Average ACT Score

Even though your ACT score is not the only factor in the college admissions process, it is an important one.  Students who can score well have an advantage over other applicants.

Your ACT score has tremendous weight when you get ready to submit your college application.  Colleges and universities strive to admit students who have high ACT scores because the average ACT score of their admitted students is made public, hence playing a key role in the school’s overall reputation.

So What ACT Score Should You Aim For?

The highest possible score that you can earn on the ACT exam is 36.  In 2010, the national average ACT score was 21.  This score can be broken down into the following categories:

  • English – 20.5
  • Math – 21
  • Reading – 21.3
  • Science – 20.9

The average ACT score of students who are admitted to specific colleges and universities can be found on their website.  If you are having trouble locating this information, reach out the school’s admissions office for help.  This is the best way to find information for the schools that you are specifically interested in.

If you score between 34 and 36, you are among the top 1% of students who take the exam.  Most Ivy League schools require ACT scores in the 90th percentile, which is an average ACT score of 28.  Most public universities require at least an 18.

To be on the safe side, your goal should be to aim for an ACT score in the top 50%, meaning above the national average ACT score of 21.  Some schools will expect their applicants to have scores of 25 or higher, it just depends on the school.

Ranking in the top 25% will provide you with even more college options.  You can rank in the top 25% by earning an average ACT score of 24.1 at public colleges and 25.3 at private colleges.

Why is my ACT Score Important?

Every college in the United States uses the ACT exam to predict how well you will perform at the college level.  The test itself is designed to determine if you are “ready” for college or not.

More and more are beginning to use the ACT exam as opposed to the SAT exam.  Schools on the west coast tend to lean more towards the SAT exam, but mostly all other parts of the US (midwest & east coast) tend to prefer the ACT exam.

How Should I Study?

  • ACT Prep Guides – Head down to your local bookstore or library and pick up an ACT guide.  There is so much information on the ACT exam – basic and advanced math, english, and everything else in between, so you have the best shot at success if you have a book that will guide you through the process.  The ACT prep guide allows you to take practice tests and learn helpful tips for surviving the exam itself.
  • Practice Tests – What better way to prepare for the ACT exam, then to take a practice test!  There are a lot of practice tests that you can take online for FREE!  A practice test is basically an un-timed, simulated version of the test.  You should aim to take 2-3 of these prior to exam day.  The more you practice and get a feel for the format of the exam, the better off you’ll be.
  • Flashcards – You’re not going to remember everything the first time around as you prepare for the ACT exam, which is why you’re practicing.  When you stumble upon a vocabulary word or a math problem that you don’t know or that you get wrong, write them down on a flashcard (an index card will do) so that you can review them later.  Use the flashcards to study things that you don’t understand well.  When you study by reviewing flashcards, you are turning your weak points into strong points and increasing your chances of scoring high on the exam.

If you follow these tips, you’ll meet or exceed the national average ACT score!

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Lauren Anderson is a certified school counselor who's passionate about helping students all over the world successfully transition from high school to college! After spending 6 years as a business professional, she obtained her Master’s degree in School Counseling and now spends her spare time helping students.

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