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. 

Some students may want to know what a good ACT score is before they take their exam. Knowing what a good score is gives students a goal score they can work towards. 

We will review ACT scores and what is a good ACT score in this guide. Our team also will provide you with ACT percentile scores as well as common ACT scores from popular public and private schools.

Summary: Learn about ACT scores, common ACT scores for various schools, and ACT percentiles.

What is a Good ACT Score?

Before we can answer this question, we need to understand how the ACT is scored. The ACT is scored on a scale from 1-36, with 36 being a perfect score. 

There are 4 sections on the ACT – each section is also scored on a scale from 1-36. To calculate your composite score, you would take the score from each section, add them up, and divide by 4. 

Example: A student scored a 25 in English, 26 in Math, 27 in Science, and 29 in Reading. Their composite score would be (25+26+27+29)/4. This would be a 26.75, which rounds up to a 27. 

Now that we know how the ACT is scored, lets get into specifics. We know a 36 is a perfect score. But what about a 27? Is that a good ACT score?

One way to tell how you scored on the ACT is by looking at your percentile. Percentiles allow students the ability to compare their scores to others around the country. Your percentile score tells you what percentage of students you scored the same as or better than. 

Example: If you are in the 65th percentile, this means you have scored better than 65% of all ACT test takers. 

Keep in mind, a 50th percentile score means you exactly in the middle. In other words, your score is average.

Summary of Average, Good, and Excellent ACT Scores

  • Poor: 17 or lower (bottom 34% of test takers)
  • Average: 20 (exactly in the middle)
  • Good: 25 (top 75% of test takers)
  • Excellent: 30 (93%+ higher than all test-takers)

The data provided above is raw data that helps us determine what is a good ACT score. Keep on reading to view specific percentile scores for every ACT score and specific ACT sections.

ACT Score Percentiles

You can view a breakdown of ACT scores and various percentiles below. The average of the ACT was 20.6, according to the ACT’s annual report.

ACT Scale Score Composite English Math Reading Science
1 1 1 1 1 1
2 1 1 1 1 1
3 1 1 1 1 1
4 1 1 1 1 1
5 1 1 1 1 1
6 1 1 1 1 1
7 1 1 1 1 1
8 1 2 1 1 1
9 1 4 1 1 1
10 1 8 1 3 3
11 2 13 1 6 5
12 6 17 2 11 8
13 11 21 4 15 11
14 17 27 13 21 15
15 24 33 22 25 20
16 30 38 35 29 27
17 36 42 44 34 33
18 42 46 50 40 39
19 48 50 55 45 47
20 54 56 59 50 52
21 60 62 63 55 58
22 65 66 66 61 64
23 70 71 71 66 71
24 74 76 75 71 77
25 78 79 79 74 82
26 82 82 84 76 85
27 85 84 88 79 88
28 88 86 90 82 90
29 90 88 93 83 91
30 92 89 94 86 93
31 94 91 96 88 94
32 96 92 97 91 96
33 97 94 98 93 97
34 99 96 99 96 98
35 99 99 99 98 99
36 100 100 100 100 100
Avg 20.6 19.9 21.2 21.2 20.6

Source: ACT Annual Report

As you can see from the chart above, most students will score around the 20 mark. Notice how the majority of 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. In order to get a high score on the ACT, most students will need to put in the work.

What is a Good ACT Score for You?

What may be considered a good ACT score for one student may be a poor score for another student. What is considered a good score should depend on your individual goals. 

If you are trying to get into a top school, like Yale, you will need a top ACT score. If you are just trying to attend any college, an average ACT score will most likely get the job done. 

In simple terms, a good ACT score is the score that allows you to be competitive in the admissions process when applying to your schools of choice. 

Our team has collected data from the National Center for Education Statistics which outline ACT scores for public and private universities. These scores are the average accepted score for each institution. The first table is 100 public universities while the second table is 100 private universities. 

Take me to the public university ACT scores.

Take me to the private university ACT scores.

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

(click on image to enlarge)

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. Our team went ahead and did a lot of the heavy lifting for you. You can view ACT scores for 100 public and 100 private colleges and universities below. 

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 anyone. Some students may want to shoot for a really 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, the ACT is a process, and a lot of students end up taking the exam multiple times. 

If you are looking for something more in-depth when studying, consider one of the best ACT prep courses that our team reviewed. 

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. 

Use our ACT practice tests to become more familiar with the ACT. 

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.

Super-Score Your Score

Super scoring 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.

While this is unconventional, it may work for certain school or certain programs within colleges or universities. It is worth they try to ask someone at that school if they take super scores.

