What is a Good ACT Score in 2024?

March 8, 2024

what is a good act score, what's a good act score

As you prepare to take the ACT, you might feel nervous about the outcome. Of course, you want to perform well on the test, but may not be sure what score to aim for. Furthermore, you may wonder how your score stacks up when looking at your college prospects. While standardized testing can be stressful for some, we’re here to help you navigate the process. This article will not only help you better understand what is a good ACT score but also share tips for how to prepare for the test and outline what to expect on the ACT.


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What is a good ACT score?

Before we dive into what a good ACT score is, let’s start with the basics of the ACT grading scale. The ACT grades on a sliding numeric scale ranging from 1-36. As you can imagine, the higher the score you earn, the better you performed on the test. However, it’s also essential to understand how the ACT is evaluated. First, you receive a raw score, which is simply the number of questions you answered correctly. Then, you receive a scaled score, which converts your raw score into a number between 1-36.

Let’s break that down further. First, you’ll receive one point for every correct answer in each section (no points are deducted for missing or wrong answers).

Section Raw Score Possible
English 75
Reading 40
Math 60
Science 40

Next, your raw score will be scaled to account for small variations across different tests. For example, the ACT English section has 75 questions. If you answer 72 questions correctly, your raw score would be a 72. You would then use your raw score to predict your scaled score. According to the ACT, a raw score of 72 would generally equal a scaled score of 36. (Yes, you can miss a question or two and still earn a perfect score!)

Your composite score—the score that colleges will look at most closely—is an average of all four sections. Let’s say you receive a 36 in English, a 33 in Math, a 34 in Science, and a 35 in Reading. Averaged together, your composite score would be 34.5. This score would then be rounded up to 35.

What is a Good ACT Score? (Continued)

While a good ACT score is entirely relative (more on that below), you can get a solid sense of different ranges by looking at how your score relates to other test-takers across the country. According to the ACT, here are the below-average, average, and above-average score ranges:

Score Type Score Range
Below Average 1-16
Average 17-24
Above Average 25-36

However, a “good” ACT score is ultimately one that falls within or above the target range for your college(s) of choice. The more competitive the university, the higher your score will need to be. For example, Harvard’s average ACT scores are 34-36 while Stanford’s are 34-35. William and Mary’s average ACT range is 32-34 while Rochester Institute of Technology’s is 29-33. Schools like the University of Oregon, Washington State University, and Florida Atlantic University typically have an average composite ACT score of around 24. Furthermore, universities like Buffalo State and Texas Southern University have an average ACT score of around 19. Accordingly, bumping up your ACT score by even a few points can make a major difference on your college applications. Some universities may even offer scholarships based on your ACT score.

Your main question should be: what is a good ACT score for me? Researching each university’s requirements will help you determine the answer to that question.

What’s A Good ACT Score? – University Requirements

When thinking about what a good ACT score is, you’ll need to research what your prospective universities and colleges are looking for. Below is a list of 20 well-regarded universities in the U.S. and the ACT score ranges for each. Let’s take a look at what a good ACT score is for these universities.

Note: If your score falls within the 25th-75th percentile, it will align with that of the average incoming student. If your score is above the 75th percentile, your score will be more impressive than that of the average incoming student. Alternatively, if your score is below the 25th percentile, your score will be below that of the average incoming student. This means that your chances of acceptance at that particular university may be lower.

School 25th Percentile Score 50th Percentile Score 75th Percentile Score
Massachusetts Institute of Technology 35 35 36
Stanford University 34 35 35
Princeton University 34 35 35
Columbia University 34 35 35
Williams College 34 35 35
Yale University 33 35 35
Duke University 33 34 35
University of Pennsylvania 34 35 35
Northwestern University 33 34 35
Rice University 34 35 36
Vanderbilt University 34 35 35
Harvard University 34 35 36
Cornell University 33 34 35
Johns Hopkins University 34 35 35
Brown University 34 35 36
University of Chicago 33 34 35
Georgetown University 32 34 35
Tufts University 33 34 35
Amherst College 31 33 35
Pomona College 33 34 35

What is a Good ACT Score — University Requirements Continued

As you can see, most of the top universities in the U.S. are looking for high ACT scores. A good ACT score for highly selective institutions is at least a 31-32, but at many, you’ll need to score upwards of 34-35 to be most competitive. However, there are plenty of options that require less competitive ACT scores. Below is a sample list of schools with lower average ACT scores that are still moderately selective.

School 25th Percentile Score 50th Percentile Score 75th Percentile Score
Pennsylvania State University 26 29 31
UMass Amherst 29 31 33
Colorado State University—Fort Collins 23 26 29
Georgia State University 19 22 26
University of Iowa 22 25 28
Temple University 24 27 31
Pace University 24 27 29
James Madison University 23 26 29
University of Kansas 21 24 27
University of New Hampshire 26 28 31

If you’re interested in a school not listed above, we’ve got you covered with College Transitions’ list of over 400 schools and their testing requirements. Need to plan your test day? Check out the 2023-24 ACT test dates.

