100 percent in five years,” Johnson said. “The scholarships make us more competitive for outstanding students.”

The average ACT of a freshman entering UT-Martin and UT-Chattanooga this fall was 21.7. At UT-Knoxville, the average score was 23.6. The highest possible score on the ACT is 36.

By comparison, the average ACT score of a UT freshmen 10 years ago was 22.9 at UT-Knoxville, 17.4 at UT-Chattanooga, and 17.8 at UT-Martin, Johnson said.

“Charting those scores over 10 years, the trend line is especially impressive for our Martin and Chattanooga campuses,” Johnson said.

The average ACT score in the Southeast this year was 20.0, the state average was 20.3, the national average 20.8.

Meanwhile, UTK Vice Chancellor John Peters said the Knoxville campus this fall enrolled 37 new National Merit Scholars, 32 new McWherter Scholars, and 145 new Bicentennial Scholars.

“Any one of these students has the ability to do well at any university in the country,” Peters said. “These are exceptional students, highly recruited.”

The vice chancellor also noted that the average ACT of the freshman class, 23.6, was up from 23.1 a year ago.

“This is the highest ACT average of an entering class in UT-Knoxville history,” Peters said, adding that the 0.5 increase was, if anything, more difficult to achieve in a year when class size was up 20 percent, to 3,509.