Find What Works Best For You

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

ACT prep courses are a great way to improve you score. These courses include various learning methods, so they have something for everyone. You can compare different courses and offerings by checking out our ACT prep course reviews

ACT Scores of 100 Public Universities

Institution name Enrollment ACT Composite 25th Percentile ACT Composite 75th Percentile
Texas A & M University-College Station 67,929 25 30
University of Central Florida 66,059 24 29
Ohio State University-Main Campus 59,837 27 31
Florida International University 56,718 22 27
University of Florida 52,669 28 32
University of Minnesota-Twin Cities 51,848 26 31
The University of Texas at Austin 51,525 26 33
Arizona State University-Tempe 51,164 22 29
Michigan State University 50,019 23 28
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign 48,216 26 32
Pennsylvania State University-Main Campus 47,119 25 30
The University of Texas at Arlington 46,497 20 27
University of Washington-Seattle Campus 46,166 27 32
University of Michigan-Ann Arbor 46,002 30 33
University of Houston 45,364 23 27
University of California-Los Angeles 44,027 29 34
Indiana University-Bloomington 43,710 25 31
University of South Florida-Main Campus 43,540 24 29
University of Wisconsin-Madison 42,977 27 31
Purdue University-Main Campus 42,699 25 31
University of California-Berkeley 41,891 30 34
Florida State University 41,362 26 30
California State University-Northridge 41,319 17 22
California State University-Fullerton 40,905 19 24
University of Maryland-College Park 40,521 29 33
Texas State University 38,666 20 26
The University of Alabama 38,563 23 32
University of North Texas 38,276 21 27
California State University-Long Beach 37,622 20 26
University of Georgia 37,606 26 31
University of California-Davis 37,380 25 32
University of Cincinnati-Main Campus 37,155 23 28
Texas Tech University 36,996 22 27
Iowa State University 36,158 22 28
George Mason University 35,984 24 30
Kennesaw State University 35,846 21 26
San Jose State University 35,835 19 26
University of California-San Diego 35,772 27 33
University of Colorado Boulder 35,338 25 30
University of California-Irvine 35,242 25 32
San Diego State University 35,158 23 28
University of South Carolina-Columbia 34,731 25 30
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University 34,440 25 30
North Carolina State University at Raleigh 34,432 26 31
Colorado State University-Fort Collins 33,083 22 28
Georgia State University 32,816 19 26
University of Utah 32,800 22 29
University of Iowa 32,166 23 28
California State University-Sacramento 31,255 17 23
Oregon State University 30,896 22 28
Louisiana State University and Agricultural & Mechanical College 30,861 23 28
University of Missouri-Columbia 30,844 23 29
The University of Texas at San Antonio 30,768 20 25
Virginia Commonwealth University 30,675 21 27
University at Buffalo 30,648 24 28
Washington State University 30,614 20 26
University of Illinois at Chicago 30,539 20 26
University of Nevada-Las Vegas 30,471 19 24
University of Massachusetts-Amherst 30,340 26 31
Florida Atlantic University 30,208 21 26
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 29,911 28 33
Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis 29,791 19 26
Auburn University 29,776 24 30
San Francisco State University 29,758 18 24
University of Kentucky 29,465 22 28
Georgia Institute of Technology-Main Campus 29,376 30 34
Ohio University-Main Campus 29,369 22 26
University of North Carolina at Charlotte 29,317 22 26
East Carolina University 29,131 20 24
Kent State University at Kent 28,972 21 25
University of Pittsburgh-Pittsburgh Campus 28,642 27 32
California State University-Los Angeles 28,531 15 20
University of Oklahoma-Norman Campus 28,527 23 29
West Virginia University 28,406 21 27
The University of Tennessee-Knoxville 28,321 24 30
The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley 27,809 17 22
Utah State University 27,679 21 27
The University of Texas at Dallas 27,642 26 32
University of Kansas 27,625 23 28
University of Connecticut 27,578 26 31
University of Arkansas 27,558 23 29
Wayne State University 27,064 21 28
Portland State University 26,693 19 25
University of New Mexico-Main Campus 26,221 19 25
University of Nebraska-Lincoln 26,079 22 29
California State Polytechnic University-Pomona 26,053 20 27
Stony Brook University 25,989 26 31
California State University-Fresno 25,325 16 22
Oklahoma State University-Main Campus 25,295 22 28
The University of Texas at El Paso 25,078 16 22
University of California-Santa Barbara 25,057 28 33
Grand Valley State University 25,049 21 26
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee 24,988 20 25
University of Colorado Denver/Anschutz Medical Campus 24,839 21 27
Clemson University 24,387 27 31
Old Dominion University 24,375 18 25
University of Virginia-Main Campus 24,360 29 33
Boise State University 24,121 21 26
University of Delaware 23,774 25 29
Missouri State University-Springfield 23,697 21 26
Average ACT Score of Top 100 Public Universities   22.9 28.4

