Average ACT Score

Average ACT Test Scores and Results Explained

average-act-scoreUnderstanding Average ACT Test Score And How ACT Scoring Works

The ACT is a standardized evaluation in which test-takers receive a range of scores for the four ACT sections. It is important to note that some issues surround ACT scoring, and students should be privy about the issues.

Most importantly, ACT scoring policies, procedures, and practices are complicated, but it is easier to gain insight into the critical aspects within a short time.

Here is a guide to the ACT scoring system.

What is the Average ACT Score?

The ACT test is graded on a scale of 1-36, and according to the 2020 ACT Research Publication, the current national average ACT score is 20.8. Numerous states’ composite averages fall above or below this national benchmark mainly due to testing participation rates. Typically, states that require all students to take the ACT tend to have lower averages than states that don’t. This makes sense because only the best students tend to take the exam in states that don’t require it. Thus, skewing these states’ averages.

It is vital to point out that a good ACT score will depend on the college or university the student intends to join. If you score high, you increase your chances of the college and university options you can join.

Therefore, a good score will depend on your goals, grades, extracurricular and the colleges you want to enroll in. A passing ACT score for someone might be your passing score.

On the four sections, you will receive a scaled score, which is between 1 and 36. An average of the scores will give the composite score which appears in the results report. An avg ACT score means students score in the range of 20-21 on the test, putting them in the middle of the pack.

As a result, student results will be 50% higher than that of others and 50% lower than that of other test-takers. Over the past five years, these have been the average ACT scores for each test:

  • English ACT Section: 19.9
  • Math ACT Section: 20.2
  • Reading ACT Section: 21.2
  • Science ACT Section: 20.6

A good ACT score will correspond to the requirements of the test taker’s college of choice. If the score is high, you will enjoy more benefits like more options and chances of being accepted to prestigious institutions.

Getting a score of 23 will make you’re a strong candidate for the most prestigious institutions since it is above the national average. But the result might not render you eligible for some of the most selective universities and colleges.

What is the National Average ACT Score?

According to the ACT National Profile Report, 1.67 million students nationally took the ACT test in 2020. This figure is slightly down from prior years, but the nationwide average scores are similar to prior years.

The ACT National Profit Report states that the national average ACT scores in 2020 were:

ACT Test SectionScore:
Composite Score20.6

Average ACT Score by State

Each state prioritizes the ACT test slightly differently. Some states encourage all students to take it while others leave it optional for students to decide whether they want to pursue the test. Thus, the participation rate differs drastically from state to state.

Here is a chart of the average ACT scores by State in the US.

StateParticipation RateAverage Composite Score
District of Columbia3323.1
New Hampshire1225.7
New Jersey2324.4
New Mexico5619.3
New York2024.9
North Carolina10018.8
North Dakota9419.6
Rhode Island1124.8
South Carolina7618.4
South Dakota7021.7
West Virginia3820.9

Which state has the highest average ACT Score?

When looking at which states consistently score high on the ACT test, it’s also important to look at their participation rate. For example, Connecticut is consistently among the highest scoring states, but only has an 19% participation rate.

That being said, the state with highest average ACT score is Massachusetts with an average score of 26. Connecticut and New Hampshire are in a close second and third place with average composite scores of 25.9 and 25.7, respectively.

Average ACT Score by College, University, & School

Colleges use the ACT test results as a benchmark to accept new students. Most Universities have a minimum acceptable score that students much achieve in order to get accepted into college.

These requirements differ from school to school and state by state, so it’s important to look at public universities and private colleges separately.

Average ACT Score by Public Universities

Here is a chart of the Average ACT Score for the 100 Public Universities:

