As you navigate the complex landscape of college admissions, it’s no secret that preparing for and taking standardized tests like the ACT can be quite daunting. That being said, it is important to recognize that the ACT holds significant weight in the college application process for many students, and achieving the best possible score on this exam is naturally one of the biggest concerns during this process.
A good ACT score has the power to make your application shine even brighter, opening doors to merit scholarships and athletic opportunities. If you find yourself on the path to college and foresee the ACT in your future, fear not! Together, we will explore the intricacies of ACT scores, including how they are calculated, what constitutes a “good” ACT score, and valuable tips to help you enhance your performance. So, without further ado, let’s embark on this enlightening journey and unveil the secrets to achieving a high ACT score. Are you ready? Let’s dive in!
Table of Contents
- An Overview of the ACT
- Why a Good ACT Score Still Matters
- Understanding How the ACT Is Scored
- What’s Considered a Good ACT Score
- What’s The Best ACT Score?
- What’s a Low ACT Score?
- ACT Superscoring
- How To Improve Your ACT Score
- Setting an ACT Score Target & Goal
- How To Achieve Your Target ACT Score
- Frequently Asked Questions About ACT Scoring
Understanding the ACT
First things first, what exactly is the ACT? Well, it stands for American College Testing, and it’s a standardized test designed to assess your readiness for college-level coursework. Similar to its counterpart, the SAT, the ACT measures your skills in four key subject areas: English, Math, Reading, and Science.
Additionally, there’s an optional Writing section for those who wish to showcase their essay-writing prowess. The ACT is administered by ACT, Inc., a nonprofit organization committed to providing a fair evaluation of your knowledge and skills.
Now let’s talk logistics. The ACT consists of multiple-choice questions (except for the Writing section) and is administered several times a year at designated test centers nationwide. The test is timed, with each section having its own allocated time limit.
To conquer the ACT, it’s essential to familiarize yourself with the test structure, understand the content covered in each section, and develop effective test-taking strategies. Remember, practice makes progress, so be sure to dedicate ample time to preparation.
One of the great things about the ACT is that it allows you to showcase your strengths. Unlike the SAT, the ACT has a unique scoring system. Each section is graded on a scale of 1 to 36, and your scores from each section are averaged to provide you with a composite score.
The optional Writing section receives a separate score, which is not factored into the composite score. Remember, colleges vary in their preference for ACT scores, so it’s important to research and understand the score ranges of your target schools.
Related Reading: Understanding the Differences Between the ACT & SAT
Why a Good ACT Score Still Matters in 2023 & 2024
Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, many colleges and universities in the US have had to adopt test-optional admissions policies because students have been unable to access in-person testing opportunities. A considerable number of institutions still have these policies in place; according to FairTest.org, over 1700 institutions are partially or entirely test-optional at the moment.
Because of this, many students are wondering if taking the ACT is necessary if scores are not required for admissions. Although the answer varies depending on the student, the truth is that ACT scores can still serve as a potent tool for college admissions, which we’ll dive into below.
How A Good ACT Score Affects College Admissions
When it comes to ACT scores and their impact on college admissions, it’s important to understand the difference between test-optional & test-blind schools.
Let’s start with test-optional. When a school has a test-optional admissions policy, it means that you’re not required to submit your ACT scores with your application. If you choose not to send your scores, fear not! It won’t work against you, as admissions officers won’t penalize you or judge you more harshly for omitting your scores.
However, here’s the interesting part: if you DO decide to send your ACT scores, they will be considered as another piece of the puzzle, alongside the other components of your application. Think of it as additional information to help colleges gain a deeper understanding of who you are as a student.
On the other hand, when a school adopts a test-blind policy, it means that they don’t require or consider ACT scores, even if you choose to submit them. According to our wise friends at FairTest, approximately 80 schools in the US fall into this test-blind category. If you’re applying only to schools from this list, congratulations! Achieving a good ACT score won’t matter for your application. You can check that off your list and go indulge in more exciting endeavors.
Related Reading: ACT 2023 & 2024 Test Dates: Upcoming Dates & Deadlines
However, if your target schools have a test-optional policy, listen up! Submitting your ACT scores can still give you a boost. Remember, the goal is for colleges to gather as much information as possible about your academic capabilities and potential. Your ACT scores are another valuable data point that can help paint a fuller picture of who you are as a student.
