What Is a Good ACT Score?

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What Is a Good ACT Score?
portrait of Hannah Muniz
by Hannah Muniz
Published on September 27, 2021


In addition to a stellar personal statement, a high GPA, and strong letters of recommendation, an impressive standardized test score can help you get into a good college.

One of two major college entrance exams in the U.S., the ACT assesses students' math, science, and verbal skills. While there's no passing score, earning a high score can aid in securing you acceptance to more selective colleges.

Not all colleges require standardized test scores for admission. Recently, many institutions have adopted test-optional policies due to COVID-19. Be sure to confirm whether your schools require ACT/SAT scores for admission before you register for a test.

All test-takers should spend some time figuring out what score to aim for. What's a good ACT score? More importantly, what score will you need to get into your dream college?

What Is a Good ACT Score Overall?

A good ACT score ranks you higher than the majority of test-takers. As such, any composite score above the 50th percentile, or 19-20, can be considered a solid score.

That said, a 20 won't cut it at many competitive colleges. This is why it's better to aim even higher, ideally for the top 25% — or a composite score of around 24.

The ACT consists of four sections: English, Math, Reading, and Science. Each subject is scored on a scale of 1-36. Your total ACT score is the average of your four section scores. To get a good ACT score, then, you'll need to aim for around 24 on each section.

Students can use percentiles to get a sense of how their ACT scores compare with those of other test-takers. The following table presents a common range of good ACT scores based on percentiles. Note that percentiles may change slightly each year.

Percentile Composite English Math Reading Science
100 36 36 36 36 36
99 34-35 35 34-35 35-36 35
95 31 33-34 30-31 33-34 31
90 29 30-31 28 31-32 28
85 27 27-28 26 29-30 26
80 25-26 25 25 27 25
75 (good) 24 24 24 25 24
50 (median) 19-20 19 18 20 20

Source: ACT Inc.

What Is a Good ACT Score Based on Your Colleges?

Colleges and universities have different score expectations, making the notion of a good ACT score relative. Ultimately, whether a score can be considered good depends on what your schools are looking for and how competitive their applicant pools are. A good score for you will be one that's comparable to that of the average first-year student at the schools you're applying to.

Many colleges report the middle 50% of incoming students, which is a range that spans the 25th to 75th percentile ACT scores. Ideally, you'll get a score close to or higher than your school's 75th percentile. If that's too difficult, however, you can aim for somewhere closer to the bottom of that range.

To find a school's middle 50%, look for a first-year class profile page or a facts and figures page on its website. Alternatively, you can search for the school's name with the phrase "ACT score range."

For example, say you want to apply to Emory University. Emory reports enrolled students' ACT scores on its first-year profile page. According to this data, the middle 50% is 33-35. This means you'll have a solid shot at getting into Emory if you earn at least a 35 on the ACT (assuming the rest of your application is just as impressive).

Schools vary considerably in the kinds of ACT scores they look for in applicants. Less selective institutions tend to accept scores closer to the national average (21), whereas more competitive universities often prefer scores in the 32-36 range.

Good ACT Scores for 20 Popular Colleges

The table below lists the middle 50% of first-year students' ACT scores at 20 popular colleges and universities across the U.S. All data is for the class of 2025.

School 25th Percentile ACT Score 75th Percentile ACT Score
Boston University 33 35
Bowdoin College 32 34
Colgate University 31 34
Colorado College 29 33
Columbia University 34 35
Indiana University Bloomington 27 32
Miami University 25 31
Pennsylvania State University 29 33
Rice University 34 35
Tulane University 31 34
University of Connecticut 28 33
University of Georgia 31 34
University of Maryland, College Park 31 34
University of Minnesota Twin Cities 28 33
University of Pennsylvania 35 36
University of Pittsburgh 28 33
University of Richmond 32 35
Villanova University 32 34
Washington University in St. Louis 33 35
Wesleyan University 33 35

What Is a Good ACT Writing Score?

The ACT offers an optional Writing section, which requires students to write an essay describing their perspective on an issue. You only need to complete this section if at least one of the schools you're applying to requires the essay. Be aware that the ACT with Writing costs more than the ACT without Writing ($85 vs. $60).

Unlike the English, Math, Reading, and Science sections, the ACT Writing section is scored on a scale of 2-12. This score does not count toward your composite score and is reported separately.

Two readers each assign your essay a grade on a scale of 1-6 in four domains: Ideas and Analysis, Development and Support, Organization, and Language Use and Conventions. These domain scores are then combined and averaged to give you a final Writing score out of 12.

Percentile ACT Writing Score
100 12
99 11
99 10
96 9
90 (good) 8
66 7
51 (median) 6

Source: ACT Inc.

Like the other ACT sections, the strength of your essay score depends on what percentile you place in. The higher your score is above the 50th percentile, the more impressive your ACT Writing performance will look to colleges. Generally, a score of 8 or higher on the essay can be considered strong.


Feature Image: Phil Boorman / Cultura / Getty Images

The SAT is an important test for colleges, and a good score can improve your chances of getting accepted. Learn what a good score is for you. Hear from one of our experts on how to decide if the SAT, ACT, or neither test is right for you in your college application journey. Many high school students struggle to choose between the SAT and ACT. Discover the exams' biggest differences and which to take based on your unique strengths.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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