Understanding 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 Section||Score:|
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.
|State||Participation Rate||Average Composite Score|
|District of Columbia||33||23.1|
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 must 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 / University||School Enrollment||25th Percentile Composite ACT Score||75th Percentile Composite ACT Score|
|Arizona State University-Tempe||51,164||22||29|
|Boise State University||24,121||21||26|
|California State Polytechnic University-Pomona||26,053||20||27|
|California State University-Fresno||25,325||16||22|
|California State University-Fullerton||40,905||19||24|
|California State University-Long Beach||37,622||20||26|
|California State University-Los Angeles||28,531||15||20|
|California State University-Northridge||41,319||17||22|
|California State University-Sacramento||31,255||17||23|
|Colorado State University-Fort Collins||33,083||22||28|
|East Carolina University||29,131||20||24|
|Florida Atlantic University||30,208||21||26|
|Florida International University||56,718||22||27|
|Florida State University||41,362||26||30|
|George Mason University||35,984||24||30|
|Georgia Institute of Technology-Main Campus||29,376||30||34|
|Georgia State University||32,816||19||26|
|Grand Valley State University||25,049||21||26|
|Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis||29,791||19||26|
|Iowa State University||36,158||22||28|
|Kennesaw State University||35,846||21||26|
|Kent State University at Kent||28,972||21||25|
|Louisiana State University and Agricultural & Mechanical College||30,861||23||28|
|Michigan State University||50,019||23||28|
|Missouri State University-Springfield||23,697||21||26|
|North Carolina State University at Raleigh||34,432||26||31|
|Ohio State University-Main Campus||59,837||27||31|
|Ohio University-Main Campus||29,369||22||26|
|Oklahoma State University-Main Campus||25,295||22||28|
|Old Dominion University||24,375||18||25|
|Oregon State University||30,896||22||28|
|Pennsylvania State University-Main Campus||47,119||25||30|
|Portland State University||26,693||19||25|
|Purdue University-Main Campus||42,699||25||31|
|San Diego State University||35,158||23||28|
|San Francisco State University||29,758||18||24|
|San Jose State University||35,835||19||26|
|Stony Brook University||25,989||26||31|
|Texas A & M University-College Station||67,929||25||30|
|Texas State University||38,666||20||26|
|Texas Tech University||36,996||22||27|
|The University of Alabama||38,563||23||32|
|The University of Tennessee-Knoxville||28,321||24||30|
|The University of Texas at Arlington||46,497||20||27|
|The University of Texas at Austin||51,525||26||33|
|The University of Texas at Dallas||27,642||26||32|
|The University of Texas at El Paso||25,078||16||22|
|The University of Texas at San Antonio||30,768||20||25|
|The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley||27,809||17||22|
|University at Buffalo||30,648||24||28|
|University of Arkansas||27,558||23||29|
|University of California-Berkeley||41,891||30||34|
|University of California-Davis||37,380||25||32|
|University of California-Irvine||35,242||25||32|
|University of California-Los Angeles||44,027||29||34|
|University of California-San Diego||35,772||27||33|
|University of California-Santa Barbara||25,057||28||33|
|University of Central Florida||66,059||24||29|
|University of Cincinnati-Main Campus||37,155||23||28|
|University of Colorado Boulder||35,338||25||30|
|University of Colorado Denver/Anschutz Medical Campus||24,839||21||27|
|University of Connecticut||27,578||26||31|
|University of Delaware||23,774||25||29|
|University of Florida||52,669||28||32|
|University of Georgia||37,606||26||31|
|University of Houston||45,364||23||27|
|University of Illinois at Chicago||30,539||20||26|
|University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign||48,216||26||32|
|University of Iowa||32,166||23||28|
|University of Kansas||27,625||23||28|
|University of Kentucky||29,465||22||28|
|University of Maryland-College Park||40,521||29||33|
