What Is A Good ACT Score?

Jul 24, 2021

You might be preparing for your ACT exam, or you already attempted the exam. In both cases, one question is prevalent for the student Attempting the ACT exam, What's a good ACT score?

In this blog, we'll explain to you what is a good ACT score for you. But before this, it's essential to understand the average ACT scores. It will give you an idea of where most of the students score.

So, what's an average ACT score?

To know this, we need to understand how the ACT score works. ACT score ranges from 1 to 36, 1 is the lowest, and 36 know as the perfect ACT score, which is also the highest you can get. The composite score given to you is an average score of all ACT sections.

There are four ACT sections, which are Science, Maths, English, and Reading. All the section score range is from 1 to 36. Thus it would be best if you scored well in all the sections. If a single section gets significantly less than a score, it can ruin your composite score. 

To find an average ACT score, we need to know the percentile. A percentile score is a comparison score with other test-takers. Let's see the 2020-21 composite percentile chart published by act.org:

ACT Score - Percentile Score

This chart shows how many percentages of test-takers you performed better than. For example, if you scored 26, then your percentile score is 82. It means you score better than 82% of students who attended the test. 

An average composite score is the 50th percentile. Here, the 50th percentile score is 20.7, which is, on average, a student's score. It means even if your score is 21, your scored better than half of the students who attended to exam. 

Like the average composite score, there is also a percentile score for each section. Let's see the 2020-21 section percentile chart published by act.org:

Subject wise Score

In this chart, the average section scores for English, Math, Reading, and Science are 20.1, 20.4, 21.2, 20.6, respectively. As we can see, there is a slight difference between all the scores. 

Some are a bit more competitive, and some are a bit less competitive than each other. The average score of Science, English, Maths is less than the average composite score. In comparison, the average score for Reading is more than the average composite score. It also shows how competitive it is to score better than half of the test-takers.

In both these charts, you can also see fewer people who score in the below range. If your score is 7, you are better than only 1% of the test taker in the composite score and all section score. The same case is with the higher range. Hence, there'll be a lot of students scoring in the middle. A slightly higher score in the middle range can increase your score drastically. An ACT score of 20 has a percentile score of 53, and an ACT score of 24 has a percentile score of 74. Only raise in 4 points, and the percentile score difference is whopping 21%.

Now, as you understood the average score, it's time to know what a good ACT score is. If we consider the percentile chart, a score above 20.7 is a good ACT score compared to all test takers. But it's unrealistic to consider 20.7 as a good ACT score for everyone. So what would it be? Let checkout!

Good ACT Score For You?

You may have noticed in the title I have written a good ACT score for "you" instead of only writing good ACT scores. It's because which ACT score is right for you to depend on your individual preference. 

A good ACT score depends on which College you want to enroll. For example, you want to go to top elite colleges like Harvard, Princeton, Yale. If your score is less than 30, it will be tough for you to enter this College. But the same score would be very high for many other colleges like CSU Long Beach. 

A score that is above 21 would not be a good score for CSU Long Beach. But it's an excellent score for CSU Northridge as it's having an average of only 19. Thus a good ACT score is totally dependant on your college preference. Only keep in mind that the more prestigious the College, the more selective they are. And as they are more demanding and many bright students try for these colleges, the ACT score will always be high. But you don't need to bother about it if you are not going to apply to elite colleges. 

Now, let's see how to find out a good score for you.

Find Out a Good ACT Score For You

Now, as you know, a Good ACT score depends on you. We will find out your good ACT with three easy steps. Let's see:

Step 1: Create A Sheet

Create a google sheet that will list all the colleges you want to apply to and their ACT score ranges. The sheet should consist of 4 columns:

  • College Name
  • 25th percentile
  • 75th percentile
  • Average score

The sheet will look like the below image:

Example Sheet

Step 2: Fill in the Relevant Information

To find ACT scores use Google: type "[college name] ACT score." Google will give you the information you need.

