Good ACT Scores

What Is a Good ACT Score? (2024)

  • A good ACT score is a composite score of 24 or higher, which would put you in the top 25% of test takers.
  • The national average composite score for the class of 2023 was 19.5, and a “perfect” score on the ACT is the maximum composite score of 36.
  • The ACT essay is optional and scored separately from the composite score on a scale from 2 to 12.
  • What is considered a “good” ACT score will ultimately depend on the individual college or university you are applying to. Different schools will have different ACT score ranges.
  • Schools are re-evaluating their standardized testing policies, and there is an emerging trend of colleges and universities reinstating testing requirements for admissions.

When setting your ACT score goal for the upcoming admissions season, it’s a good idea to look at the score averages for the schools you’re applying to. Read on for more information about how the ACT is scored, including ACT scores for top universities, ACT score percentiles, and more.

[ READ NEXT: What Is a Good SAT Score? ]

TABLE OF CONTENTS

ACT Scores for Ivy League Schools

The eight private universities that comprise the Ivy League are some of the most competitive universities in the U.S. Earning a top ACT score can be an important factor in gaining acceptance into an Ivy League School. A competitive score for any of the Ivy League schools is an ACT score of about 34 (out of 36). In the table below, we showcase the ACT score ranges for Ivy League Schools in 2024.

Ivy League SchoolACT Score RangeAcceptance Rate
Brown University34-365%
Columbia University34-353.9%
Cornell University33-357%
Dartmouth College32-356.2%
Harvard University34-363%
Princeton University34-356%
University of Pennsylvania34-357%
Yale University31-365%

ACT Scores for Top Universities in the U.S.

In addition to the Ivy League ACT scores listed above, you may be wondering about ACT scores needed for other top universities in the U.S. Read on for information about ACT scores needed for these top universities.

Students who gain acceptance into Duke University have an ACT score between 34-35. Duke is located in Durham, NC and gives its students flexibility to design their own degree program and encourages undergraduate students to pursue their own research interests. Its acceptance rate for the class of 2027 was 6.3%.

Students who gain acceptance into Johns Hopkins University have an average ACT score between 34-35. Located in downtown Baltimore, Johns Hopkins is a private research-based university with under 6,000 undergraduate students and a 7% acceptance rate. In the class of 2027, 99% of admitted students were in the top 10% of their class, and the middle 50% of accepted students scored between 34 and 35 on the ACT.

Students who gain acceptance into the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have an ACT score between 34-35. MIT, located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is a science and technology-based university that was founded in 1861 for the purpose of advancing the Industrial Revolution. There are under 5,000 undergraduates, and while there’s no ACT cutoff, the average composite score for the class of 2027 was 34-35.

Students who gain acceptance into Stanford University have an ACT score between 33-35. Located in California’s Silicon Valley, it’s no wonder that Stanford is one of the country’s leading research universities. Stanford has just over 7,800 undergraduate students and a 3.91% acceptance rate for the Class of 2027.

Students who gain acceptance into the University of Chicago have an ACT score between 21-36. Located in downtown Chicago, the University of Chicago is a research-based institution that aims to teach students how, not what, to think. The University of Chicago has a 5% acceptance rate and under 8,000 undergraduate students.

ACT Scores for Top Liberal Arts Colleges in the U.S.

Even though they might not have quite the name recognition of schools like Harvard or Stanford, the best liberal arts colleges are just as competitive as the Ivy League and other top universities. Read on for the ACT scores of admitted students to some of the top liberal arts colleges in the United States. Keep in mind that these schools view applicants holistically; they’re interested in more than just your ACT score, and the vast majority of liberal arts colleges don’t have a minimum ACT score cutoff.

Students who gain acceptance into Amherst College have an average ACT score of 33. Amherst has a 7:1 student-to-faculty ratio, and the average class size is 19, allowing for discussion-based learning and close relationships with professors and other students. It’s located in Amherst, Massachusetts, and offers 41 majors spanning the arts, sciences, social studies, and humanities. Accepted students in the Class of 2023 got an average ACT English score of 34, an average math score of 32, and a composite score of 33.

Students who gain acceptance into Pomona College have an ACT score between 33 and 35. Pomona is located in Claremont, CA, not far from Los Angeles. It’s one of the Claremont Colleges, a consortium of five undergraduate colleges and two graduate schools within several blocks of each other that share a library and other resources. Pomona students can take courses at the other colleges in the consortium. There’s a big emphasis on undergraduate research at Pomona—even in students’ freshman year—and small class sizes (averaging about 15 students per class) encourage seminar-based learning over lectures.

