ACT Score Ranges: What You Need to Know

Photo of a female student with long brown hair sitting in front of her laptop and researching the ACT exam
May 30, 2022
The ACT Score RangeWhat Is a Good ACT Score Range?Writing Score Breakdown


Reviewed by:

Rohan Jotwani

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 5/30/22

The ACT is one of the two main standardized tests that are required to gain admission into college. It is important to understand the ACT score range so that you can be successful at gaining admission to the school of your choice, so keep reading to know more. 

The American College Test or ACT is a standardized test that is taken by high school students to show their readiness for college. It is broken down into four main parts with an optional fifth section on writing ability. The test is used by colleges and universities to help them decide which students should be admitted.

To prepare for the test, it is important to know what ACT score ranges you should aim for to help you get into the school of your choice. Here we will discuss the test in detail and describe what makes a good ACT score.

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The ACT Score Range

The American College Test or ACT is taken by high school students or international students who are looking to attend an American university.

The test is broken down into the following sections:

The four compulsory tests are scored out of 36, and then the average of those scores becomes your composite score. The composite score is the one that is sent to colleges when you apply and can impact your acceptance into the school.

What Is a Good ACT Score Range?

It can be difficult to answer what a good ACT score range would be, as it really depends on what school you want to attend. When it comes to Ivy League schools, for example, you will likely need a top score; they will only look at your application if you have an ACT score range between 34 and 35.

The average ACT score is around 21; more people score in the 20s than at the top of the ACT score range. It is always good to remember that test scores are not everything. Schools also look at other criteria such as extracurriculars and references. If you did not do as well as you wanted on the ACT, you still have a good chance of getting in.

Keep in mind that because of the pandemic, many schools have decided to stop looking at standardized test scores or are no longer making it a requirement for your application. 

A lack of testing facilities made it difficult for some students to write the ACT;  schools could no longer require ACT scores for their applicants. So you might want to check the school’s application requirements before even taking the test.

According to the US News, it is a good idea to check what ACT score range accepted students had when applying. This will allow you to aim for a score that is appropriate for the individual schools you are applying to and takes the pressure off when actually taking the test.

Writing Score Breakdown

Though taking the writing test for the ACTs is considered optional, if you do not take it then your English Language Arts (ELA) score will not be reported. This score is required for the majority of undergraduate programs, so it is important not to skip this important test.

The good news for those who have trouble with writing, taking the writing test does not affect your other scores or the overall composite score.

The writing test is scored based on your ability to:

In order to do this, two readers are assigned to evaluate each essay. The evaluators will then give the essay a score range between 1 and 6 for each of the components above. Once that has been finished the readers compare their scores and if there is a disagreement of more than one point, a third reader is asked to evaluate the essay.

At the end of that process, the test is given an overall score between 1 and 6, which is reported to the schools you apply to.

ACT Score Ranges: FAQs

Still have questions about ACT Score ranges? Take a look at our answers to these frequently asked questions!

1. Do I Need To Do the ACTs?

You are not required to do the ACTs but they can help you gain acceptance into a school, especially if there is a lot of competition.

2. Do I Need To Submit My ACT Scores?

Even though you might not need to submit your ACT scores, if you are looking for a scholarship, they might be needed. Students who fall under a high ACT score range are often more likely to be awarded a scholarship or given more money for a scholarship they have already been awarded.  

3. If I Am Unhappy With My Score Can I Take The ACT Again?

If you are unhappy with your ACT score or think the schools you are applying to require a higher ACT score range, then you can take the test again. You can take the test up to 12 times, though most students take it 2 or 3 times.

4. What ACT Score Range Will Guarantee My Acceptance Into College?

Unfortunately, there is no ACT score range that will guarantee you a spot in college or university. Schools look at more than just your ACT scores when deciding on acceptances, but they will help you get considered. 

Also, the higher your ACT score range, the more likely you will be awarded a scholarship which can make a huge difference to your future. 

5. How Do I Prep For the ACT?

Making sure you have plenty of time to prepare for the ACT is important. You might want to have a study group that helps each other with practice tests or you can hire an academic coach for extra help.

Final Thoughts

The ACT is an important part of the application process when in pursuit of a higher education. It can be important to understand what makes up an ACT score so that you are able to prepare for the test properly. Having a good grasp of the ACT score ranges can help you get into the college of your dreams.

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