For example, I typed the keyword "Harvard ACT scores." In the search results. You will get this information in the "knowledge panel" above the search result. It will show you the 25th and 75th percentile scores of the College. You can add both of these scores and divide them by 2; this will give you the College's average ACT score.

Harvard ACT Scores


If you cannot get the details from the knowledge panel, you can search it in the "people also ask" section. This section will also provide you the information without clicking any links. 

If you cannot get the score, try clicking the search engine's link or going to the college website. Both of these can provide the score.

Step 3: Calculate a Good SAT Score For You

Now all that is left to do is to figure out your target ACT score. 

To know your target ACT score, you need to look at the 75th percentile score column in your sheet. The highest 75th percentile score should be your target ACT score. You can consider this score as a good ACT score for you.

As we know, The Composite ACT score is an average of all four ACT section scores. Thus you need all scores closer to the 75 percentile in all sections. 

For example, you are applying for the University of North Carolina--Chapel Hill. The 25th percentile and 75th percentile scores of UNC are 27 and 33, respectively. As I said earlier, we should aim for a 75th percentile score; here, your aim will be 33. This score is an average of all section scores. Thus you need to score around 33 in all the sections. Like if you scored 32 in Maths, 33 in Science, 34 in English, and 33 in Reading, your average score will be 33. 

After knowing how to find good ACT scores for you, let's check the good ACT scores of top US colleges.

Good ACT Score

ACT Score For Top Colleges

The following is the ACT score of the USA's all top-ranking College as per US news:

ACT Score for top colleges

As we can see from the chart, the higher the rank of College, the higher the ACT score. As we look from top to bottom, the score keeps decreasing. 

What If Your Score Does Not Match Up?

You have three options:

1. Retake The Exam:

It is what is usually done by most students if the score doesn't match up. You can retake the ACT exam up to 12 times. 

When you retake the exam, it gives you a new opportunity to aim for your desired score. When you don't get the desired score on the first attempt, in a time before you retake the exam, you can look back at your past mistakes. You can work on your mistakes and retake after being even more prepared than the first time. You can invest a good amount of time in preparation before retaking the exam. It'll help you to overcome weaknesses.

If the College does superscoring for ACT retaking exams can be even more beneficial. In superscoring, colleges take the highest section score.

For example, if you attempted the ACT exam twice. In one exam, you scored 19 in English and 20 in Maths, 23 in Reading, and 23 in Science. 

When you have retaken the exam, you scored 22 in English and 22 in Maths, 20 in Reading, and 21 in Science. The College will take the "highest section score" from both exams if it has a superscoring system. 

It means they will take your Reading score as 23 and Science score as 23 from your first attempt. And the College will take your English score as 22 and Math score as 22 from the second attempt. It gives you a superscore of 22.5 as a composite score. As the ACT score never gets counted in decimal, College will count to the nearest whole number 23.  This system may benefit you a lot, especially if you cannot score what you aimed for the exam in a single attempt.

Retaking ACT can also benefit you if you have a choice to send your highest score only. It means if you attempted to exam many times, you could only send the one score which is the highest.

Thus, retaking the exam a must if you didn't score what you aimed. And even if you achieved what you desired, you can still retake exams.

2. Don't Worry Much If Your Score Is Very Close.

If you don't get the score you desired, you have the option to retake, but if your score is close, there's no need to worry much. A score close to your desired score is not at all a bad score.

If you aimed for 34, which was the highest 75th percentile in your sheet, you received 33 in the ACT exam. As 33 is a very close score to 34 and your dream college's average ACT score, it can help you get admission to the College. 

3. Focus On Other Colleges In The Sheet

If you don't have any time to retake the exam, and your score is less than what you aimed for, focus on other colleges. You probably didn't mention only one College when you were making the sheet. And if I'm correct, you should focus on other colleges in your sheet.

If you aimed for the highest 75th percentile, there'd be other scores lower than your aimed one in the sheet. You should apply to these colleges If your score is above or close to these colleges' required scores. 

Conclusion:

If your score is above average (above 20.7), you can consider it a good score than other test-takers. But it may not be enough to apply for a college, which says that a good score for you depends on your desired College.

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