So, our general advice to students is this: if you can achieve an ACT score that aligns with or exceeds the median score of a particular test-optional school, go ahead and submit it. Even though it’s not required, this score can provide the admissions team with another piece of evidence that you’ll be a great fit for their programs.
How a Good ACT Score Impacts Scholarship Opportunities
While a good ACT score can have a large impact on your chances at getting into the college of your dreams, it can also significantly help your chances of affording tuition once you’ve been accepted. That’s right – a high ACT score can increase your chances of receiving merit-based scholarships.
Merit scholarships are awards given based on academic achievement, and some are exclusively reserved for students who achieve specific ACT scores. Institutions that offer merit scholarships typically set a minimum ACT score requirement, so be sure to research the schools you’re applying to thoroughly. Additionally, a strong ACT score can also set you apart from other applicants when applying for highly-coveted private scholarships.
What’s a Good ACT Score For Scholarships?
Next, let’s talk about the ACT score range typically required for full-ride scholarships. A full-ride scholarship covers the entire cost of tuition, fees, and possibly even room and board, leaving you without the burden of student loans.
While the specific score requirements vary by institution, most require ACT scores of 30 or higher. Keep in mind that full-ride scholarships tend to be highly competitive, so it’s essential to continue to excel academically and improve your ACT score to increase your chances.
An Overview of How the ACT Is Scored
Now that we understand why a good ACT score is so important for college admissions and scholarships, let’s dive into the nitty-gritty of how the exam is actually scored. If you’re looking to get the highest possible score on the ACT, the best place to start is with an understanding of how that score is calculated.
ACT Raw Score
First, let’s talk about raw scores. When you take each section of the ACT—English, Math, Reading, and Science—you get a point for every question you answer correctly. The fantastic thing is that there are no deductions or penalties for incorrect answers.
So, remember to take educated guesses even if you’re not 100% sure! Your raw score is simply the total number of correct answers you’ve accumulated on each section of the exam.
ACT Scaled Score
Now, let’s move on to scaled scores. The raw scores you’ve earned on each section are then converted into scaled scores ranging from 1 to 36. These scaled scores are designed to standardize your performance across different tests.
The ACT uses a statistical conversion process that takes into account the difficulty level of the questions on your specific test form. So, two test-takers who receive the same raw score might have slightly different scaled scores if they took different test forms. It sounds complex, but trust me, behind the scenes, there are mathematical wizards hard at work ensuring fairness and accuracy for all test-takers.
ACT Composite Score
Lastly, let’s talk about the almighty composite score. This is the score that most colleges and universities pay close attention to. Your composite score is the average of your scaled scores from the four sections, and it’s the ultimate summary of your ACT performance.
So, while individual section scores are important, the composite score is the one that often carries the most weight in college admissions decisions. Aim to achieve a fantastic composite score that showcases your academic prowess and opens doors to your dream schools.
Additionally, It’s crucial to keep in mind that the Writing Section does not affect your composite score in any way. So, whether you choose to take the essay or not, it won’t impact the overall composite score that colleges consider.
However, if you do decide to take the essay, you’ll receive a separate score ranging from 2 to 12 for that specific portion of the test. This score will be included in the score report that you send to colleges. It serves as a supplement to your composite score, providing colleges with additional insight into your writing abilities.
What’s Considered a Good ACT Score?
Now that we understand how the ACT is scored, let’s get into the main reason you’re here in the first place, to answer the question: what’s a good ACT score?
When it comes to defining a “good” ACT score, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer, and score goals can vary widely from student to student. As a general rule, a good ACT score is one that makes you a competitive applicant at the schools in which you’re interested. It’s important to set your own score target based on your personal aims and measure success in your ACT prep against that metric, rather than comparing yourself to friends or siblings.
