What is a Good ACT Score in 2023?

July 24, 2023

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 you aren’t sure what is a good ACT score. 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. Not only will this article help you better understand what is a good ACT score, but also we’ll share tips for how to prepare for the test and outline what to expect on the ACT.

Average ACT Scores

Firstly, 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 score you earn, the better you performed on the test. But still, you’re wondering, what’s a good ACT score on this scale? To better understand how the ACT is evaluated, the test is graded based on how well you did compared to the general population of other test takers. Ultimately, this means most students will perform in the average range. So, a lower number of test takers will fall on either extreme of the curve.

The average ACT score is 19. Therefore, earning this score means you performed within the 50th percentile of test takers. Indeed, it’s a perfectly acceptable result and can answer the question: What is a good ACT score? When looking at universities like Buffalo State, Cal State Sacramento, and Texas Southern University, an average ACT score ranks you within the target goal of a prospective student.

However, the more competitive the university, the higher score may be required for entry. For example, schools like the University of Oregon, Washington State University, and Florida Atlantic University typically require a slightly higher composite ACT score, around 24.

What is a Good ACT Score? (Continued)

It’s worth mentioning that bumping up your ACT score by even a few points can make a major difference on your college applications. For example, a score of 24 ranks you within the top 25% of test takers! Some universities may even offer scholarships based on your ACT score. So, if you’re still wondering what is a good ACT score, there isn’t necessarily a cut-off. However, a higher score can help impress admissions boards even if you’re worried about how your transcript reflects you.

Ultimately, what is a good ACT score may vary from student to student. Depending on your target schools and their requirements, your goal can change. Really, the question should be: what’s a good ACT score for me? Figuring out what is a good score on the ACT can be time-consuming. However, researching each university’s requirements will help you determine which school fits best for you.

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, students 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, students move on to the math section. In this section, students 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 students continue through the test, the next section is reading. Allotted for 35 minutes, this section is one of the shortest. Students 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, students prepare to take the science section. Also allotted for 35 minutes, the science section asks students a series of 40 multiple-choice questions. This final section tests your ability to interpret data and research summaries. As well, the science section asks you to evaluate mock models and graphs.

You may be wondering what’s a good ACT score in each of these categories. Overall, the ACT ranks each section with an individual score and then averages those section scores. The average is your final composite score.

For example, if you score a 19 in English, 24 in Math, 21 in Reading, and 25 in Science, your final composite score would be 22. So, that’s why it’s important to improve individual sections even if you feel confident in one or two categories.

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 rescores available to help improve your score.

Preparing for the ACT

If you’re constantly worried about what is a good ACT score before you even begin the exam, you can 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. Should you choose to take the writing section, the website also allows you to read sample prompts and essays. Furthermore, the site offers a breakdown of scoring. So, you can see why the graders ranked the essay the way they did. However, not all universities require the writing section, so it is important to research if your prospective school requires it.

Note: if you’re wondering what’s a good ACT score 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.

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.

As well, taking the test more than once may even help improve your score. Familiarity with the test helps get you more comfortable with the ACT and the potential 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.

The ACT website also offers a list of helpful suggestions for test-taking strategies. It’s worth visiting before your designated test day so you feel more prepared before starting the exam.

What’s A Good ACT Score? – Continued

When thinking about what is a good ACT score, it can be helpful to have a frame of reference for what universities and colleges look for. Below is a list of 20 well-regarded universities in the U.S. and the average ACT score for each. This list was assembled using the Forbes America’s Top College List. Let’s take a look at what is a good score on the ACT for these universities.

School Average ACT Score
Massachusetts Institute of Technology 35
Sandford University 34-35
University of California, Berkley 31
Princeton University 33-35
Columbia University 34-35
University of California, Los Angeles 29-32
Williams College 33
Yale University 33-35
Duke University 33-35
University of Pennsylvania 33-35
Northwestern University 34-35
Rice University 34-35
Vanderbilt University 34-35
Dartmouth University 33-35
Harvard University 33-36
Cornell University 33-35
University of California, San Diego 30
Johns Hopkins University 34
Brown University 33-35
University of Chicago 33-35

What is a Good Score on the ACT for These Universities? – Continued

As you can see, most of the top universities in the U.S. are looking for higher ACT scores. If you’re thinking about what’s a good ACT score for these institutions, the answer is at least a 30. To have a competitive application, it is best to secure a score within these ranges. However, if your target schools are a little less competitive, there are still plenty of options within a different range. Below is a sample list of schools with lower average ACT scores that are still moderately selective.

School Average ACT Score
Pennsylvania State University 26
Arizona State University 25
Colorado State University—Fort Collins 26
Georgia State University 23
University of Iowa 26
DePaul University 25
Pace University 24
James Madison University 26
California State University—Fullerton 21
University of Kansas 26
Illinois State University 23

If you’re wondering how your ACT scores translate into an SAT result, click here. Some students may only take one standardized test or the other. So, understanding how these scores convert can be helpful.

Maybe you’re interested in a school not listed above. We’ve got you covered. For a list of over 400 schools and their testing requirements, click here. We also have the 2023-24 ACT test dates so you can plan your testing day.

Some universities may even allow you to super score your ACT. Super scoring means you can average the scores you received over several ACT attempts. Then, you can submit this new, averaged score to your chosen university. The benefit of this strategy is that you can submit your best, highest score with your application.

Final Thoughts

In the end, what is 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. However, not earning an ACT score within the desired range may not necessarily keep you from these universities, either.

It’s best to adjust your target score to what is best for you personally. If you’re thinking, “What is a good ACT score for me?”, the answer will vary depending on the schools you’re applying to. It’s best to review the requirements for the universities and colleges that most interest you and adjust your goals accordingly.