College / UniversitySchool Enrollment25th Percentile Composite ACT Score75th Percentile Composite ACT Score
Arizona State University-Tempe51,1642229
Auburn University29,7762430
Boise State University24,1212126
California State Polytechnic University-Pomona26,0532027
California State University-Fresno25,3251622
California State University-Fullerton40,9051924
California State University-Long Beach37,6222026
California State University-Los Angeles28,5311520
California State University-Northridge41,3191722
California State University-Sacramento31,2551723
Clemson University24,3872731
Colorado State University-Fort Collins33,0832228
East Carolina University29,1312024
Florida Atlantic University30,2082126
Florida International University56,7182227
Florida State University41,3622630
George Mason University35,9842430
Georgia Institute of Technology-Main Campus29,3763034
Georgia State University32,8161926
Grand Valley State University25,0492126
Indiana University-Bloomington43,7102531
Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis29,7911926
Iowa State University36,1582228
Kennesaw State University35,8462126
Kent State University at Kent28,9722125
Louisiana State University and Agricultural & Mechanical College30,8612328
Michigan State University50,0192328
Missouri State University-Springfield23,6972126
North Carolina State University at Raleigh34,4322631
Ohio State University-Main Campus59,8372731
Ohio University-Main Campus29,3692226
Oklahoma State University-Main Campus25,2952228
Old Dominion University24,3751825
Oregon State University30,8962228
Pennsylvania State University-Main Campus47,1192530
Portland State University26,6931925
Purdue University-Main Campus42,6992531
San Diego State University35,1582328
San Francisco State University29,7581824
San Jose State University35,8351926
Stony Brook University25,9892631
Texas A & M University-College Station67,9292530
Texas State University38,6662026
Texas Tech University36,9962227
The University of Alabama38,5632332
The University of Tennessee-Knoxville28,3212430
The University of Texas at Arlington46,4972027
The University of Texas at Austin51,5252633
The University of Texas at Dallas27,6422632
The University of Texas at El Paso25,0781622
The University of Texas at San Antonio30,7682025
The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley27,8091722
University at Buffalo30,6482428
University of Arkansas27,5582329
University of California-Berkeley41,8913034
University of California-Davis37,3802532
University of California-Irvine35,2422532
University of California-Los Angeles44,0272934
University of California-San Diego35,7722733
University of California-Santa Barbara25,0572833
University of Central Florida66,0592429
University of Cincinnati-Main Campus37,1552328
University of Colorado Boulder35,3382530
University of Colorado Denver/Anschutz Medical Campus24,8392127
University of Connecticut27,5782631
University of Delaware23,7742529
University of Florida52,6692832
University of Georgia37,6062631
University of Houston45,3642327
University of Illinois at Chicago30,5392026
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign48,2162632
University of Iowa32,1662328
University of Kansas27,6252328
University of Kentucky29,4652228
University of Maryland-College Park40,5212933
University of Massachusetts-Amherst30,3402631
University of Michigan-Ann Arbor46,0023033
University of Minnesota-Twin Cities51,8482631
University of Missouri-Columbia30,8442329
University of Nebraska-Lincoln26,0792229
University of Nevada-Las Vegas30,4711924
University of New Mexico-Main Campus26,2211925
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill29,9112833
University of North Carolina at Charlotte29,3172226
University of North Texas38,2762127
University of Oklahoma-Norman Campus28,5272329
University of Pittsburgh-Pittsburgh Campus28,6422732
University of South Carolina-Columbia34,7312530
University of South Florida-Main Campus43,5402429
University of Utah32,8002229
University of Virginia-Main Campus24,3602933
University of Washington-Seattle Campus46,1662732
University of Wisconsin-Madison42,9772731
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee24,9882025
Utah State University27,6792127
Virginia Commonwealth University30,6752127
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University34,4402530
Washington State University30,6142026
Wayne State University27,0642128
West Virginia University28,4062127
Average Composite Scores34,81922.928.4

Average ACT Score by Private College & Universities

Here is a chart of the Average ACT Score for the 100 Private Colleges:

College / UniversitySchool Enrollment25th Percentile Composite ACT Score75th Percentile Composite ACT Score
Adelphi University7,9782227
American University13,8582630
Azusa Pacific University9,9262127
Barry University7,3581720
Baylor University17,0592631
Belmont University8,0122429
Boston College14,6283133
Boston University33,3552932
Brigham Young University-Idaho51,8812025
Brigham Young University-Provo34,3342732
Brown University10,0953135
California Baptist University9,9411925
Campbellsville University7,2071824
Carnegie Mellon University13,8693235
Case Western Reserve University11,8243033
Chapman University9,3922530
Columbia University in the City of New York30,4543134
Concordia University-Wisconsin7,2882026
Cornell University23,0163134
Creighton University8,6542530
Drexel University24,1902430
Duke University16,1303135
Duquesne University9,1902429
Emory University14,2633033
Fairleigh Dickinson University-Metropolitan Campus7,8462025
Fordham University16,0372731
George Washington University27,9732932
Georgetown University19,0053034
Gonzaga University7,5062630
Harvard University31,1203235
Hofstra University11,1312429
Howard University9,3922228
Illinois Institute of Technology7,1642531
Indiana Institute of Technology7,8711723
Johns Hopkins University25,1513335
Lehigh University7,0172932
Liberty University75,0442127
Lindenwood University10,0252025
LIU Brooklyn6,9821927
LIU Post8,4992126
Loyola Marymount University9,6182631
Loyola University Chicago16,6732429
Marquette University11,4262429
Maryville University of Saint Louis7,6892127
Massachusetts Institute of Technology11,4663335
MCPHS University7,2082228
Mercer University8,6532530
New York Institute of Technology7,4032127
New York University51,1232933
Northeastern University21,4893234
Northwestern University22,0083234
Nova Southeastern University20,7932328
Pace University-New York12,9862127
Pepperdine University7,7102631
Princeton University8,2733135
Quinnipiac University10,2002327
Regent University9,4881927
Regis University8,3412026
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute7,5922832
Rice University7,0223335
Rochester Institute of Technology16,5842632
Saint Joseph's University8,0852328
Saint Leo University13,0992025
Saint Louis University14,5812531
Santa Clara University8,6292832
Savannah College of Art and Design13,1632127
Seattle University7,2782429
Seton Hall University9,8012428
Southeastern University7,1631824
Southern Methodist University11,7892832
St John's University-New York21,3402229
Stanford University17,5343235
Suffolk University7,2012126
Syracuse University22,4842530
Texas Christian University10,4892530
The New School10,3892428
The University of Tampa8,8952227
Tufts University11,4493134
Tulane University of Louisiana12,3843033
University of Chicago16,2273235
University of Dayton10,8822429
University of Denver11,4342530
University of La Verne8,1591925
University of Miami17,0032832
University of New England8,2812126
University of New Haven6,9842127
University of Notre Dame12,4673234
University of Pennsylvania25,3673235
University of Rochester11,6482933
University of San Diego8,9052630
University of San Francisco11,0632228
University of Southern California45,6873034
University of St Thomas9,8782429
University of the Cumberlands10,0971925
University of the Incarnate Word8,6031723
Vanderbilt University12,5923235
Villanova University10,9673033
Washington University in St Louis15,3033234
Webster University12,7362126
Yale University12,9743235
Average Composite Scores14,58425.429.9