If you’re at the beginning of the prep process and just starting your research into ACT scores, you might be looking for a basic benchmark to use as a starting point, In that case, it may be helpful to know that the national average composite score on the ACT is around 21. That means a composite score of 21 would put you in the 50th percentile of all test-takers. Below, we’ve provided a breakdown of the average ACT score by state and sections, courtesy of the ACT themselves.
|Average Composite Score||Average ACT English Score||Average ACT Math Score||Average ACT Reading Score||Average ACT Science Score|
|District of Columbia||24.2||24.4||23.5||24.9||23.5|
Based on an aggregation of the above data, the national average composite ACT score is 21.0, while the average ACT English score is 20.3, the average ACT Math score is 20.7, the average ACT Reading score is 21.4, and the average ACT Science score is 21.0.
As we mentioned above, the term “good” is entirely subjective, but knowing the national averages should give you a strong baseline to determine what a good ACT score is for your specific situation.
What’s the Best ACT Score?
If you’re aiming for the best ACT score, then set your sights on a composite score of 34 or higher. Receiving such a score puts you in the top 1% of test-takers, an impressive feat that showcases your academic prowess. Getting a score of 30 or above is also considered an excellent achievement and can likely open doors to many top colleges and universities.
ACT Score Ranges & Percentiles
Below, we’ve broken down the various ACT score ranges and their percentiles. Keep in mind that these scores are ranges based on available data, and there are a number of factors beyond these percentiles that could impact your college admissions & merit-based scholarships.
|ACT English Score||ACT Math Score||ACT Reading Score||ACT Science Score||Composite ACT Score|
|90th Percentile (Best ACT Score Ranges)||29 – 36||28 – 36||30 – 36||27 – 36||28 – 36|
|75th Percentile (Above Average ACT Score Ranges)||24 – 28||24 – 27||25 – 29||24 – 26||24 – 27|
|50th Percentile (Average ACT Score Ranges)||20 – 23||20 – 23||21 – 28||21 – 25||21 – 26|
|>50th Percentile (Below Average ACT Score Range)||>19||>19||>20||>20||>20|
What’s the Average ACT Score For Top Colleges?
To answer this question effectively, we need to start by defining what a “top” college is. Many of you may be thinking of Ivy League institutions such as Harvard or Brown when considering applying to college. While these are excellent schools, it’s important to remember that there are countless other incredible options across the country and around the world.
Our best advice to anyone starting their college search journey is to keep an open mind and approach the process holistically. Don’t fixate exclusively on Ivy League schools or the name on the building.
Consider various factors such as location, size, cost, and academic strengths of the programs that excite you. That being said, always research the average ACT scores of admitted students at your preferred colleges and universities to get a better idea of what constitutes a “good” ACT score for your specific situation.
To get you started with an idea of what score to aim for, we’ve provided a list of some of the top U.S. colleges and their associated ACT score and percentiles below, as ranked by U.S. News.
|School||25th Percentile Composite Score||75th Percentile Composite Score||Average ACT Composite Score|
|University of Pennsylvania||33||35||34|
|University of Chicago||33||35||34|
The takeaway here is clear: if you want Ivy League ACT scores that are competitive with the Yale median or the Harvard median, you need to aim for an ACT composite score of around a 34. Median scores for some of the other Ivy League schools are slightly lower, but you should still expect to be pursuing a score in the 30+ range.
One question that often arises is whether or not schools practice superscoring – the process of combining individual section scores from different test administrations to create a composite “superscore.”
The answer is yes, superscoring is an option. It involves selecting the highest scores from each section across multiple test dates to present a consolidated and often higher overall composite score to colleges. This new policy by the ACT offers clear benefits to students, even if their individual test administrations didn’t yield the desired composite score.
While the ACT officially supports superscoring, it’s important to note that schools have the final say in whether to consider superscores during their admissions processes. Some schools may prefer to focus on the single highest composite score achieved across all test dates, while others might consider only the most recent test administration’s score.
Here’s a breakdown of what you need to know about ACT superscoring:
- Superscoring allows you to showcase your highest section scores from different ACT test dates.
- It involves selecting the highest scores from each section (English, Math, Reading, Science) across multiple test administrations.
- The selected scores are combined to create a consolidated and possibly higher overall composite superscore.
- Superscoring is an option supported by the ACT, but schools have the final say on whether to consider this method in their admissions processes.
The good news is that many institutions do accept superscores and the trend is increasing, indicating a growing acceptance of this practice. However, it is essential to check the admissions requirements of each college you’re interested in to understand their specific policies regarding ACT scores. Contacting the admissions department directly or visiting their website will provide accurate and up-to-date information.
