What's a Good ACT Score?

High school students and parents write in to us regularly wondering "what is a good ACT score?". This post will offer our take on what we think a good ACT score is, as well as other important information that could help you with the college application process. To gain perspective regarding ACT scores, we must first take a look at some test data:

 ACT Section Information

*The ACT is comprised of 4 sections - english, math, reading, and science.

act scores section

ACT Score Percentiles

*Data compiled from 2012 test takers

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The ACT is scored differently from other standardized tests. It adds up the section scores from all four sections and divides the sum by 4, getting an average score.  This number then becomes your final ACT score. From the data provided above, students who scored around a 33 or above made up the 99th percentile and students who scored around a 24 made up the 75th percentile. The average score on the exam was about 20, which would be around the 50th percentile.

Find Your Target School

In the college application process, it is imperative that you research and make a list of schools you are interested in.  Once you create this list be absolutely sure that you know the range of ACT scores that each school accepts.  These will usually be somewhere on the admissions page of a school's website. Obviously, the ACT score range of an Ivy League school will be dramatically different from that of a community college, so the definition of a "good" ACT score will vary from person to person.  What you need to do is aim for an ACT score that is at least average for the school you intend on applying to.

Here is a table of the top 10 public universities in the U.S. and the ACT scores of typical students who currently attend these schools, broken down by ACT section. The 25% column refers to one-fourth of the school's student ACT scores for that particular section, and the 75% column refers to three-fourths of the school's student ACT scores for that particular section.

act scores by top 15 colleges













Assessing Your GPA and Credentials

For college admission ACT score is not the most important criteria.  In-fact if you have a great GPA and extra-curricular activities a low ACT score might not matter too much for the admissions committee.  That is why your GPA and course rigor are extremely important, and highly considered among the admissions committee. A high GPA with a tough course schedule is ideal, but not for everyone.  If you are among the few with a great GPA and tough courses make sure you convey this in your admission application.  Depending on the college you are applying to, a high GPA with an easy course schedule perhaps looks worse than a lower GPA with a difficult schedule.  Chat with the admissions counselor to find out how you can strengthen your application.

ACT scores are not everything:

If perhaps you do not score as well as you would have liked on the ACT, there is an aspect of your application besides GPA and credentials that could salvage your chance of admission. It is what you participate in outside of the classroom, on your own time. College admissions committees love to see certain activities or roles such as community involvement, leadership positions, clubs/organization involvement, philanthropy, extra and co-curricular activities, sports, work experience etc.  You want to give the committee something to remember you by. Remember, they receive thousands of nearly identical applications, so what you involve yourself in is your opportunity to prove to the committees why you should be admitted to their school.


Leave us a comment for our readers on any tips or suggestions for getting a good ACT score.  Also check out BenchPrep's ACT Test Prep Courses.


Related Posts:

ACT Test Registration Information

Do You Have to Submit All ACT Scores

ACT Science - 7 Test Prep Strategies

ACT Guessing Strategies 




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