Average ACT Score: National, By State and By College

The ACT score is a composite score based on testing in 4 categories – English, Mathematics, Reading, and Science. Each subject is scored from 1 to 36 and the scores are averaged to produce the ACT composite score. A composite score of 36 is perfect.

The average ACT composite score in 2023 was 19.5. 

ACT score by state ranges from 17.2 to 26.4. 30 states had average composite scores above average. 

The highest average ACT scores were earned in states with the lowest percentage of students taking the test. The lowest scores were achieved in states where more than 90% of students were tested on the ACT.

The average ACT scores for students at colleges ranked in the top 50 (US News ranking) are much higher than average, typically from 30 to 34. These schools include Ivy League schools and other private and public selective colleges that have high admissions standards and low acceptance rates.

4 act score categories

What Is the Average ACT Score?

The national average ACT Composite score in 2023 was 19.5. The 2023 average ACT score was the lowest composite score in the last 5 years, down from 20.7 in 2019.

The average Math score in 2023 was 19. The average science score was 19.6. The average English score was 18.6, and the average reading score was 20.1. 

The 2023 national average female score on the ACT was a 19.7 composite out of 36. That was slightly higher than the average male score, which was a 19.4 composite.

This Average ACT Score Over 5 Years table shows the year, average composite score for all test takers and the number of students tested. It shows the downward trend in the average ACT scores across 5 years.

YearComposite ACT ScoreNumber of Students Tested
average act score 2019-2023

What Are the Average ACT Scores by State?

Here are average ACT scores by state. The table shows a comparison between last year and this year plus the approximate number of students tested.

StateACT Composite Score 2023ACT Composite Score 2022Estimated % of Graduates Tested 2023
District of Columbia2626.917
New Hampshire25.225.75
New Jersey24.424.610
New Mexico20.219.814
New York25.325.39
North Carolina18.518.590
North Dakota19.619.289
Rhode Island24.525.25
South Carolina18.818.940
South Dakota21.121.559
West Virginia20.320.526

The states with the highest average ACT scores in 2023 were Connecticut with 26.4, Massachusetts also with 26.4 and California with 25.7. 30 states had composite ACT scores above the national average of 19.5.

States with the lowest average ACT scores were Nevada with 17.2, Mississippi with 17.6, Arizona with 17.7 and Oklahoma with 17.8. A total of 20 states had composite ACT scores below the national average.

There is a direct relationship between the percentage of students tested and scores. States with a low percentage of students taking the ACT have higher average ACT scores. Where most students take the ACT, results show lower average ACT scores. For example, only 8% of Massachusetts students take the test, and the average score is 26.4.

States with low scores and the percentage of students tested are Mississippi at 100%, Nevada at 100%, Oklahoma at 100%, Tennessee at 100% and Arizona at 98%.

States with a higher percentage of wealthy families also have higher test scores because more students can afford preparatory programs and tutoring. According to CNBC, “In a 2013 paper titled, ‘Race, Poverty and SAT Scores,’ researchers Ezekiel J. Dixon-Roman and John J. Mcardle found that wealthy students earn higher SAT scores compared to their low-income peers.”

What Is the Average ACT Score for College Admission?

The average ACT score for college admissions ranges from 21 to 27 with a score of 24 being closest to the mean.

NCES data shows a composite ACT score of 21 at the 25th percentile of students admitted to college up to 27 at the 75th percentile. In other words, an ACT score of 21 is the low average for admission while a score of 27 is the high average for admission. 

For the ACT subsection scores, the 25th and 75th percentile scores are 19 and 26 in Math, and 20 and 27 in English, respectively.

This table shows average ACT scores for college admission from 2017 to 2021 with the percentage of students submitting ACT scores.

Year25th Percentile ACT Score75th Percentile ACT ScoreNumber of Enrolled Undergraduates submitting ACT scores% of Enrolled Undergraduates submitting ACT scores

The average ACT scores for admitted students rose in recent years even while the national average composite score for all students taking the test dropped.

What Is the Average ACT Score by Selective Colleges?

Here are the average ACT scores in selective colleges across the U.S. These selective colleges are ranked in the top 50 by US News.

