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What is a Good ACT Score?

What is a good ACT score? This is a common question many students ask when they get their ACT scores back.

Knowing what a good score is will help you gauge where you are at and help you set expectations before taking the exam.

We will be reviewing everything you need to know including good ACT scores, average ACT scores, ACT score ranges, and how the exam is scored.

Summary: We cover everything ACT score related in this guide. For help improving your score, answer some ACT practice questions.

What is a Good ACT Score?

A good way to gauge whether or not you scored a good ACT score is by looking at percentiles. A percentile is a comparison of your score with other test-takers.

For example, if you scored in the 65th percentile, this means you have scored better than 65% of other test-takers.

A 50th percentile score means you are exactly in the middle of all test-takers.

Good ACT Score: Looking at data released by the ACT, a score of 25 would put you in the 75th percentile. This would be considered a good score.

The abbreviated table below shows different ACT scores and the percentiles they would put you at. The table shows your composite score as well as each individual subject score.

ACT ScoreComposite ScoreEnglish ScoreMath ScoreReading ScoreScience Score

As you can see from the chart above, most students will score around 20. Notice how most students are grouped between an 18 and 22? This is by design.

The ACT follows a normal distribution curve which means it will be rarer to score much higher or much lower than the average.

What is the Average ACT Score?

Just like when determining a good score and using percentiles, we can do the same with finding an average score.

Keep in mind that receiving an average score is not a bad thing. You can always take the exam again and improve your score. For help improving your score, take an ACT practice test.

Average ACT Score: According to data from the ACT, the average ACT score was 20.6.

ACT Scoring

The ACT score range is 1 to 36. With 1 being the lowest possible score and 36 being the highest possible score.

There are 4 total sections on the exam. You will receive a score for each individual section. Those 4 sections are:

  1. English
  2. Math
  3. Reading
  4. Science

You will also receive a composite score. The composite score is the average of the 4 subject scores. The composite score is rounded to a whole number.

The composite score is what is commonly used by colleges and universities when applying to schools.

Please note, the optional essay section does not count towards your composite score.

Top ACT Score: The highest possible ACT score is a 36.

ACT Score Ranges – Biggest 50 Public Universities

If you are curious about the ACT scores range for various schools around the country, review the table below.

We have included the 25th and 75th percentile ACT scores for the 50 biggest universities in the country.

Institution nameEnrollmentACT Composite 25th PercentileACT Composite 75th Percentile
Texas A & M University-College Station67,9292530
University of Central Florida66,0592429
Ohio State University-Main Campus59,8372731
Florida International University56,7182227
University of Florida52,6692832
University of Minnesota-Twin Cities51,8482631
The University of Texas at Austin51,5252633
Arizona State University-Tempe51,1642229
Michigan State University50,0192328
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign48,2162632
Pennsylvania State University-Main Campus47,1192530
The University of Texas at Arlington46,4972027
University of Washington-Seattle Campus46,1662732
University of Michigan-Ann Arbor46,0023033
University of Houston45,3642327
University of California-Los Angeles44,0272934
Indiana University-Bloomington43,7102531
University of South Florida-Main Campus43,5402429
University of Wisconsin-Madison42,9772731
Purdue University-Main Campus42,6992531
University of California-Berkeley41,8913034
Florida State University41,3622630
California State University-Northridge41,3191722
California State University-Fullerton40,9051924
University of Maryland-College Park40,5212933
Texas State University38,6662026
The University of Alabama38,5632332
University of North Texas38,2762127
California State University-Long Beach37,6222026
University of Georgia37,6062631
University of California-Davis37,3802532
University of Cincinnati-Main Campus37,1552328
Texas Tech University36,9962227
Iowa State University36,1582228
George Mason University35,9842430
Kennesaw State University35,8462126
San Jose State University35,8351926
University of California-San Diego35,7722733
University of Colorado Boulder35,3382530
University of California-Irvine35,2422532
San Diego State University35,1582328
University of South Carolina-Columbia34,7312530
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University34,4402530
North Carolina State University at Raleigh34,4322631
Colorado State University-Fort Collins33,0832228
Georgia State University32,8161926
University of Utah32,8002229
University of Iowa32,1662328
California State University-Sacramento31,2551723
Oregon State University30,8962228
Average ACT Score of Top 100 Public Universities 22.928.4

Find Your ACT Goal Score

Finding your ACT goal score is something every student preparing for the ACT should do. Finding a goal score will help keep you motivated and will give you something to works towards.

ACT Goal Score

Step 1: Determine Which Schools You Want to Apply To

This should be the first step in determining your ACT goal score. Every school has different ACT requirements. It is important to figure out which schools you want to apply to so you can figure out their ACT requirements.

Try and pick schools in different categories. For example, do not pick all Ivy League schools. Pick some target, reach, and safety schools to put on your list.

Step 2: Find ACT Scores for the Schools You Are Applying To

Once you have your list of schools, find ACT scores for applicants who applied and received acceptance to those schools.

Find those scores and write them down next to each of the schools on your application list.

Step 3: Determine Your Goal Score

This step will be different for everyone. Some students may want to shoot for a high score, while others are content with shooting for an average score.

Look at the 75th percentile scores for the most competitive school on your list. This score should be your goal. If you get this score, you should be able to gain admission into every other school on your list (in theory).

If you miss by a couple of points, you should be fine for some of the other schools on your list.

Improving Your ACT Score

If you are looking to improve you ACT score, review some of the tips listed below. Remember, improving your score is a process, and a lot of students end up taking the exam multiple times.

Familiarize Yourself With the ACT

It is true: practice makes perfect. The more practice questions you answer, the more comfortable you will become with the format and feel of the ACT.

Take our ACT-style practice exams to help familiarize yourself. You will get a good feel for the types of questions and concepts you need to know.

In addition, you will also figure out which subjects give you the most trouble. You can then focus on these subjects when studying to help save time.

Re-Take the Exam

Retaking the exam is very common. Plenty of students end up taking the ACT more than once. Students will have a better idea of what to expect the second time around.

In general, students will improve their scores the second time around – whether it is because they studied more or were more comfortable.

Tip: Review ACT test dates before scheduling your second exam. Make sure you have plenty of time to study for the second exam.

Superscore Your Score

Superscoring your score means taking the best score from every section of every ACT you have taken and creating a new composite score.

Say you have taken the ACT 2 times. The first time you got a 29 in math and the second time you got a 24 in math. Assume every other section score was better the second time around, except math.

You could take the 29 from the first exam and combine that with the section scores from the second ACT.

The ACT will automatically send superscores to your colleges – it may work for certain schools or certain programs within colleges or universities. It is worth asking someone at that school if they take superscores.

Find What Works Best for You

Students learn in many ways. Some students learn best in a classroom setting while others learn best by self-studying. Find what works for you and stick with it.

ACT Score FAQs

The ACT is scored on a scale from 1-36. The best score you can get is a 36.

Each subject is scored separately. Your composite score is the average of all 4 subject scores. The composite score is rounded.

There are 4 total subjects scored on the exam that count towards your composite score. The optional essay section does not count towards the composite score

Yes, you may take the ACT multiple times. This is very common as many students take the exam multiple times.

Adam Groden
Adam is our ACT and SAT expert. He has 30+ years of experience and runs his own test prep company.