ACT Scores of 100 Private Universities

Institution name Enrollment ACT Composite 25th Percentile ACT Composite 75th Percentile
Liberty University 75,044 21 27
Brigham Young University-Idaho 51,881 20 25
New York University 51,123 29 33
University of Southern California 45,687 30 34
Brigham Young University-Provo 34,334 27 32
Boston University 33,355 29 32
Harvard University 31,120 32 35
Columbia University in the City of New York 30,454 31 34
George Washington University 27,973 29 32
University of Pennsylvania 25,367 32 35
Johns Hopkins University 25,151 33 35
Drexel University 24,190 24 30
Cornell University 23,016 31 34
Syracuse University 22,484 25 30
Northwestern University 22,008 32 34
Northeastern University 21,489 32 34
St John's University-New York 21,340 22 29
Nova Southeastern University 20,793 23 28
Georgetown University 19,005 30 34
Stanford University 17,534 32 35
Baylor University 17,059 26 31
University of Miami 17,003 28 32
Loyola University Chicago 16,673 24 29
Rochester Institute of Technology 16,584 26 32
University of Chicago 16,227 32 35
Duke University 16,130 31 35
Fordham University 16,037 27 31
Washington University in St Louis 15,303 32 34
Boston College 14,628 31 33
Saint Louis University 14,581 25 31
Emory University 14,263 30 33
Carnegie Mellon University 13,869 32 35
American University 13,858 26 30
Savannah College of Art and Design 13,163 21 27
Saint Leo University 13,099 20 25
Pace University-New York 12,986 21 27
Yale University 12,974 32 35
Webster University 12,736 21 26
Vanderbilt University 12,592 32 35
University of Notre Dame 12,467 32 34
Tulane University of Louisiana 12,384 30 33
Case Western Reserve University 11,824 30 33
Southern Methodist University 11,789 28 32
University of Rochester 11,648 29 33
Massachusetts Institute of Technology 11,466 33 35
Tufts University 11,449 31 34
University of Denver 11,434 25 30
Marquette University 11,426 24 29
Hofstra University 11,131 24 29
University of San Francisco 11,063 22 28
Villanova University 10,967 30 33
University of Dayton 10,882 24 29
Texas Christian University 10,489 25 30
The New School 10,389 24 28
Quinnipiac University 10,200 23 27
University of the Cumberlands 10,097 19 25
Brown University 10,095 31 35
Lindenwood University 10,025 20 25
California Baptist University 9,941 19 25
Azusa Pacific University 9,926 21 27
University of St Thomas 9,878 24 29
Seton Hall University 9,801 24 28
Loyola Marymount University 9,618 26 31
Regent University 9,488 19 27
Chapman University 9,392 25 30
Howard University 9,392 22 28
Duquesne University 9,190 24 29
University of San Diego 8,905 26 30
The University of Tampa 8,895 22 27
Creighton University 8,654 25 30
Mercer University 8,653 25 30
Santa Clara University 8,629 28 32
University of the Incarnate Word 8,603 17 23
LIU Post 8,499 21 26
Regis University 8,341 20 26
University of New England 8,281 21 26
Princeton University 8,273 31 35
University of La Verne 8,159 19 25
Saint Joseph's University 8,085 23 28
Belmont University 8,012 24 29
Adelphi University 7,978 22 27
Indiana Institute of Technology 7,871 17 23
Fairleigh Dickinson University-Metropolitan Campus 7,846 20 25
Pepperdine University 7,710 26 31
Maryville University of Saint Louis 7,689 21 27
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute 7,592 28 32
Gonzaga University 7,506 26 30
New York Institute of Technology 7,403 21 27
Barry University 7,358 17 20
Concordia University-Wisconsin 7,288 20 26
Seattle University 7,278 24 29
MCPHS University 7,208 22 28
Campbellsville University 7,207 18 24
Suffolk University 7,201 21 26
Illinois Institute of Technology 7,164 25 31
Southeastern University 7,163 18 24
Rice University 7,022 33 35
Lehigh University 7,017 29 32
University of New Haven 6,984 21 27
LIU Brooklyn 6,982 19 27
Average ACT Scores of Top 100 Private Universities   25.4 29.9

Source: National Center for Education Statistics

Disclaimer: Not affiliated with or endorsed by ACT, Inc. ACT is a registered trademark of ACT, Inc. and is used here solely for purposes of identification.

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