|University of Massachusetts-Amherst||30,340||26||31|
|University of Michigan-Ann Arbor||46,002||30||33|
|University of Minnesota-Twin Cities||51,848||26||31|
|University of Missouri-Columbia||30,844||23||29|
|University of Nebraska-Lincoln||26,079||22||29|
|University of Nevada-Las Vegas||30,471||19||24|
|University of New Mexico-Main Campus||26,221||19||25|
|University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill||29,911||28||33|
|University of North Carolina at Charlotte||29,317||22||26|
|University of North Texas||38,276||21||27|
|University of Oklahoma-Norman Campus||28,527||23||29|
|University of Pittsburgh-Pittsburgh Campus||28,642||27||32|
|University of South Carolina-Columbia||34,731||25||30|
|University of South Florida-Main Campus||43,540||24||29|
|University of Utah||32,800||22||29|
|University of Virginia-Main Campus||24,360||29||33|
|University of Washington-Seattle Campus||46,166||27||32|
|University of Wisconsin-Madison||42,977||27||31|
|University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee||24,988||20||25|
|Utah State University||27,679||21||27|
|Virginia Commonwealth University||30,675||21||27|
|Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University||34,440||25||30|
|Washington State University||30,614||20||26|
|Wayne State University||27,064||21||28|
|West Virginia University||28,406||21||27|
|Average Composite Scores||34,819||22.9||28.4|
Average ACT Score by Private College & Universities
Here is a chart of the Average ACT Score for the 100 Private Colleges:
|College / University||School Enrollment||25th Percentile Composite ACT Score||75th Percentile Composite ACT Score|
|Azusa Pacific University||9,926||21||27|
|Brigham Young University-Idaho||51,881||20||25|
|Brigham Young University-Provo||34,334||27||32|
|California Baptist University||9,941||19||25|
|Carnegie Mellon University||13,869||32||35|
|Case Western Reserve University||11,824||30||33|
|Columbia University in the City of New York||30,454||31||34|
|Fairleigh Dickinson University-Metropolitan Campus||7,846||20||25|
|George Washington University||27,973||29||32|
|Illinois Institute of Technology||7,164||25||31|
|Indiana Institute of Technology||7,871||17||23|
|Johns Hopkins University||25,151||33||35|
|Loyola Marymount University||9,618||26||31|
|Loyola University Chicago||16,673||24||29|
|Maryville University of Saint Louis||7,689||21||27|
|Massachusetts Institute of Technology||11,466||33||35|
|New York Institute of Technology||7,403||21||27|
|New York University||51,123||29||33|
|Nova Southeastern University||20,793||23||28|
|Pace University-New York||12,986||21||27|
|Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute||7,592||28||32|
|Rochester Institute of Technology||16,584||26||32|
|Saint Joseph's University||8,085||23||28|
|Saint Leo University||13,099||20||25|
|Saint Louis University||14,581||25||31|
|Santa Clara University||8,629||28||32|
|Savannah College of Art and Design||13,163||21||27|
|Seton Hall University||9,801||24||28|
|Southern Methodist University||11,789||28||32|
|St John's University-New York||21,340||22||29|
|Texas Christian University||10,489||25||30|
|The New School||10,389||24||28|
|The University of Tampa||8,895||22||27|
|Tulane University of Louisiana||12,384||30||33|
|University of Chicago||16,227||32||35|
|University of Dayton||10,882||24||29|
|University of Denver||11,434||25||30|
|University of La Verne||8,159||19||25|
|University of Miami||17,003||28||32|
|University of New England||8,281||21||26|
|University of New Haven||6,984||21||27|
|University of Notre Dame||12,467||32||34|
|University of Pennsylvania||25,367||32||35|
|University of Rochester||11,648||29||33|
|University of San Diego||8,905||26||30|
|University of San Francisco||11,063||22||28|
|University of Southern California||45,687||30||34|
|University of St Thomas||9,878||24||29|
|University of the Cumberlands||10,097||19||25|
|University of the Incarnate Word||8,603||17||23|
|Washington University in St Louis||15,303||32||34|
|Average Composite Scores||14,584||25.4||29.9|
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.