What Is a Good ACT Score?

Cartoon man surrounded by numbers
November 30, 2023
4 min read


Reviewed by:

Rohan Jotwani

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 11/30/23

Navigating the college admissions process can be challenging, and understanding what is a good ACT score is a crucial part of this journey. 

The ACT, like the SAT, is a standardized test used by colleges to assess the academic abilities of applicants. 

  • An above-average ACT score is generally considered to be 21 and above.
  • A competitive ACT score can significantly enhance your chances of admission to your dream school.
  • Most prestigious schools often look for ACT scores of 30 and above.
  • Regardless, you should aim for an ACT score that is within or higher than the average range of scores for admitted students at your target school.
  • Even though more schools are adopting test-optional policies, a high ACT score can provide a substantial boost to your application and compensate for any other areas that might be lacking.

In this guide, we'll explore what a good ACT score looks like, how it can impact your college applications, and why it's important to aim for a score that aligns with your educational goals.

The ACT: Percentiles and Scores

Understanding ACT scores and percentiles is crucial for gauging where you stand in comparison to other test-takers. The ACT consists of four sections, each scored on a scale from 1 to 36. 

These section scores are then averaged to calculate your composite score, which also ranges from 1 to 36. Your composite score significantly influences your competitiveness in college admissions; it reflects your academic proficiency and enhances your appeal to colleges. 

In the context of the ACT, percentiles play a vital role in ranking your score relative to other students. For instance, being in the 75th percentile means you have scored higher than 75% of the test-takers. This percentile ranking is instrumental for colleges to evaluate your academic abilities in comparison with other applicants. 

Understanding the significance of your ACT score in this context can help you make informed decisions about your college applications.

Female student studying from book

What Are the Sections on the ACT?

There are four sections within the ACT:

  1. English
  • Focuses on grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, and rhetorical skills.
  • Consists of 75 questions to be answered in 45 minutes.
  1. Mathematics
  • Covers algebra, geometry, and trigonometry.
  • Contains 60 questions with a 60-minute time limit.
  • Allows the use of calculators, though some restrictions apply.
  1. Reading
  • Tests reading comprehension skills.
  • Includes 40 questions based on reading passages, to be completed in 35 minutes.
  1. Science
  • Assesses interpretation, analysis, evaluation, reasoning, and problem-solving skills in the natural sciences.
  • Comprises 40 questions to be answered in 35 minutes.
  1. Writing (Optional)
  • The essay score is reported separately and does not affect the composite score.
  • You have 40 minutes to complete the essay.

Each section of the ACT is designed to measure a range of academic skills that are important for success in college-level coursework. Preparing for each section and understanding how they are scored can help you target your study efforts and improve your overall performance on the test.

What Is a Good ACT Score?

A good score on the ACT varies based on individual goals and college aspirations. Nationally, the average ACT score is around 21, so anything above this is generally seen as good. 

For admissions to more selective colleges, particularly top-tier institutions like Ivy Leagues, a score in the high 20s to 36 is often necessary. Being in the 75th percentile, which is approximately a score of 24 or higher, is considered competitive for a wide range of schools. 

Ultimately, a good ACT score for colleges should align with your personal academic objectives and meet or exceed the average scores of your target colleges. Keep in mind that this score is a part of a holistic admissions process that includes other factors such as GPA, extracurriculars, essays, and recommendations.

Remember, if your initial score doesn't meet your expectations, you have the chance to enhance it by dedicating time to preparation and by opting to retake the test.

What Is an Above-Average ACT Score?

An above-average ACT score is any score above the national average, which currently hovers around 19.5. If you score above that, you’re scoring higher than more than half of the test-takers nationwide, which is a decent benchmark. However, to be truly competitive, especially at more selective colleges, aiming higher is necessary.

If you've completed the ACT exam and find yourself in need of an ACT to SAT score conversion, check out our automatic ACT to SAT score converter.

Good ACT Scores for Popular Colleges in the US

What’s considered a good ACT score can vary significantly from one college to another. For instance, at highly selective schools, good ACT scores might be in the 30-36 range, whereas at less selective schools, scores around 25 might be considered good.

UCLA campus

To give you a clearer picture, let’s look at some popular colleges in the U.S. and their ACT score expectations:

  • University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA): 29-32
  • University of Michigan: 31-34
  • University of Texas at Austin: 23-29
  • Ohio State University: <25
  • University of Florida: 30-34

These ranges represent the middle 50% of admitted students, meaning that 25% scored below this range and 25% scored above.

What Is a Good ACT Score for the Ivy League?

Ivy League schools are some of the most competitive in the nation and, therefore, have higher ACT score expectations. A good ACT score for an Ivy League application is typically above 30, with many students scoring in the 33-36 range.

