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Average ACT Scores By Year

The ACT exam is defined by the founding organization as “a mission-driven, nonprofit organization dedicated to helping people achieve education and workplace success.”

With over 60 years of experience and pioneering research in the field of standardized testing, ACT prides itself on being a trusted leader in displaying a student’s college and career readiness. 

A complete history and timeline of the ACT exam can be found on their website. Additionally, you can view a 2-minute video on “Who We Are Today” by visiting YouTube. 

Average Scores for the ACT

A “good” score on the ACT will depend on your goals and your college admissions requirements. 

The highest possible score for the ACT is 36, though the average score is 21. 

Scoring a result of 23 will set you above the national average and make you stand out among the many applicants at your potential college choices.

The following displays score ranges for various prospective colleges and their admittance: 

Columbia University32–356%
Harvard College32–355%
Massachusetts Institute of Technology33–358%
New York University29–3332%
Princeton University32–357%
University of California—Berkeley29–3415%
University of Pennsylvania31–3410%
Yale University31–357%

To see your peers scores, here is included the ACT score percentiles from the class of 2021, complete with various divisions of the ACT.

ScoreACT English PercentileACT Math PercentileACT Reading PercentileACT Science PercentileComposite Percentile

Understanding Your Scores

While some students are content to keep the scores they’ve received on their first attempt, others choose to retake the exam to attempt a higher score. 

According to the experts, even just a bump of a few points can make a big difference for students going through the college admissions process. 

As colleges view your scores, they infer qualities about your determination, study skills, and test taking abilities. While you are so much more than that as a person, it’s helpful for schools to have a basic understanding of your scholastic strengths and weaknesses. 

A basic chart of test scores can be found below:

ACT score < 16 = bottom 25% of scorers

ACT score of 21 = right on average

ACT score of 24+ = top 25% of scorers

ACT score of 29+ = top 10% of scorers

ACT of 31+ = top 5%  of scorers

ACT score of 35+ = top 1% of scorers

No matter your score, the ACT is available for retesting as desired. If you feel that your college or scholarship requirements would be better served with a higher score, you can attempt the exam again. 

Depending on your first choice, you may wish to retake the ACT exam if your school requests a minimum score for admittance. 

For Ivy League colleges, making yourself stand out among the applicants can be done in several ways including a stellar ACT or SAT test score. 

Here are  the ACT test scores from some of the most prestigious and popular colleges in the United States:

School25th Percentile ACT75th Percentile ACTUS News Ranking (National Universities)2020 Acceptance Rate
Princeton University323516%
Harvard University333525%
Yale University333546%
Columbia University333536%
University of Chicago333566%
Stanford University323564%
University of Pennsylvania323588%
Northwestern University333599%
Duke University3335128%
Johns Hopkins University323597%
Dartmouth College32351310%
Brown University3235147%
University of Notre Dame33351917%
Vanderbilt University33351411%
Cornell University32351811%
University of California, Los Angeles27342018%
University of California, Berkeley28342218%
University of Southern California30342413%
Georgetown University31342316%
Carnegie Mellon University33352622%
University of Michigan313424
Wake Forest University29332828%
University of Virginia30342627%
New York University30343019%
University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill27332822%
Boston College31343527%
Boston University29324222%
Villanova University31345329%
University of Georgia27325748%
Ohio State University28325348%
Penn State University25306351%
Clemson University27327447%
Texas A&M University26316661%

However, even if you’re applying to a state college, you may not need to retake the exam. Colleges look at other characteristics of their prospective students, including:

  • GPA | Your GPA is a general indicator of your academic performance, study skills, and scholastic achievement. If your GPA isn’t something you want to brag about, there are still other factors that can help you stand out to the admissions team. If your GPA was extremely low in the first few years but you’ve worked hard to bring it back up again, explain your story in your admissions interview. College admissions counselors love a good comeback story!
  • Hobbies & Extracurriculars | Do you play a musical instrument? A sport? Are you a part of an after-school robotics club? If so, these attributes are very interesting to prospective admissions counselors. Be sure to include this information in your application.
  • Personality & Character | Who you are as a person can be a very influential factor in reserving your spot. College admissions teams may look for students who show positive character traits, like tenacity, perseverance, and  respectfulness. The fact that you are dreaming big and shooting for the stars already shows them that you are an opportunity they won’t want to miss out on!

What to Do Next

The results you get may be adequate for your own goals, or you may plan to take the exam again when you’ve completed more coursework. 

Remember that everyone must go at their own pace. Trial and error is a part of the game!

Be sure to give yourself plenty of rest the night before, and eat a balanced diet to give your body the nutrients it needs to be at your best.

For specialized help in crushing the ACT, reach out to an experienced tutor who can walk you through the material you’re going to be facing on the exam. 

Prep Expert

Written by Prep Expert

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