graduateshotline logo
Last Updated: November 15, 2023

What is a Good ACT Score?

ACT is an assessment test that determines the examinee's preparedness for entering a college/university space and also a great means to avail scholarships. All this can be made possible by attaining a "good ACT score" that changes from test to test.

First of all, the highest score attainable in the ACT is 36 which will be an average of marks obtained in individual subjects. The subjects that are dealt with in this exam, as is known, are English, Mathematics, Reading, and Science. The average obtained in such a manner is called a composite score. As is evident, comparing this percentile to the general population of examinees in the particular test provides one with a good ACT score.

The good in a "good ACT score" is relative. That statement is putting the truth out too mildly. In other words, the score that an examinee aspires to achieve should be based on the colleges or universities they are applying to. When a score of 23 is considered the national average, it is to be assumed that an aspirant must attain a higher percentile to be admitted to a better college/university.

Comparing ACT Scores

The two ways in which ACT scores can be compared are through averages and percentiles.

Average, Below Average, and Above Average ACT Scores

The test is set up to follow a normal distribution which implies that the cluster that has received similar percentiles will take up the middle of the scale. Scored between 1 and 36, the average in 2022 was 19.8. When 19.8 is considered the average, below average, would be anything less than 12. Despite having an extremely low composite score on the ACT, one can always apply for college programs with a decent GPA and an exemplary college application. This may imply that the student might have to take up remedial classes but, on the whole, any grade would not hinder an aspirant's dreams for higher education. Looking at the table that depicts a percentile variation according to State one can understand that a majority of the population of examinees are not high-end or low-end scorers but promise an average score that can let an aspirant join a college or university.

The percentile varying across states in the year 2022 would be as follows-

Average ACT Score (2022) for Students by State

StateAvg. Composite Score
Tennessee 18.6
North Dakota19.2
Montana 19.3
Oklahoma 17.9
Arkansas 18.8
Wisconsin 19.4
Utah 19.9
North Carolina 18.5
Ohio 19.4
Kansas 19.9
Arizona 18.4
South Dakota21.5
Hawaii 18.8
Iowa 21.4
South Carolina18.9
West Virginia20.5
New Mexico19.8
District of Columbia26.9
Alaska 20.4
New Jersey 24.6
New York 25.3
Vermont 23.7
New Hampshire25.7
Rhode Island25.2
An above-average grade on the other hand is tailor-made to the needs of students depending on the college one wants to go to. An aspirant must find the composite score average that the university/college they are applying for usually demands or at least go through the statistical data available stating the composite score average of students that were admitted into the college/university.

Average ACT Score (2022) for Students in High-End Colleges and Universities

College/University ACT Score
Columbia University34-36
Harvard College33-36
Massachusetts Institute of Technology34-36
New York University32-35
Princeton University33-35
University of California-Berkeley33-35
University of Pennsylvania33-35
University of Chicago33-35
Darmouth College32-35

"Good ACT Scores" over the Years

While estimating an average "good score" over the years, one may assume that there has been a great difference with time but this hasn't been the case. The current average ACT score is 19.5. Based on the university or college one is aiming for, one should aim for a certain average score when taking the test. A strong ACT score at one university may not meet the requirements at another due to the unique admissions policies of each college. An Ivy League college such as Harvard College would consider a score of 33 to be in the 25% percentile. Nevertheless, a score of 35 places you in the 75% percentile. Anything less than that won't get you into a reputable university.

Trends throughout the years
The following are the trends over the years for both composite scores and subject-specific scores:
YearsAvg. Composite ScoreAvg. English ScoreAvg. Maths ScoreAvg. Reading ScoreAvg. Science Score

Strategies to Follow if ACT Score is Low

In case one receives a grade that is way below the 25% percentile, it should be understood that the ACT test is the only form of application that can be provided at a college/university. There are other examinations that can be taken that might showcase their skills better since English, Mathematics, Reading, and Science are not the only subjects of importance.

Putting extra effort into schoolwork and gaining exemplary grades in tough subjects along with a display of exceptional extracurricular skills will be an added bonus in getting admission into colleges of good reputation. These performances may be backed up with genuine letters of recommendation and a concisely worded college application which would bypass a lower ACT grade.

The student can choose to retake the test if time permits which is the best possible option. After attempting the test for the first time one might have been able to identify the drawbacks and limitations they faced. Sometimes, if observant enough, one would also be able to identify where they went wrong and what form of preparation would aid them in increasing their percentile.

This will include identifying the subject of weakness, finding the right prep book that is suited to one’s needs, and the patience and discipline required to focus on the task ahead. Since the ACT test is based on the school curriculum, reiterating the syllabus and learning the basics would be a good way to start preparation. Along with understanding key concepts, it should be remembered that a test with a certain time limit requires going through timed practice tests.

The student can also choose to not send the ACT score report to the college/university of choice when the grades are low which would just be considered like the test hasn't been attempted in the first place thereby nullifying the damage a bad percentile can cause.

2023-24 ACT Dates

ACT Resources

Preparing for ACT

Online ACT Practice Tests

Average SAT score for Top Schools