Yale University

Here’s a table showcasing the ACT score ranges for the middle 50% of admitted students at each Ivy League institution:

Rank School 25th Percentile ACT Score 75th Percentile ACT Score Acceptance Rate
1 Princeton 32 35 5.8%
3 Harvard 33 35 4.6%
12 Columbia 33 35 5.1%
5 Yale 33 35 6.1%
6 UPenn 32 35 7.7%
18 Dartmouth 30 34 8.7
9 Brown 32 35 7.1%
12 Cornell 32 34 10.9%

Source: US News

An effective ACT score depends on the colleges you aim for and how competitive their applicant pools are. Highly selective institutions often require scores above 30, while mid-20s may meet the criteria for less selective schools. 

It's worth noting that ACT scores are typically released within two weeks after taking the test, allowing you to promptly gauge your performance and plan accordingly. Always check the latest class profiles of your target schools for up-to-date information.

Keep in mind that a strong ACT score can significantly bolster your application, but it's only one aspect of a holistic admissions review process. Additionally, you have the opportunity to take the ACT multiple times to improve your score, so consider retaking it if you believe you can achieve a higher result.

This process takes into account your academic record, involvement in extracurricular activities, compelling essays, strong letters of recommendation, and, if needed, seek tutoring support to achieve your desired ACT score.

ACT Score Ranges by Section

To get an idea of what to expect on the exam, take a look at this table that reflects how each section of the ACT is graded and includes the number of questions on each subject.

Section Number of Questions Reporting Categories
English 75 Production of Writing (29-32%)
Knowledge of Language (13-19%)
Conventions of Standard English (51-56%)
Math 60 Preparing for higher math (57-60%)
Number & Quantity (7–10%)
Algebra (12–15%)
Functions (12–15%)
Geometry (12–15%)
Statistics & Probability (8–12%)
Integrating essential skills (40-43%)
Reading 40 Key ideas and details (55-60%)
Craft and structure (25-30%)
Integration of knowledge and ideas (13-18%)
Science 40 Interpretation of data (45-55%)
Scientific investigation (20-30%)
Evaluation of Models, inferences, and experimental results (25-35%)


Take a look at our answers to a few frequently asked questions about ACT scores.

1. Is 19 a Good ACT Score?

A score of 19 on the ACT is just below the national average of 19.5. While not high for selective colleges, it may be acceptable for many universities with broader admission criteria. Remember, colleges consider your entire application, including GPA and extracurriculars, not just your ACT score.

2. Is a 24 ACT Score Good?

Yes, a 24 is a good ACT score. It's above the national average and places you in the 74th percentile, meaning you scored higher than 74% of test-takers. This score can open doors to a number of colleges and universities. However, for more selective institutions, you might need a higher score to be competitive.

3. What Is a Passing ACT Score?

The ACT does not have a specific passing or failing score. Instead, colleges utilize ACT scores to evaluate and compare applicants for admission. A higher ACT score can broaden your choices for higher education opportunities. 

It's advisable to strive for a score that meets or exceeds the average of 21, but it's essential to note that many colleges and universities admit students with a diverse range of scores. 

4. Is a 20 on the ACT Good?

A 20 is right around the national average. It's a solid score that can lead to college admissions, especially at local and state universities. However, if you're looking to attend a more competitive or selective school, you may want to aim higher.

5. What Is a Good ACT Math Score?

A good ACT math score is one that falls within or above the middle 50% range of the colleges you're interested in. Nationally, a 19.5 score is average, so anything above that can be considered good. For top-tier colleges, you'll likely need a score in the upper 20s or even 30s.

6. What Is a Good English ACT Score?

For the English section of the ACT, a score above 20 is generally considered good, as it's higher than the national average. If you're aiming for elite colleges, you'll want to target a score in the upper 20s or higher. A strong English score can demonstrate your readiness for college-level writing and comprehension.

7. Is 27 a Good ACT Score?

Yes, a 27 is a very good ACT score. It places you in the 85th percentile, meaning you scored better than 85% of test-takers. This score can make you a competitive applicant at many universities, and it's above average for several selective institutions. 

However, for the most prestigious colleges, especially Ivy League schools, you might need a score above 30 to be considered competitive.

Ready to Get an Amazing ACT Score?

With a deeper understanding of '"What is a good ACT score," you're now better equipped to set clear testing goals. Remember, a strong ACT score not only aligns with your educational aspirations but also enhances your college application.

Best of luck in your preparations, and may your dedicated study sessions lead you to uncover the perfect ACT score for your success!

Subscribe to Our Newsletter
Thanks ! You're now subscribed!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Get A Free Consultation

Speak to a college admissions expert about how we can help you get into your dream school
Schedule a Call

You May Also Like

Before you go, here are a few facts about us!
The Quad Factor: Working with us can increase your chances of admission by 7x!

The Best of the Best: Our team comprises of only 99th percentile tutors and admissions counselors from top-ranking universities, meaning you work with only the most experienced, talented experts.

The Free Consultation: Our experts would love to get to know you, your background, goals, and needs. From there, they match you with a best-fit consultant who will create a detailed project plan and application strategy focused on your success.