What Is a Good ACT Score?

The ACT is a standardized test used by many colleges and universities in the United States as one criteria in admissions. The ACT consists of four sub tests in English, Math, Reading and Science also called scientific reasoning. Each test is multiple choice and scored on a scale of 1 to 36. The composite ACT score is the rounded average of the scores on the four sub tests.

A composite ACT score of 36 is a perfect score, the highest score possible. A good score is generally considered to be a score in the 75th percentile for that year, typically between 24 and 26. However, an ACT score can also be good if it is high enough to help the student gain admission to the school of their choice. By that measurement, a good ACT score ranges from 20 to 36.

Good sub scores for English, math, and science are 23 and higher. A good score for reading is 24 or higher. These ACT sub scores are closest to the 75th percentile, which means that 75% of students taking the ACT had that score or a lower score.

This chart shows the range of sub scores for each subject, the number of students achieving each score and the cumulative percent of students at or below that point. Scores closest to the 75th percentile have been highlighted.

A good ACT score for selective colleges in the United States ranges from 26 to 36 in the 75th percentile, though for most selective schools, a score of 30 or higher standard.

A bad ACT score is a score of 16 or lower when all 4-year colleges are considered. A bad ACT score can also be defined as a score that is lower than average for the school the student is applying to. 

What Are Good ACT Scores Used For?

Good ACT scores are used as criteria in 4 ways. High ACT scores are considered for college admissions, used to earn college credit by exam or CBE, receive merit-based scholarships, and assess which courses a student should be placed into.

1. College Admissions

ACT scores are considered by many colleges and universities as part of the admissions process. A good ACT score allows you to meet the admissions requirements for more schools, giving you more options to consider.

2. College Credit by Examination

Many schools have CBE programs allowing students to obtain credit for equivalent classes with high test scores including good ACT scores. The ACT score needed to be granted college credit varies by school. For example, Western Kentucky University grants students credit for English 100 with an ACT English score of 29 or higher and credit for Math 116 with an ACT Math score of 26 or higher. At Abilene Christian, a 32 score on the English portion of the ACT is needed for college credit for English 111. Additionally, a score of 32 or higher makes the student eligible to get credit for English 112 by passing a writing exam. 

Earning college credit by exam allows students to earn their degree more quickly or to take additional electives in line with their interests.

3. Merit Based Scholarships

A good ACT score gives students an advantage when applying for merit based scholarships. Scores of 25 and higher are above the national average and make a student competitive for scholarships based on good ACT scores.

4. Course Placement

Students with good ACT scores are placed into more advanced classes. The advantages of this process include making it easier to obtain a dual major or a minor to go with your major.

What Is a Good ACT Score for Selective Colleges?

This table shows that the range for a good ACT score for Top 100 national schools is 26 to 36. Each selective college and university determines what is a good ACT score for admission.