What’s Considered a Low ACT Score?
A low ACT score is typically considered to be below the average score range for the colleges and universities you are interested in. While there is no universally-defined cutoff for a low ACT score, it’s important to note that each institution has its own requirements and preferences when considering ACT scores.
However; based on the percentiles & ranges we covered above, anything below an ACT composite score of 20 could be considered “low;” if you’ve taken the ACT and score less than 20, then read on for how you can improve that score.
How do I Check My ACT Score?
To check your ACT scores, you can follow these steps:
- Go to the official ACT website
- Log in to your MyACT account
- Once you’ve logged in, you should be able to view your scores online
ACT scores are posted online and can be accessed through your MyACT account. It’s important to note that ACT Customer Support cannot provide scores over the phone, email, chat, or fax.
How To Improve Your ACT Score
Improving your ACT score can feel daunting, but with the right mindset, preparation, and strategies, anyone can make progress and achieve their desired score. Whether you’re starting with a score lower than 20 or aiming to increase your score incrementally from a high score of 25 or more, here’s what you need to know to improve your ACT score:
For those with a below-average ACT score struggling to make things click:
- Begin by identifying the areas you struggle with the most and focus your study efforts on those sections.
- Practice regularly with official ACT practice tests and materials. As you become more comfortable with the format and content, you’ll naturally become more efficient in answering questions.
- Work on mastering the basic concepts within each section, such as grammar rules in the English section and algebraic formulas in the Math section.
- Consider finding an ACT tutor, joining a study group, or using online resources to get extra help and support.
- Finally, maintain a positive attitude, stay motivated, and remember that progress takes time, but small improvements can add up over time.
For those with an above-average ACT score looking to take it to the next level:
- Take practice tests to identify areas where you need improvement and work to strengthen those areas.
- Focus on understanding more advanced concepts within each section, such as reading comprehension strategies in the Reading section and trigonometry formulas in the Math section.
- Utilize time management strategies to ensure that you have enough time to answer all questions in each section.
- Consider taking a prep course or hiring a tutor to help you fine-tune your skills and provide additional guidance.
- Keep track of your progress over time and be patient with yourself, as incremental improvements can eventually lead to a higher score.
No matter where you currently stand, improving your ACT score is achievable with consistent effort and a focus on the areas that need the most attention. Remember to stay motivated, maintain a positive attitude, and utilize the resources available to you. With hard work and determination, you can increase your chances of getting into the college of your dreams.
How To Set an ACT Score Goal
Setting an ACT score goal is an important step in your test preparation journey as it gives you something to work towards and helps you stay focused on your progress.
Firstly, it’s essential to have a clear understanding of the score ranges that are considered competitive at the colleges and universities you are interested in by searching the average ACT scores of admitted students at those institutions. You can often find this information on college websites or through reputable college admissions resources. This will give you a benchmark to consider when setting your goal.
Next, reflect on your own academic strengths, weaknesses, and aspirations. Consider the colleges and majors you’re interested in and what type of applicants they typically admit. Be honest with yourself about your abilities and the level of commitment you’re willing to dedicate to your ACT prep. You may have your heart set on MIT, but if you know you’re not naturally a great test-taker and you’re unlikely to have a ton of time to devote to ACT prep around schoolwork and extracurricular activities, achieving a score in the high 30s may be difficult. Setting an ACT score goal that aligns with your personal capabilities and aspirations is key.
How To Achieve Your Target ACT Score
Alright, so now that you’ve got your list of schools and have a general idea of the composite score you need to hit, it’s time to dive into preparing for the ACT. We’ve already covered some important aspects, but let’s dig a bit deeper into what you should focus on as you work towards achieving a high enough ACT score to meet your college needs.
Taking ACT Practice Tests
Remember how we emphasized the importance of taking practice tests in order to improve a low ACT score? Well, that advice holds true for ACT preparation long before you’ve even taken the test for the first time. Acquainting yourself with the structure and timing of the test is crucial, as they present a challenge in themselves.
To do this, dedicated practice tests are your go-to. They allow you to apply the content and strategies you’ve been honing in the context of full test sections. Additionally, practice tests provide you with a benchmark score to track your progress along the way.
