What Is a Good ACT Score?

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Updated:
June 11, 2024
4 min read
Expert Reviewed
Contents

”Mary

Reviewed by:

Mary Banks

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 6/11/24

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.

What Is a Good ACT Score?

Students in the US typically score a 24 on the ACT. Any score that matches or exceeds the national average is typically thought of as a good score. 

However, keep in mind that this threshold can change depending on the schools you're applying to. If you want to get into more selective schools, like the Ivy League, you'll need to aim for a score between 33 and 35 to be considered competitive

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.

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 the Average ACT Score in 2024?

The ACT average score for the class of 2024 is 20.6. These scores largely depend on how you fared against other high school students in the country. This average is a total score derived from the four main sections of the ACT: English, Math, Reading, and Science, each scored between 1 and 36.

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.

Good ACT Scores for Popular Colleges in the US

Rank School 25th Percentile ACT Score 75th Percentile ACT Score Acceptance Rate
21 University of Michigan 32 34 18%
15 University of California, Los Angeles(UCLA) 29 32 12.4%
32 University of Texas at Austin 29 34 31%
43 Ohio State University 25 - 53%
28 University of Florida 30 34 23%

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.

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: 29-34
  • 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.

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 34 35 5.8%
3 Harvard 34 36 3.59%
12 Columbia 34 35 3.85%
5 Yale 31 35 6.6%
6 UPenn 34 35 5.8%
18 Dartmouth 32 35 6.2%
9 Brown 34 36 5.2%
12 Cornell 33 35 7%

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 (15-17%)
Conventions of Standard English (52-55%)
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%)
Modeling
Reading 40 Key ideas and details (52-60%)
Craft and structure (25-30%)
Integration of knowledge and ideas (13-23%)
Science 40 Interpretation of data (40-50%)
Scientific investigation (20-30%)
Evaluation of Models, inferences, and experimental results (25-35%)

Tips on How to Improve Your ACT Score

These tips will help you study for the ACT test, whether it's your first or second time. 

Develop a Study Plan

Begin by getting every material you need to study and create a personalized study plan. Ensure you develop a realistic study plan. That is, leave some time for school and other commitments, such as extracurricular activities, work, and personal responsibilities. A robust study plan will help you maximize your time for study.

Practice Consistently

Practicing regularly helps you improve your ACT score. The more you practice, the higher your scores get. As you progress through your study plan, practice to get familiar with the exam, check your progress, and make adjustments.

You can use official online ACT practice tests. After each test, you can assess score reports that will help you understand where you made mistakes. Also, you can take our ACT practice questions as many times as you can. 

Answer the Questions You Know First

Prioritizing the answers you know first helps you to manage time during the exam. If you answer the questions you're confident about first, you'll have more time to figure out questions you don't know.

Also, remember to go back to any questions you skipped. Do your best to leave no answer blank, as ACT doesn't penalize you for wrong answers. Instead, we recommend that you always pick the same spot on your answer sheet for questions you do not know. 

Manage Test Anxiety

During your regular practice, you may still lack the confidence you need to take the actual ACT. Test anxiety is common especially if you have never taken a test. There are several strategies you can use to help with your ACT preparation and increase your confidence on test day: 

  • Practice many times 
  • Avoid dwelling on past mistakes 
  • Practice relaxation techniques
  • Maintain a positive mindset.

You can also reach out to an expert tutor who will help guide you through the preparation process, step-by-step. Read how working with Quad Education helped Rosemari’s son manage his expectations and ease his anxiety:

Take the ACT Multiple Times 

Since colleges do not mind how many times you take the test, prepare to write your ACT as many times as possible. Some students get their best score the first or second time. So, take your test in your junior year and/or your senior year. From your first take, you identify weak areas where you need to practice more. 

An advantage of taking the test multiple times is that the ACT provides an automatic superscore for those who take the ACT more than once. Not all colleges accept superscores so check each school's website during your application.

FAQs

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.

8. What Is the Highest Score Possible on the ACT?

The highest score you can get on the ACT is a 36.

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!

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