What College or University has the highest average ACT score?

There are many colleges and universities with extremely high ACT test scores, but the three colleges with the highest average ACT scores of 33 and 35 in the 25th & 75th percentiles respectively are:

  • Johns Hopkins University
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Rice University

Many other private universities boast impressive ACT test scores as well. For instance, the average ACT score for Harvard is 35 while the average ACT score for Stanford is 35 as well.

How is the ACT Test Scored?

Scoring for the English, Reading, Math, and Science sections is pegged on multiple-choice questions. The test-taker will earn a point for every correct answer they get, and there is no penalty for a wrong answer or omitted questions. ACT raw score for every section is determined through the number of questions the student will correctly answer in the section. For instance, in the English section, where there are 60 questions, the raw score is 60.

Your raw score will then be translated to a scaled score ranging between 1 and 36. The highest possible scaled score is 36, and the test-taker will receive a scaled score for every section. The scaled scores average the test taker’s composite ACT score for the four multiple-choice sections.

For those students taking the writing section, two readers will grade your essay based on four domains of development and support, ideas and analysis, language uses and conventions, and organization. The readers will give the essay scores between 1 and 6 in the four domains, and 6 is the highest score.

To get the test taker’s writing domains subscore, an average of the scores is calculated, and the range will be between 2 and 12. Interestingly, the readers’ scores differ by over a point, and then a third reader will grade the essay to resolve the disagreement.

Is the ACT Test Graded on a Curve?

You may be wondering whether the ACT is graded on a curve. Interestingly, in contrast to common belief, the ACT is not curved, and as a result, the performance of other test-takers will not impact your ACT score. Most importantly, even if the test takers at a particular time get low scores, there will be no redistribution or raising of the score to get a balanced ACT bell curve.

In essence, this means your ACT score will always be as you scored on the test, and there is no decrease or increase based on others’ results to get a normal distribution.

ACT Inc., the test creators, will account for any difficulty variations across test dates through equating. This process ensures ACT scaled scores from various test administrations show the same ability level irrespective of when or with whom the student takes the test. Therefore, there is no advantage of taking the test in one administration over the other. There is no harder or easier ACT date as the ACTs will be equated to get a uniform scale score for all administrations.

Why are ACT Scores Average Percentiles Important?

An ACT percentile rank is a comparison of your ACT score with those of other test-takers. The percentile tells the number of test-takers you scored higher than or equal to. Students will receive a percentile rank for the composite score and the four subject area scores.

The percentile rankings are vital because they help universities and colleges compare your performance with those of other applicants. However, the ACT score varies depending on the college one wants to join and thus is more significant than the percentile rank. Institutions have an average ACT score range for admissions that don’t change often, and they base admission decisions on these. The range is 50% middle, or the 75th and 25th percentile scores.

What it Means to Score above the Average ACT Score

The avg ACT score is around 20.8, and therefore, if you get a 21, you will be in the middle percentile. A 24 or higher score is good and will place you in the 74th percentile, making you stand out among test takers. But to get into Ivy League colleges, you should get a perfect score which is a 36.

However, even if you score better than three-quarters of test-takers, you still have to convince admission committees to join these prestigious colleges through different aspects of your application.

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