Adam Groden By: Adam Groden
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, consider using ACT online courses to study.

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 Score Composite Score English Score Math Score Reading Score Science Score
10 1% 8% 1% 3% 3%
15 24% 33% 22% 25% 20%
18 42% 46% 50% 40% 39%
20 54% 56% 59% 50% 52%
22 65% 66% 66% 61% 64%
24 74% 76% 75% 71% 77%
26 82% 82% 84% 76% 85%
28 88% 86% 90% 82% 90%
30 92% 89% 94% 86% 93%
32 96% 92% 97% 91% 96%
34 99% 96% 99% 96% 98%
36 100% 100% 100% 100% 100%
Average 20.6 19.9 21.2 21.2 20.6

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.

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.

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.

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 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
Average ACT Score of Top 100 Public Universities   22.9 28.4

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.

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.

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.

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 questions 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.

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 prep courses are a great way to improve your score. Using a course will help you save time and study more efficiently. This is a great option for plenty of students.

What is the ACT out of?

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

How is the ACT scored?

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.

Can I take the ACT again?

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