College NamesCollege TypeGood ACT Score% of Students submitting ACT Score
Princeton UniversityPrivate not-for-profit3525%
Massachusetts Institute of TechnologyPrivate not-for-profit3632%
Harvard UniversityPrivate not-for-profit3628%
Stanford UniversityPrivate not-for-profit3523%
Yale UniversityPrivate not-for-profit3529%
University of ChicagoPrivate not-for-profit3532%
Johns Hopkins UniversityPrivate not-for-profit3515%
University of PennsylvaniaPrivate not-for-profit3523%
California Institute of TechnologyPrivate not-for-profitACT Not Considered 0%
Duke UniversityPrivate not-for-profit3537%
Northwestern UniversityPrivate not-for-profit3531%
Dartmouth CollegePrivate not-for-profit3524%
Brown UniversityPrivate not-for-profit3627%
Vanderbilt UniversityPrivate not-for-profit3532%
Rice UniversityPrivate not-for-profit3623%
Washington University in St LouisPrivate not-for-profit3533%
Cornell UniversityPrivate not-for-profit3514%
Columbia University in the City of New YorkPrivate not-for-profit3523%
University of Notre DamePrivate not-for-profit3531%
University of California-BerkeleyPublicACT Not Considered 0%
University of California-Los AngelesPublicACT Not Considered 0%
Carnegie Mellon UniversityPrivate not-for-profit3520%
Georgetown UniversityPrivate not-for-profit3536%
Emory UniversityPrivate not-for-profit3424%
New York UniversityPrivate not-for-profit3511%
University of Southern CaliforniaPrivate not-for-profit3516%
University of Virginia-Main CampusPublic3417%
University of Michigan-Ann ArborPublic3424%
University of North Carolina at Chapel HillPublic3432%
University of FloridaPublic3341%
Wake Forest UniversityPrivate not-for-profitACT Not Considered 0%
Tufts UniversityPrivate not-for-profit3519%
University of California-Santa BarbaraPublicACT Not Considered 0%
University of California-IrvinePublicACT Not Considered 0%
University of California-San DiegoPublicACT Not Considered 0%
Boston CollegePrivate not-for-profit3518%
University of RochesterPrivate not-for-profit3411%
University of Wisconsin-MadisonPublic3240%
The University of Texas at AustinPublic3322%
University of California-DavisPublicACT Not Considered 0%
William & MaryPublic3418%
University of Illinois Urbana-ChampaignPublic3420%
Boston UniversityPrivate not-for-profit3412%
Northeastern UniversityPrivate not-for-profit3511%
Case Western Reserve UniversityPrivate not-for-profit3521%
Georgia Institute of Technology-Main CampusPublic3538%
Brandeis UniversityPrivate not-for-profit3417%
Tulane University of LouisianaPrivate not-for-profit3334%
Ohio State University-Main CampusPublic3240%
University of GeorgiaPublic3226%
Rensselaer Polytechnic InstitutePrivate not-for-profit3415%