Students who gain acceptance into Swarthmore College have an ACT score between 32 and 35. Swarthmore is unique among liberal arts colleges in a couple of ways. First, it offers an engineering degree, which is a departure from the norm in a liberal arts education. Second, students’ first semester is essentially pass/fail. The classes you take go on your transcript, but your grades in the classes don’t. That allows students to sample a variety of classes without the fear that an unfamiliar subject will lower their GPA. Swarthmore is also one of the top producers of Fulbright scholars and students. It’s located in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania, not far from Philadelphia. It has an 8:1 student-to-faculty ratio, and 22.1% of its graduates go on to complete a doctoral program at some point in life.

Students who gain acceptance into Wellesley College have an ACT score between 33 and 35. Wellesley is a women’s college in Wellesley, MA. It has programs with other nearby universities, allowing students to take classes (and even get degrees in conjunction with) Babson College, MIT, Brandeis University, and Olin College of Engineering. Wellesley boasts 50+ departmental and interdepartmental majors, and 97% of Wellesley graduates are employed or accepted into graduate school within the first six months of graduation.

Students who gain acceptance into Williams College have an average ACT score between 34 and 35. Located in Williamstown, Massachusetts, Williams College has a 7:1 student-to-faculty ratio and 36 available majors offered through the college’s three academic branches: arts and humanities, social sciences, and science and mathematics. Graduate degrees are offered in art history and economics only. Williams has an 8% acceptance rate.

Should I take the ACT more than once?

Many students take the ACT multiple times. This allows them to combine their best score from each ACT subject into an ACT Superscore, which makes it very difficult to determine an average ACT Score. The best way to evaluate the competitiveness of your ACT score is by comparing it to the average score used by the colleges you are applying to instead of comparing yourself to the national average.

Expert ACT Tip

Why did I miss it (or get it correct)? Reviewing questions is an essential part of preparing to achieve your highest score. Review every single question you work on. If you got it correct, reinforce what you did well—or, if it was a lucky guess or a missed opportunity to use a time-saving strategy, what you could have done better. If you got a question incorrect, figure out what you need to do next time to avoid that mistake. Mistakes are part of the process—embrace and learn from them. Don’t leave a question behind until you can explain why the right choice is 100% objectively right and why each wrong choice is 100% objectively wrong.

How does ACT scoring work?

The ACT is scored on a 1 to 36 scale in each section in 1-point increments. The four multiple-choice sections (English, Math, Reading, and Science) will all have raw scores provided separately. The raw scores are then converted to scale scores and are averaged to create your composite score. Your composite ACT score is rounded to the nearest whole number from 1 (lowest) to 36 (highest).

The ACT’s relatively small scoring scale means that small improvements in your score can make a big difference in your percentile ranking (sometimes, a 1-point increase in your score can boost your percentile ranking by 5 points). Remember that on the ACT, you are NOT penalized for wrong answers. Understanding the scoring and knowing how to approach each section is an important part of doing your best on test day.

Infographic about how ACT scoring works.

ACT Writing Test (Essay) Scoring

The ACT features an optional 40-minute writing test, which consists of writing one essay based on the given prompt. While not required by schools, the ACT writing test is recommended to showcase your writing abilities. Your score on the writing test does not affect your subject area scores or your composite score. Your English Language Arts (ELA) score will range from 2 (lowest) to 12 (highest) and will be reported separately from your composite ACT score. The four domain scores (Ideas and Analysis, Development and Support, Organization, and Language Use and Conventions) will also range from 2 to 12. The subject-level ELA score will be the rounded average of the domain scored. Note that an image of your ACT essay will be available to the schools you send your scores to.

ACT Superscore

ACT test-takers now have the ability to take the ACT multiple times and then combine their best score from each ACT subject into an ACT Superscore. Your ACT Superscore can increase your odds of getting admitted to the college of your choice by better reflecting your abilities and skills. Wondering if your target school(s) Superscores the ACT? And if so, how to Superscore your ACT? Read more about the ACT Superscore system.

ACT Score Ranges & Percentiles

Below are the ACT score ranges and percentiles for 2024.