Considering an ACT Prep Course
Another avenue to help achieve your target ACT score goal is an ACT prep course. These come in various forms, ranging from self-paced video libraries to virtual or even in-person classes with live instructors. Prices can vary quite a bit too. We’ve seen some courses that cost $100 or even less, while others may be priced in the thousands. The difference usually lies in the amount of material included and the number of hours spent with an instructor.
Prep courses work well for students who prefer independent study and want to structure their own time, particularly with self-paced video library courses. On the other hand, if you thrive in a structured environment and prefer the input of others, classroom courses might be a better fit. Regardless of the format, most prep courses cover content and strategy instruction, followed by drills to reinforce the concepts. With plenty of options out there, it’s essential to do your research and find the course that suits you best.
Exploring ACT Tutoring
Ah, the part where we get to talk about what we do best, ACT Tutoring. So, let’s discuss the benefits of partnering with Inspirica Pros for ACT tutoring instead of opting for a prep course.
For many students, personalized instruction simply leads to more effective learning. Having an experienced tutor who can answer your questions on the spot and delve into the concepts you’re struggling with is a major advantage. Plus, a good tutor will adapt their approach to cater to your strengths and weaknesses, making your prep more efficient.
Another benefit of having an ACT tutor is the accountability and motivation they provide. With a tutor by your side, you have someone to keep you on track and provide structure to your study plan. They can help you set goals, track your progress, and offer the encouragement you need to stay motivated throughout the process. Finally, an ACT tutor can also help you identify and overcome any test anxiety you may have, providing strategies to boost your confidence on test day.
There’s no question that having a dedicated tutor in your corner can make the ACT preparation journey less daunting and more manageable. The only downside is the cost. Whereas prep courses typically require you to pay a flat fee up front, most 1:1 tutors charge an hourly rate. This does have the benefit of allowing you more control over the amount of money you put into the preparation process; however, for a long enough program, you’ll almost always end up paying more for an experienced 1:1 tutor than you would for a prep course.
Closing Thoughts On ACT Scoring
We don’t mean to beat a dead horse, but determining what constitutes a good ACT score requires a thoughtful and personalized approach. While it’s important to research the score ranges of colleges you’re interested in, your own abilities, aspirations, and commitment level should also be taken into account.
Remember, the ACT is just one piece of the college admissions puzzle, and colleges also consider other factors. Keep a positive mindset, stay focused, and work toward showcasing your strengths in all areas of your application.
With proper preparation, dedication, and a healthy balance, you can achieve your ACT score goal and confidently apply to colleges. Trust the process, believe in yourself, and thrive on this exciting journey toward higher education.
Frequently Asked Questions About ACT Scores
What’s the average ACT score for the first time taking the test?
According to Ontocollege, the average ACT composite score for first-time test-takers is around 20. It’s worth noting that this is just an average, and scores can vary widely depending on a variety of factors, including the individual test-taker’s preparation and testing environment.
Can I take the ACT multiple times to improve my score?
Certainly! You are allowed to take the ACT multiple times to improve your score. The ACT is administered seven times a year in September, October, December, February, April, June, and July., and many students end up taking the ACT 2-3 times before applying to college.
Taking the ACT multiple times can be beneficial as it allows you to learn from your previous tests, identify areas for improvement, and potentially raise your score. Some students make score improvements by retaking the ACT.
Additionally, it’s important to note that most colleges are neutral about multiple scores and accept superscores, which means they consider your highest section scores across multiple ACT test dates. This provides flexibility and allows you to showcase your best performance.
When should I start preparing for the ACT?
The ideal time to start preparing for the ACT is during your junior year of high school. From a content standpoint, junior year is a fantastic time to begin because it allows you to gain familiarity with the content and structure of the test without feeling rushed, and it gives you ample time to learn and practice the strategies necessary to conquer those tricky ACT questions. There are also logistical benefits to starting the prep process earlier: allowing yourself more time before applications are due gives you a longer window to take the test multiple times, which provides you with more opportunities to earn your best score.
Now, don’t panic if you’ve already reached your senior year and haven’t started preparing. While starting earlier is generally recommended, it’s never too late to embark on your ACT preparation journey. Just keep in mind that you might need to manage your time and resources more efficiently due to the shorter time frame.