Villanova UniversityPrivate not-for-profit3415%
Lehigh UniversityPrivate not-for-profit3313%
Purdue University-Main CampusPublic3429%
University of Maryland-College ParkPublic342%
Pepperdine UniversityPrivate not-for-profit3213%
University of MiamiPrivate not-for-profit3322%
Rutgers University-New BrunswickPublic336%
Santa Clara UniversityPrivate not-for-profit3317%
Florida State UniversityPublic3132%
University of Washington-Seattle CampusPublicACT Not Considered 0%
George Washington UniversityPrivate not-for-profit3415%
University of Minnesota-Twin CitiesPublic3239%
University of Pittsburgh-Pittsburgh CampusPublic3316%
Syracuse UniversityPrivate not-for-profit3211%
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State UniversityPublic327%
Yeshiva UniversityPrivate not-for-profit3324%
University of Massachusetts-AmherstPublic335%
University of ConnecticutPublic336%
Texas A & M University-College StationPublic3122%
Worcester Polytechnic InstitutePrivate not-for-profitACT Not Considered 0%
Southern Methodist UniversityPrivate not-for-profit3421%
Fordham UniversityPrivate not-for-profit3310%
American UniversityPrivate not-for-profit3217%
North Carolina State University at RaleighPublic3327%
Indiana University-BloomingtonPublic3221%
Stony Brook UniversityPublic345%
Loyola Marymount UniversityPrivate not-for-profit3211%
Clemson UniversityPublic3225%
Baylor UniversityPrivate not-for-profit3323%
Michigan State UniversityPublic3111%
Stevens Institute of TechnologyPrivate not-for-profit348%
Binghamton UniversityPublic3412%
Gonzaga UniversityPrivate not-for-profit3113%
Marquette UniversityPrivate not-for-profit3130%
University of IowaPublic2863%
University of California-Santa CruzPublicACT Not Considered 0%
Colorado School of MinesPublic3324%
Brigham Young UniversityPrivate not-for-profit3255%
University of DelawarePublic314%
University at BuffaloPublic324%
Elon UniversityPrivate not-for-profit301%
Texas Christian UniversityPrivate not-for-profit3120%
Howard UniversityPrivate not-for-profit2613%
University of California-RiversidePublicACT Not Considered 0%
Clark UniversityPrivate not-for-profit334%
New Jersey Institute of TechnologyPublic334%
Auburn UniversityPublic3079%
University of Colorado BoulderPublic3214%
University of South FloridaPublic2924%
University of Illinois ChicagoPublic306%
University of San DiegoPrivate not-for-profitACT Not Considered 0%
University of California-MercedPublicACT Not Considered 0%

Most selective colleges that consider the ACT for admissions have an average ACT score for incoming students of 30 or higher. Only Howard University, the University of Iowa and the University of South Florida have average ACT scores in the 20s.

A perfect ACT score of 36 is the average score for MIT, Harvard, Brown, and Rice Universities. A near-perfect score of 35 is the average score for Notre Dame, USC, Carnegie Mellon, Georgetown, Columbia, Cornell, Princeton, Johns Hopkins, Stanford, Yale and other selective schools.

For selective private schools, the range of average ACT scores is 26 to 36. For selective public schools, the average ACT scores range is narrower, from 29 to 34. Historically, 75th percentile scores have been slightly higher for students that attend private schools vs public schools.

The majority of students do not submit ACT scores for admissions to the most selective schools. The percentage of students submitting ACT scores ranges from 0% in California public schools to 79% for Auburn University. Most selective schools have percentages of students submitting their ACT score of between 20% and 40%.

Selective schools are those rated in the top 100 public and private schools by US News.

California public universities do not consider scores for standardized tests for admissions including the ACT and SAT.

What Colleges Are 31-34 ACT Scores Good For?

A 31-34 ACT score is a good admission score for many highly ranked U.S. colleges and universities. Incoming students to these public and private universities have ACT scores in the 75th percentile of 31-34.

College NamesCollege TypeUSnews RankingGood ACT Score (75th percentile)
Emory UniversityPrivate not-for-profit2234
University of Virginia-Main CampusPublic2534
University of Michigan-Ann ArborPublic2534
University of North Carolina at Chapel HillPublic2934
University of RochesterPrivate not-for-profit3634
William & MaryPublic4134
University of Illinois Urbana-ChampaignPublic4134
Boston UniversityPrivate not-for-profit4134
Brandeis UniversityPrivate not-for-profit4434
Rensselaer Polytechnic InstitutePrivate not-for-profit5134
Villanova UniversityPrivate not-for-profit5134
Purdue University-Main CampusPublic5134
University of Maryland-College ParkPublic5534
George Washington UniversityPrivate not-for-profit6234
Southern Methodist UniversityPrivate not-for-profit7234
Stony Brook UniversityPublic7734
Stevens Institute of TechnologyPrivate not-for-profit8334
Binghamton UniversityPublic8334
University of FloridaPublic2933
The University of Texas at AustinPublic3833
Tulane University of LouisianaPrivate not-for-profit4433
Lehigh UniversityPrivate not-for-profit5133
University of MiamiPrivate not-for-profit5533
Rutgers University-New BrunswickPublic5533
Santa Clara UniversityPrivate not-for-profit5533
University of Pittsburgh-Pittsburgh CampusPublic6233
Yeshiva UniversityPrivate not-for-profit6733
University of Massachusetts-AmherstPublic6733
University of ConnecticutPublic6733
Fordham UniversityPrivate not-for-profit7233
North Carolina State University at RaleighPublic7233
Baylor UniversityPrivate not-for-profit7733
Colorado School of MinesPublic8933
Clark UniversityPrivate not-for-profit9733
New Jersey Institute of TechnologyPublic9733
Rochester Institute of TechnologyPrivate not-for-profit10533
University of the PacificPrivate not-for-profit15133
University of Wisconsin-MadisonPublic3832
Ohio State University-Main CampusPublic4932
University of GeorgiaPublic4932
Pepperdine UniversityPrivate not-for-profit5532
University of Minnesota-Twin CitiesPublic6232
Syracuse UniversityPrivate not-for-profit6232
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State UniversityPublic6232
American UniversityPrivate not-for-profit7232
Indiana University-BloomingtonPublic7232
Loyola Marymount UniversityPrivate not-for-profit7732
Clemson UniversityPublic7732
Brigham Young UniversityPrivate not-for-profit8932
University at BuffaloPublic8932
University of Colorado BoulderPublic9732
Drexel UniversityPrivate not-for-profit10532
University of DenverPrivate not-for-profit10532
Creighton UniversityPrivate not-for-profit11532
University of South Carolina-ColumbiaPublic11532
University of VermontPublic12132
Illinois Institute of TechnologyPrivate not-for-profit12732
The University of Texas at DallasPublic15132
Simmons UniversityPrivate not-for-profit15132
Touro UniversityPrivate not-for-profit18232
Florida State UniversityPublic5531
Texas A & M University-College StationPublic6731
Michigan State UniversityPublic7731
Gonzaga UniversityPrivate not-for-profit8331
Marquette UniversityPrivate not-for-profit8331
University of DelawarePublic8931
Texas Christian UniversityPrivate not-for-profit8931
University of San FranciscoPrivate not-for-profit10531
Saint Louis UniversityPrivate not-for-profit10531
Fairfield UniversityPrivate not-for-profit11531
Loyola University ChicagoPrivate not-for-profit11531
The University of Tennessee-KnoxvillePublic11531
Chapman UniversityPrivate not-for-profit12131
Thomas Jefferson UniversityPrivate not-for-profit12731
Seton Hall UniversityPrivate not-for-profit13731
The University of AlabamaPublic13731
George Mason UniversityPublic13731
University of New Hampshire-Main CampusPublic13731
Duquesne UniversityPrivate not-for-profit15131
Michigan Technological UniversityPublic15131
Hofstra UniversityPrivate not-for-profit16631
Mercer UniversityPrivate not-for-profit16631
University of Massachusetts-LowellPublic17631
Missouri University of Science and TechnologyPublic18231
Rowan UniversityPublic19431
Springfield CollegePrivate not-for-profit20231
University of Massachusetts-DartmouthPublic23431

The US News rankings of schools where 31-34 ACT scores are good for are 22 to 234. The majority are in the top 150 ranked schools.

There is a mix of public and private colleges and universities where 31-34 ACT scores are good in terms of admissions criteria – 44 are private and 43 are public. The top ranked private school on the list is Emory University ranked 22. The top public schools are the University of Virginia – main campus, and the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor. The schools are tied, ranked 25 by US News.

What Colleges Are 28-30 ACT Scores Good For?

Here are the highest ranked schools by US News where ACT scores of 28-30 are good scores for admissions – scores in the 75th percentile.

College NamesCollege TypeUSnews RankingGood ACT Score (75th percentile)
Elon UniversityPrivate not-for-profit8930
Auburn UniversityPublic9730
University of Illinois ChicagoPublic9730
Miami University-OxfordPublic10530
University of OregonPublic10530
University of Missouri-ColumbiaPublic12130
Clarkson UniversityPrivate not-for-profit12730
University of DaytonPrivate not-for-profit12730
Rutgers University-CamdenPublic12730
University of Alabama at BirminghamPublic13730
Drake UniversityPrivate not-for-profit13730
Seattle UniversityPrivate not-for-profit13730
University of TulsaPrivate not-for-profit13730
DePaul UniversityPrivate not-for-profit13730
Xavier UniversityPrivate not-for-profit16630
Bradley UniversityPrivate not-for-profit16630
Virginia Commonwealth UniversityPublic16630
Valparaiso UniversityPrivate not-for-profit17630
Belmont UniversityPrivate not-for-profit18230
University of Rhode IslandPublic18230
Biola UniversityPrivate not-for-profit19430
Union UniversityPrivate not-for-profit19430
Lipscomb UniversityPrivate not-for-profit21230
University of MainePublic21930
Suffolk UniversityPrivate not-for-profit23430
West Chester University of PennsylvaniaPublic25030
University of Missouri-Kansas CityPublic26330
University of Alabama in HuntsvillePublic26330
Tennessee Technological UniversityPublic28530
University of St FrancisPrivate not-for-profit29930
University of South FloridaPublic9729
University of UtahPublic10529
University of ArizonaPublic10529
University of Oklahoma-Norman CampusPublic12729
Samford UniversityPrivate not-for-profit12729
University of Maryland-Baltimore CountyPublic13729
University of St ThomasPrivate not-for-profit13729
University of Central FloridaPublic13729
University of Cincinnati-Main CampusPublic15129
James Madison UniversityPublic15129
Colorado State University-Fort CollinsPublic15129
University of MississippiPublic15129
Quinnipiac UniversityPrivate not-for-profit16629
St. John’s University-New YorkPrivate not-for-profit16629
University of HoustonPublic18229
Adelphi UniversityPrivate not-for-profit18229
Chatham UniversityPrivate not-for-profit19429
Mississippi State UniversityPublic19429
University of North Carolina WilmingtonPublic20229
St. John Fisher UniversityPrivate not-for-profit20229
Widener UniversityPrivate not-for-profit21929
Pace UniversityPrivate not-for-profit23429
University of HartfordPrivate not-for-profit23429
University of Massachusetts-BostonPublic23429
Western New England UniversityPrivate not-for-profit23429
University of St ThomasPrivate not-for-profit25029
DeSales UniversityPrivate not-for-profit28529
Andrews UniversityPrivate not-for-profit29929
William Carey UniversityPrivate not-for-profit31729
University of IowaPublic8328
University of KansasPublic12128
Iowa State UniversityPublic12728
University of KentuckyPublic13728
University of Nebraska-LincolnPublic15128
Louisiana State University and Agricultural & Mechanical CollegePublic17628
University of ArkansasPublic17628
Florida Institute of TechnologyPrivate not-for-profit20228
Ball State UniversityPublic21228
Bethel UniversityPrivate not-for-profit21228
Texas Tech UniversityPublic21928
University of LynchburgPrivate not-for-profit21928
Abilene Christian UniversityPrivate not-for-profit25028
Wayne State UniversityPublic25028
George Fox UniversityPrivate not-for-profit26328
Harding UniversityPrivate not-for-profit26328
Azusa Pacific UniversityPrivate not-for-profit26328
University of ToledoPublic28528
Saint Mary’s University of MinnesotaPrivate not-for-profit29928
Mississippi CollegePrivate not-for-profit31728

The list of schools where ACT scores of 28-30 are good scores are ranked between 89 and 317 by US News. The majority are ranked between 100 and 250; 40 of the schools where 28-30 ACT scores are good for are private and 39 are public.

The top ranked private school is Elon University ranked 89, and the top ranked public schools are Auburn University and the University of Illinois Chicago.

What Colleges Are 24-27 ACT Scores Good For?

The table below shows schools where ACT scores of 24-27 are in the 75th percentile for incoming students.

College NamesCollege TypeUS News RankingGood ACT Score (75th percentile)
University of IdahoPublic17627
Ohio University-Main CampusPublic18227
University of LouisvillePublic18227
Oklahoma State University-Main CampusPublic18227
Indiana University-Purdue University-IndianapolisPublic20227
University of Missouri-St LouisPublic21227
Seattle Pacific UniversityPrivate not-for-profit21927
University of North Carolina at GreensboroPublic21927
University of North Carolina at CharlottePublic21927
Nova Southeastern UniversityPrivate not-for-profit21927
University of Colorado Denver/Anschutz Medical CampusPublic21927
Illinois State UniversityPublic21927
Hampton UniversityPrivate not-for-profit21927
Bellarmine UniversityPrivate not-for-profit23427
The College of Saint ScholasticaPrivate not-for-profit23427
Utah State UniversityPublic25027
Regis UniversityPrivate not-for-profit25027
Central Michigan UniversityPublic25027
Montana State UniversityPublic26327
Saint Ambrose UniversityPrivate not-for-profit26327
Grand Valley State UniversityPublic26327
Southern Illinois University-CarbondalePublic26327
University of North TexasPublic28527
Western Michigan UniversityPublic28527
Old Dominion UniversityPublic29927
D’Youville UniversityPrivate not-for-profit29927
Louisiana Tech UniversityPublic31727
Howard UniversityPrivate not-for-profit8926
Florida International UniversityPublic15126
Pacific UniversityPrivate not-for-profit19426
University of Detroit MercyPrivate not-for-profit20226
St Catherine UniversityPrivate not-for-profit23426
Wilkes UniversityPrivate not-for-profit23426
Georgia State UniversityPublic23426
West Virginia UniversityPublic23426
University of Wisconsin-La CrossePublic25026
Western Carolina UniversityPublic26326
Point Park UniversityPrivate not-for-profit26326
Middle Tennessee State UniversityPublic29926
The University of Texas at ArlingtonPublic29926
University of Nebraska at OmahaPublic29926
Walsh UniversityPrivate not-for-profit31726
East Tennessee State UniversityPublic31726
University of La VernePrivate not-for-profit15125
Stockton UniversityPublic18225
Kent State University at KentPublic21225
University of New Mexico-Main CampusPublic21225
Oklahoma City UniversityPrivate not-for-profit23425
University of South DakotaPublic26325
Florida Atlantic UniversityPublic26325
University of North FloridaPublic26325
Bowling Green State University-Main CampusPublic26325
North Dakota State University-Main CampusPublic28525
Regent UniversityPrivate not-for-profit29925
South Dakota State UniversityPublic31725
Arkansas State UniversityPublic31725
University of Hawaii at ManoaPublic16624
University of MemphisPublic26324
Sam Houston State UniversityPublic26324
University of Nevada-Las VegasPublic28524
Lincoln Memorial UniversityPrivate not-for-profit29924

There are more public schools on this list – 42 are public schools and 19 are private schools. The schools are ranked by US News between 89 for Howard University and 317, a tie between South Dakota State University and Arkansas State University.

The highest ranked private university on the list is Howard at 89. And it is the only school in US News’ top 100 ranked schools where an ACT score of between 24 and 27 is considered a good score. The top ranked public university on the list is Florida International University at 151.

How ACT Academy Helps Boost ACT Scores

ACT Academy improves ACT scores by providing personalized learning plans for each student that includes quizzes and tests. Recently retired tests and quizzes are used to accurately represent the questions the student will have to answer when taking the ACT.

Quiz scores are evaluated by the Academy’s Recommendations and Diagnostics API or RAD API to provide personalized learning resources that are most useful to the student. The Academy tracks the student’s progress and highlights where study emphasis needs to be placed. ACT Academy is provided free to students, easy to access and flexible to use.  

The online ACT Academy was introduced in 2018 by ACT to assist students in improving their performance on the ACT, the American College Testing exam, in four areas: English, reading, science and math.

A study on the effectiveness of using the ACT Academy demonstrates that students who used the ACT Academy improved their SAT score when retesting more than students that did not enroll in the Academy.  The average improvement for students not using the Academy was .98 points when retesting. Students that used ACT Academy improved scores by an additional .33 points to 1.31 points.

A key element in the improvement was the number of hours spent using the ACT Academy. The more time spent, the greater the improvement when retaking the ACT.

Here is a comparison of the time spent in ACT Academy and ACT score improvement over students that spent no time in the Academy.

Time Spent in ACT AcademyACT Score Improvement When Retesting
0 Hours0.98 Points
Up to .5 Hours0.98 + .33 Points
1 Hour0.98 + .49 Points
2 Hours0.98 + .59 Points
3-5 Hours0.98 + .70 Points
6-10 Hours0.98 + 1.29 Points
More than 10 Hours0.98 + 1.31 Points

What Is a Bad ACT Score?

A bad ACT score is a score that is below average for the schools a student intends to apply to. What is considered a bad ACT score ranges from below 20 for many schools to below 34 for selective schools like MIT and Ivy League schools.  

The average ACT score in 2023 was 19.5, and a score of 16 or lower is considered low by most 4-year colleges and universities. An ACT score of 16 is the 32nd percentile. A score of 19 is the 50th percentile. A bad ACT score can be improved when retesting by using ACT resources such as the ACT Academy to determine what subjects the student is weak in and receive instruction for improvement.

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