College NamesAverage ACT Score (Composite)College TypesUSNews Ranking% of Students Submit ACT Scores
Princeton University33Private not-for-profit125%
Massachusetts Institute of Technology35Private not-for-profit232%
Harvard University34Private not-for-profit328%
Stanford University33Private not-for-profit323%
Yale University33Private not-for-profit329%
University of Chicago34Private not-for-profit632%
Johns Hopkins University34Private not-for-profit715%
University of Pennsylvania34Private not-for-profit723%
California Institute of TechnologyNot ConsideredPrivate not-for-profit90%
Duke University34Private not-for-profit1037%
Northwestern University33Private not-for-profit1031%
Dartmouth College33Private not-for-profit1224%
Brown University34Private not-for-profit1327%
Vanderbilt University34Private not-for-profit1332%
Rice University34Private not-for-profit1523%
Washington University in St Louis33Private not-for-profit1533%
Cornell University33Private not-for-profit1714%
Columbia University in the City of New York34Private not-for-profit1823%
University of Notre Dame32Private not-for-profit1831%
University of California-BerkeleyNot ConsideredPublic200%
University of California-Los AngelesNot ConsideredPublic200%
Carnegie Mellon University34Private not-for-profit2220%
Georgetown University32Private not-for-profit2236%
Emory University32Private not-for-profit2224%
New York University33Private not-for-profit2511%
University of Southern California32Private not-for-profit2516%
University of Virginia-Main Campus32Public2517%
University of Michigan-Ann Arbor31Public2524%
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill30Public2932%
University of Florida28Public2941%
Wake Forest UniversityNot ConsideredPrivate not-for-profit290%
Tufts University33Private not-for-profit3219%
University of California-Santa BarbaraNot ConsideredPublic320%
University of California-IrvineNot ConsideredPublic340%
University of California-San DiegoNot ConsideredPublic340%
Boston College33Private not-for-profit3618%
University of Rochester31Private not-for-profit3611%
University of Wisconsin-Madison26Public3840%
The University of Texas at Austin26Public3822%
University of California-DavisNot ConsideredPublic380%
William & Mary32Public4118%
University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign29Public4120%
Boston University31Private not-for-profit4112%
Northeastern University33Private not-for-profit4411%
Case Western Reserve University32Private not-for-profit4421%
Georgia Institute of Technology-Main Campus31Public4438%
Brandeis University31Private not-for-profit4417%
Tulane University of Louisiana31Private not-for-profit4434%
Ohio State University-Main Campus29Public4940%
University of Georgia27Public4926%
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute30Private not-for-profit5115%
Villanova University32Private not-for-profit5115%
Lehigh University30Private not-for-profit5113%
Purdue University-Main Campus27Public5129%
University of Maryland-College Park30Public552%
Pepperdine University28Private not-for-profit5513%
University of Miami30Private not-for-profit5522%
Rutgers University-New Brunswick28Public556%
Santa Clara University29Private not-for-profit5517%
Florida State University26Public5532%

The average ACT score among selective colleges is 30.5 with a total average range of 26 to 35.

For most selective colleges including Ivy League schools and the top public schools, the average ACT score is in the 30s, from 30 to 34. The school with the highest average ACT score for enrolled students is the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) with an average score of 35. 

Selective private schools have higher average ACT scores than public schools. For example, Harvard, Johns Hopkins, Duke, the University of Chicago and Brown are among the schools with an average score of 34. 

The public schools with the highest average score are the University of Virginia at 32 and the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor at 31.

Public universities in California do not consider standardized tests including the ACT and SAT in college admissions decisions. The only selective school outside California that does not consider the ACT is Wake Forest University.

Among private schools that consider the ACT score, the percentage of students submitting scores ranges from 11% to 37%. Among public schools, the range is broader, from 2% to 41%. 

What Is the Average ACT Score by Demographic?

This table has information about average ACT score by demographic group plus the average composite score of 19.5 for all demographics.

Race/EthnicityAverage ACT Scores 2023Average ACT Scores 2022Average ACT Scores 2021Average ACT Scores 2020
All Students19.519.820.320.6
Black/African American1616.116.316.7
American Indian/Alaska Native1616.416.916.7
Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander16.317.117.217.5
Two or more races19.820.120.620.9
Prefer not to respond/No response17.617.619.219.7

Asian students have the highest average ACT score of 24.2 while Black or African American students and American Indian or Native Alaskan students have the lowest average score of 16.0. Only Asian, White and students of two or more races had average composite ACT scores above the national average for all students.

