What is a Good Score on the ACT?

ACT scores are two digits that can significantly impact how college admissions committees view applicants.

Founded in 1959 as the American College Test, the ACT is a popular standardized test given to college-bound high schoolers six times each year. It’s been designed to evaluate how well test takers are prepared to enter the collegiate classroom.

Most students take the ACT during the first half of their junior year, but re-takes are possible. The ACT tends to be more popular with public colleges whereas the SAT is preferred by private universities. All four-year higher learning institutions in the United States accept ACT and SAT scores though.

How you perform on the ACT can dictate whether you’re admitted, especially at selective schools. The following is everything you should know to set your ACT goals.

Sections of the ACT Test

The ACT test has four required sections you must pass. The 45-minute English section begins with 40 multiple-choice that evaluate your knowledge of punctuation, grammar, usage, and sentence structure. That’s followed by 35 rhetorical skills questions about writing style, organization, and strategy. The Math section contains 60 multiple-choice questions in 60 minutes. Here you’ll be tested on pre-algebra, algebra, coordinate geometry, plane geometry, and trigonometry. The Reading section will provide short passages and 40 multiple-choice comprehension questions in 35 minutes. Finally, the Science section takes 35 minutes to answer 40 questions from graphs, charts, and experiments. The optional Writing section will involve penning a well-written essay from a prompt in 40 minutes.

How the ACT is Scored

Each section of the ACT test is graded with a scaled score from 1 to 36. A composite ACT score is then calculated by averaging the four section scores. The composite score will be rounded up or down to the nearest whole number. For instance, if you achieve 24 on Math, 23 on Science, 26 on English, and 25 on Reading, your composite score is 25. According to the Princeton Review, the average ACT score in the United States is 21. The perfect score is 36, but few colleges have such high standards. Good ACT scores will vary based on college admission requirements. A 25 might be excellent at one college and sub-par at another.

Maximizing Your ACT Score

Scoring less than you hoped on the ACT isn’t the end of the world. High school students can retake the test multiple times and improve their score. Carefully review your last scores and find your weakness areas. The ACT is a content-based test, so peruse your textbooks and notes. Study the ACT Official Prep Guide to find tips for managing each section. Many review books are available with practice tests. Use a timer when practicing to learn how to pace yourself with good time management skills. Don’t cram too intensely because this can create undue anxiety. Before test day, remember to get plenty of sleep and eat a nutritious breakfast.

Taking the ACT is a rite of passage for juniors pursuing a college education. Scoring well on the ACT can boost the appeal of your application to admissions officers. However, ACT scores are only one piece of the puzzle. Colleges also look at your GPA, extra-curricular involvement, letters of recommendation, personal essays, entrance interviews, and leadership potential. Scoring above 30 on the ACT is excellent, but doing so won’t guarantee an acceptance letter.

See also: What is a Good Score on the SAT?