What’s a “Good” ACT Score? – ACT Percentiles and Score Rankings

Student taking a multiple-choice exam like the ACT.

Source: Flickr user albertogp123.

If you’ve recently taken the ACT and you’re wondering how your ACT score stacks up against other students, then you’re not alone.

Many students, immediately after getting the ACT score, will ask: “Well, now I have my score, but what’s a ‘good’ score on the ACT?’

It’s not immediately clear whether a student should be shooting for a 20, or a 25, or a 30 on the ACT. Obviously, a higher score is better, but what qualifies as “good”?

The answer is, of course, that it depends.

It’s important to keep in mind that your ACT score is just one factor that is used in college admissions decisions. Many times, students are able to make up for less-than-great ACT scores with having an exceptional application in other ways (community and extracurricular involvement, glowing letters of recommendation, etc).

But, it is true that most colleges have a range of ACT scores that they generally accept—most students will fall in or near that range. So, what’s “good” depends largely on what your college goals are.

ACT Score Requirements

Very few colleges have published ACT score requirements or “minimums”. But you can use a site like College Raptor to see how admitted students at that college generally score—usually shown by the 25th and 75th percentiles—to determine how well you fit in at that school.

Here’s an example from the University of California — Davis admissions page from College Raptor:

 

In general, if your ACT score falls near the middle of the range shown, you can assume that your odds of acceptance are roughly average—or equal to the total admit rate at that college.

Of course, things like your intended major, GPA, recommendation letters, extracurricular activities, and more can impact those odds.

Merit Aid and ACT Scores

Another big thing to consider when deciding if you’ve met your goal on the ACT is money. Many colleges offer merit aid to students that meet certain academic criteria. So, getting a strong ACT score could actually be worth a lot of money—possibly thousands of dollars in scholarships.

If you have a specific college in mind, you may want to check out their website (specifically their financial aid and scholarships sections) to see if they list their merit scholarships and the requirements for qualification.

ACT Score Distribution

If you’re looking to just get an idea of what constitutes an average or above-average ACT score, then you can look at the published distribution from other test takers.

Here’s the breakdown of ACT scores:

Score Composite Percentiles English Percentiles Math Percentiles Reading Percentiles Science Percentiles
36 99 99 99 99 99
35 99 99 99 99 99
34 99 98 99 99 99
33 99 97 98 97 98
32 98 95 97 95 98
31 97 94 96 93 97
30 95 92 95 90 95
29 93 90 93 87 94
28 90 88 91 84 93
27 87 85 88 81 90
26 83 82 84 78 87
25 79 79 79 75 83
24 74 74 73 72 77
23 68 69 67 66 70
22 62 64 61 61 63
21 56 58 56 56 56
20 49 51 52 48 48
19 42 44 47 42 39
18 36 39 42 36 32
17 29 35 36 30 26
16 23 31 27 25 21
15 17 26 15 20 16
14 12 20 6 16 12
13 7 16 2 11 9
12 4 12 1 7 6
11 1 10 1 4 4

This means that, for example, a student scoring a 20 on the ACT (composite) has scored higher than about 49% of all test takers and about 7% of all test takers scored a 20 (56 – 49 = 7).

The 50th percentile would represent the median ACT score, which can be used to estimate an “average” score—so approximately 20–21 on the composite and for each of the sub test scores.

Note that this distribution will change (slightly) from year to year, as tests and test takers change. But, generally, a 21 on the ACT is approximately “average”.

Interested in seeing how your ACT score affects your admission chances at any college in the country? Check it out for free using College Raptor’s match tool!

Tyler Hakes

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe!