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What is a Good ACT Score?

a male student checking ACT test scores on his phone

The ACT is a standardized test used by colleges and universities to make admissions decisions. It consists of four sections: English, math, reading, and science, with an optional writing section.

One of the most commonly asked questions about the ACT is, "what is a good ACT score?" But that's a hard question to answer because it's different for everyone and depends on a number of factors. 

In this article, we'll explore the topic of ACT scores, including what scores are considered competitive and how to interpret your score. So let's get started by looking at how the ACT test is scored. 

If you're curious about SAT scores, click the link.

If you're not sure how to navigate the test-optional application process, then click that link. 

If you're wondering whether to take the ACT or SAT, then click that link. 

How is the ACT Scored?

Knowing what’s a good ACT score starts with knowing how the test itself is scored. As many readers already know, the ACT is scored on a scale of 1 to 36: 1 being the worst score possible and 36 being a perfect score. This final number is obtained by taking the average of each of the ACT’s four sections, which are also graded on a scale of 1 to 36.

But what do these numbers mean, and how are they determined? Each number on the scale corresponds to the number of questions you got right within a section. (You are not penalized for wrong answers on the ACT.) Once scores from all test-takers are gathered in a given year, percentiles are determined for each score value on the scale. 

For the high school class of 2022, the national average ACT composite score was 19.8. You can visit the ACT website to see the averages and national ranks for the most recent testing years. This data tells you how your scores compare to those earned by your peers within the same test years. 

ACT scores follow a normal distribution, meaning that most scores tend to land near the median or average scores. Significantly fewer ACT test takers score near the extremes on either end.

What is the Average ACT Score?

The average composite score for the class of 2021 was 20.3. For 2022, the average composite score was 19.8. 

What is a Perfect ACT Score?

A perfect ACT score is 36. This is the highest possible score a student can achieve on the test. The ACT is scored on a scale of 1-36, with each section receiving a score between 1 and 36, and then a composite score is calculated by averaging the scores from the four required sections. The optional writing section is scored separately on a scale of 2-12 and does not affect the composite score.

To achieve a perfect score, a student must answer every question correctly in all four required sections: English, math, reading, and science. The ACT does not penalize students for incorrect answers, so students should attempt to answer every question, even if unsure.

While a perfect ACT score is impressive, it is not necessarily required for admission to top colleges and universities. Many selective schools have average ACT scores in the mid-to-high 20s. Other factors, such as extracurricular activities, essays, and recommendations, also significantly affect the admissions process. However, a high ACT score can be a valuable asset in the college admissions process and may help students qualify for merit-based scholarships and other forms of financial aid.

What's Considered a Good ACT Score?

So, we've shared that the average ACT score for the last couple of years was about 20. And a perfect ACT score is 36. So anywhere in between can be objectively considered good.

But most importantly, a “good” ACT score is one that gets you into the institution you want to go to, into the program you want to join, and helps you get some extra financial aid if you need it. 

So you need to know that the more competitive a college is, the higher the bar will be for accepted ACT scores. Some of the most prestigious schools in the nation have student bodies with average ACT scores above 30. On the other hand, less competitive schools usually admit students with lower scores. 


What Kind of ACT Score Will You Need?

Now that you know the average scores, let's delve into what you should do now.

Your plan of attack should include narrowing down your list of colleges, studying hard for the ACT, and scheduling at least one ACT test. While you may not be happy with your initial score, the good news is that you can take the ACT several times — and you only need to apply with your best score.

First, step one. Take a look at your college list and check out the average ACT score of accepted students (which, hint, hint, you can find right here on our college profiles), and see what their 25th and 75th percentile scores are. 

Next, it's time to study. It's a good idea to think of ACT as an extra class. After all, your grade can significantly influence where you go to college. Some students get tutors, while others invest in practice books and take several practice tests to up their scores. As we mentioned above, you can also take the ACT more than once and submit only your best score (since colleges only request one).

The general correlation between you and your chances of admission is the closer your score is to the 75th percentile, the better of a match you and the institution make. However, there's much more to consider, and we're here to make it as easy as possible.

See Your Chances of Admission with Your ACT Score

Now that you know what's considered a good ACT score, it's time to use that information to decide where you'll apply to college. 

Click the button below to create a free Appily account to see how competitive you'll be if you apply to the schools on your list. You can also search for additional schools using your ACT score, GPA, and other criteria to find your perfect match. 

Just click the button below to get started. 


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