 Best ACT Score Ranges


These scores will put you in the top 10% of all test takers

BEST ACT ENGLISH SCORES: 29 – 36

BEST ACT MATH SCORES:  28 – 36

BEST ACT READING SCORES: 30 – 36

BEST ACT SCIENCE SCORES: 27 – 36

BEST COMPOSITE ACT SCORES: 28 – 36

 Competitive ACT Score Ranges


These scores will put you in a highly competitive place in admissions (top 25% of all test takers)

COMPETITIVE ACT ENGLISH SCORES: 24 – 28

COMPETITIVE ACT MATH SCORES:  24 – 27

COMPETITIVE ACT READING SCORES: 25 – 29

COMPETITIVE ACT SCIENCE SCORES: 24 – 26

COMPETITIVE COMPOSITE ACT SCORES: 24 – 27

 Good ACT Score Ranges


These good ACT scores put you ahead of the pack (50%+), but won’t be as advantageous when applying to highly competitive programs

GOOD ACT ENGLISH SCORES: 20 – 23

GOOD ACT MATH SCORES:  20 – 23

GOOD ACT READING SCORES: 21 – 28

GOOD ACT SCIENCE SCORES: 21 – 25

GOOD COMPOSITE ACT SCORES: 21 – 26

 Below Average ACT Score Ranges


These scores may be enough to get into a wide variety of college programs, but will be below average compared to the testing population

BELOW AVERAGE ACT ENGLISH SCORES: 19 or lower

BELOW AVERAGE ACT MATH SCORES:  19 or lower

BELOW AVERAGE ACT READING SCORES: 20 or lower

BELOW AVERAGE ACT SCIENCE SCORES: 20 or lower

BELOW AVERAGE COMPOSITE ACT SCORES: 20 or lower

Does my ACT score determine which college will accept me?

Keep in mind that your ACT score does not stand alone. Whether or not you are admitted to a college program (and whether or not you receive scholarship money) depends on several factors. In addition to focusing on getting the best ACT score possible, you should also work on obtaining the best GPA possible, writing a spectacular personal statement, taking a challenging course load, and rounding out your application with extra-curricular activities.

Test-Optional ACT Scores

Some schools have made ACT test scores optional as part of their application requirements. Skipping the ACT may sound like a good idea, but if you are looking to have your application stand out, a good ACT score is still one of the best ways to do that. Just because a school has decided to allow applicants to exclude ACT test scores does not mean other applicants are not continuing to submit ACT scores when applying. A recent Kaplan survey of college admissions officers found that among surveyed test-optional schools, 67 percent say if a student submits a competitive SAT or ACT score, it helps their application.

Expert ACT Tip

A good ACT score can allow you to shine in the college admissions journey, even within a test-optional landscape. Presenting a competitive ACT score to your prospective school signals to admissions officers that you are a student who consistently exceeds expectations. Beyond this, a strong performance on your ACT can help you secure valuable scholarship opportunities. In short, a strong ACT score can help open doors for you.

How To Improve Your ACT Score

Increasing your ACT score even a few points can help you get into your target school. Kaplan is the official ACT test prep provider and offers a wide range of ACT prep courses and resources to help you succeed on the exam, including:

  • ACT Question of the Day: Get a free ACT practice question with detailed answer explanations delivered straight to your inbox every day.
  • Free ACT Practice Test: Take a free half-length ACT practice test with official ACT questions to see where your strengths and weaknesses lie before test day.
  • ACT Study Plans: Whether you have three months before the exam or just a few weeks, we have free ACT study plans that will help keep you organized.
  • ACT Prep Courses: We have many options for ACT prep to suit your schedule. See our full list of ACT prep courses here.
  • ACT Tutoring: Our expert ACT tutors will tailor your studies to your needs. Learn more about our ACT tutoring options.

Expert ACT Tip

Embrace the learning process! There’s a massive difference between declaring that you don’t know something and admitting that you don’t know something YET. Having a growth mindset is key to mastering any new skill. The ACT is a test, but it is skill-based and can be mastered with EFFORT, just like any other skill. How do pro athletes get great at their game? They practice! How do doctors become excellent surgeons? Observation and practice! How does a child learn to ride a bike? Trying, trying, and trying some more. The common thread here is effort! Practice doesn’t have to make perfect, but it does make progress.

ACT Pop Quiz

How would you do on the ACT? Take our short quiz and then review the answers.

ACT/SAT Score Conversion Calculator

Quickly convert your ACT score to an SAT score using our free calculator.


Written by Kaplan experts, reviewed by Heather Waite, Director of Content and Curriculum, Pre-College at Kaplan North America. Heather has taught thousands of students how to master the PSAT, ACT, and SAT for over a decade. She holds a B.A. in Elementary Education from Indiana University.