Beaufort County students' scores on the ACT college-entrance exam declined ever-so-slightly for the second consecutive year.
The school district's average score among 2012 graduates was 19.9 on a 36-point scale. That's the same as the state's average for public school students, but below the national average by a point.
It's also behind the district's 2011 graduates by two-tenths of a point.
The ACT is comprised of four multiple-choice tests -- English, math, reading and science -- designed to test students' general knowledge and college preparedness.
Students at Battery Creek High School and Whale Branch Early College High School had the lowest average scores -- 18.2 and 16.3, respectively. Those were also the two district schools that did not exceed the state average.
Battery Creek tied for making the biggest gain, though: Its average score last year was 16.9. Bluffton High School's averages also increased by 1.3 points to 21.4.
Students at Hilton Head Island High School again scored the highest -- an average of 22.6. Both Hilton Head and Bluffton High bested the national average of 21.1.
At Beaufort High School, the average score was 20.2.
Only 382 Beaufort County students took the exam, up from last year's 350. In a news release, district officials noted that typically an increase in test-takers is accompanied by a downturn in scores.
Despite an increase in test-takers by 25 percent since 2009, scores have changed little, the news release said.
The other national college-entrance exam, the SAT, is more popular in the state. All S.C. universities accept either test.