Scores for all demographic groups dropped or stayed the same most years from 2020 to 2023. No group achieved higher scores in 2023 than in the past three years.

How Average ACT Score is Related to Planned College Major

This table shows the relationship between ACT score and planned college major, and how scores differ among students intending to receive an associates degree or less vs those who plan to get at least a bachelor’s degree.

Planned Educational MajorAvg ACT ScoreAvg ACT Score (Plan on 2 Years or Less of College)Avg ACT Score (Plan on 4 Years or More of College)
Agriculture & Natural Resources Conservation19.416.520.7
Area, Ethnic, & Multidisciplinary Studies20.314.222.2
Arts: Visual & Performing20.517.421.6
Community, Family, & Personal Services17.916.618.9
Computer Science & Mathematics24.118.624.7
Engineering Technology & Drafting19.616.321.3
English & Foreign Languages23.317.824.3
Health Administration & Assisting17.615.918.2
Health Sciences & Technologies2117.221.4
Philosophy, Religion, & Theology2116.621.9
Repair, Production, & Construction16.81718.4
Sciences: Biological & Physical23.817.124
Social Sciences & Law22.116.722.5
No Response16.616.820.7

The highest ACT scores are achieved by Computer Science and Mathematics majors with a score of 24.1 followed by those majoring in the Sciences such as biology at 23.8. 

The data shows that majors with a higher concentration of STEM courses including sciences, math and engineering attract students with higher ACT scores. Among majors that are not high in STEM courses, English and Foreign Languages attract students with the highest average ACT composite scores.

The planned college major programs that attract and admit students with average ACT scores below the national average include Agriculture, Natural Resources, Community Services, Health Administration, and Construction.

Students planning to spend 4 or more years in college have higher composite ACT scores than those that intend to spend 2 years or less in college. For example, the difference is 24.4 to 16.3 for those who choose Engineering as a major. The difference is 49.6%.

How Average ACT Score Is Related to Planned Degree Types 

This table shows the relationship between degree types, from a vocational certification that takes less than 2 years to a professional level degree requiring 6 or more years to complete. The number of students in each type of degree program is listed.

Educational Degree AspirationsNumberAvg ACT Score
2-year College Degree48,16116.8
Bachelor’s Degree377,50920.6
Graduate Degree150,16624.2
Professional Level Degree155,91623.7
No Response570,54017.1

In general, the more advanced the degree type is, the higher the average ACT score of students working toward the degree.

The average composite ACT score for students in associates degree programs also called 2-year college degrees is 16.8. The highest average ACT score of 24.2 represents students seeking a graduate studies degree such as a master’s degree or PhD.

Students aspiring to a professional degree including MD, DO, JD, MBA, CPA, DVM or DDS achieved an average ACT score of 23.7.

What Are the Differences Between ACT Score and SAT Score?

The differences between ACT score and SAT score start with the number of enrolled students submitting scores, which is slightly higher for the ACT than the SAT.

The SAT is considered more challenging and requires more critical thinking than the ACT while the ACT is fast-paced and rewards students with superior test taking abilities.

The SAT has 154 questions. The ACT has 215 questions. Because the time limits for the tests are approximately the same, students have fewer seconds per question – 75 seconds per question on the SAT and 52.5 seconds per question on the ACT.

SAT scores are higher than ACT scores when the 25th percentile and 75th percentile are considered as a percentage of correct answers.

  • Composite scores: The 25th percentile ACT score is 58% out of 100%. The 75th  percentile ACT score is 75% out of 100%. The 25th percentile SAT score is 65% out of 100%, and the 75th percentile is 79% out of 100%.
  • English/Verbal: 25th percentile and 75th percentile ACT scores are 56% and 75%. For the SAT, 25th percentile and 75th percentile scores are 66% and 79%.
  • Math: 25th percentile and 75th percentile ACT scores are 53% and 72%. For the SAT, 25th percentile and 75th percentile scores are 65% and 78%.

The essay is no longer part of the SAT and is optional on the ACT.

The SAT and ACT are the same in some ways too. They are similar in length at 3 hours for the SAT and 2 hours 55 minutes for the ACT. The math section of both tests covers algebra, geometry and trigonometry. Questions in science on both tests cover physics, chemistry, biology, and earth science.

Leave a Comment