So, now that we understand how the ACT is graded, what is the ACT actually testing you on?

What to Expect on the ACT

The ACT evaluates you in four categories: English, Math, Reading, and Science. The first section on the ACT is English. In this section, you will have 45 minutes to answer 75 multiple-choice questions. As expected, most of the questions in this section test your knowledge of grammar rules, vocabulary, and writing style. Certain questions may be targeted to test your understanding of literary elements, like tone and voice.

Next, you’ll move on to the math section. In this section, you will have 60 minutes to answer 60 multiple-choice questions. Students are allowed to use a calculator in this section. The math section features a series of word problems, geometry- and algebra-based questions, and basic trigonometry.

As you continue through the test, the next section will be reading. With 35 minutes allotted, this section is one of the shortest. You’ll have to answer 40 multiple-choice questions within this timeframe. The reading section presents students with 5 different passages. Each passage asks the student to answer 5 questions associated with what they have read. This third section tests your knowledge of reading comprehension, inference, and recall.

What is a Good ACT Score? (Continued)

Finally, you’ll prepare to take the science section. Also with 35 minutes allotted, the science section will ask you a series of 40 multiple-choice questions. This final section tests your ability to interpret data and research summaries. In addition, the science section asks you to evaluate mock models and graphs.

You may be wondering what a good ACT score is in each of these categories. Since the ACT calculates an individual score for each section and then averages those together to create a composite score, you may want to identify your target composite score and then work backward from there. For example, to earn a composite of 35, you’ll need to score at least a 35 in a minimum of two sections and no less than a 34 in the other two. As such, you may find yourself needing to focus your energy on one or two sections in order to raise (or achieve) your composite. Try using our ACT Calculator to experiment with different score combinations.

If hearing more about the ACT intimidates you, don’t stress! After you determine what is a good score on the ACT for you, there are resources available to help improve your score.

Preparing for the ACT

If you’re constantly worried about what a good ACT score is before you even begin the exam, you could psych yourself out. Breathe. There are ways to prepare for the test that can help you feel more confident in your abilities.

To prepare for the ACT, you can answer sample questions through the official ACT website in each of the aforementioned categories. They also offer a list of helpful test-taking strategies.

What is a Good ACT Score? (Continued)

After completing the sample test, it’s important to identify areas you can improve upon. Figuring out which sections are challenging for you helps determine where you should spend your time studying. For example, if you generally perform well in STEM-based classes, taking extra time to review the material in the English section could be beneficial. Taking regular practice tests and closely studying answer explanations is also an important part of any study schedule.

Additionally, taking the test more than once may help improve your score. Familiarity with the test helps get you more comfortable with the ACT and the pressure of a timed exam. Taking the test more than once can also help alleviate the pressure of getting the desired score within one try.

Finally, working with a standardized test prep tutor is an excellent option for many students. Tutors can help you raise your score significantly by teaching you not only how to take the exam but also how to master test content.

What about the ACT with Writing?

If you’re wondering what a good ACT score is on the writing section, this section is graded differently. Writing is scored on a scale from 2-12. With this in mind, the average score would be a 6-7, with a 10 being the benchmark of a more impressive score.

However, not all universities require the writing section, so it is important to research if your prospective schools do. Should you choose to take the writing section, the ACT website provides sample prompts and essays. Furthermore, the site offers a breakdown of scoring, which allows you to see why the graders ranked an essay the way they did.

What is an ACT superscore?

An ACT superscore is the average of your best section scores across multiple test dates. For example, let’s say Attempt #1 of the ACT earned you a 31 in English, a 33 in Math, a 32 in Reading, and a 34 in Science, for a composite score of 33. You decide to take the test again, and score a 35 in English, a 31 in Math, a 34 in Reading, and 32 in Science. Even though you scored better on certain sections, you scored lower on others. Ultimately, you’d earn the same composite score for Attempt #2 as Attempt #1.

What is a Good ACT Score? (Continued)

However, if the universities you are applying to allow superscoring, you can take the best section scores from both test dates and average them together to create a new composite score. Accordingly, you’d average your 35 in English, 33 in Math, 34 in Reading, and 34 in Science for a new, superscored composite of 34. The benefit of this strategy? You can submit your best, highest score with your application, raising both your admission and merit aid prospects.

How do ACT and SAT scores compare?

If you’re wondering how your ACT scores might translate into an SAT result, you can do so using an ACT to SAT conversion chart. Some students may perform better on one standardized test versus another. As such, understanding how your scores convert can be helpful when determining which test to focus your energy on.

Final Thoughts—What Is a Good ACT Score?

In the end, a “good” score on the ACT is relative to your educational prospects. If you’re aiming high and looking at top-ranked universities, then your ACT score should reflect your ability to handle the rigorous academics at these institutions. Ultimately, it’s best to review the requirements for the universities and colleges that most interest you and adjust your goals accordingly.

Interested in learning more about standardized testing? Check out the following resources: