What is a Good Score on the ACT?

by Zena Smith

 The wait is over! The scores are in. Students who took the ACT Plus Writing on February 8th should have by now received their completed results. 

So how’d you do? Well enough to get into your college of choice? How well is that?

collegeThe truth about ACT scores is that “good” is so often subjective. Whether you should celebrate a job well done or re-register for the test depends on both your own goals and limitations and the requirements of the schools that interest you. A good ACT score for a student attending a state college may not cut it for the one who is dead set on the Ivy League.

That said, the quickest way to determine if you did well on the test is to visit the Admissions section on your university of choice’s website. Most schools will publish their ACT and SAT score requirements, so crosscheck your score with the one you’ll need for admission.

In general, expect a scheme that looks something like this:

  • 30+
    A score of 30 or better is ideal for any ACT test taker.  Students with scores of 30 or better will likely be admitted to the top programs in the nation (Northwestern and University of Chicago are great local options), and those who score in the mid-30s should have access to the most prestigious of these options, Ivy League universities included.
  • High 20s
    Students who score in the high 20s on the ACT are frequently admitted to top liberal arts colleges and highly respected public universities. A score in the high 20s is quite respectable, and most programs will take a second look when this score is bolstered with a good personal statement and/or resume of leadership during high school.
  • Mid 20s
    Most students taking the ACT for the first time score in the mid-20s.  A score of a 24, 25, or 26 is a good score that meets admissions standards for many well-known universities and liberal arts colleges. Still, the bulk of students who score in the mid-20s on their first test do improve on their second attempt, and test takers should consider the benefits of re-taking to secure their chances of acceptance.
  • Low 20s
    Scores in the low 20s are by no means a failure—most community and technical colleges will accept such a score—but it is recommendable that these students retake the ACT. At the end of the day, this is not a competitive score for most college applications, and students have little to lose by re-registering.

ACTEven if you’re celebrating having gotten the score you set out for, it is advisable that students take the ACT a minimum of two times. Almost all test takers improve a point or two on their second attempt (with MASTERs Plus students improving by 4-8 points on average), and even a point’s improvement stands to move students’ applications out of some rejection folders and into the acceptance pile.

It also goes without saying that students should retake the test if, for any reason, they feel they did not perform up to their own capabilities. Those might include:


  • the student being ill on the day of the test or during the days leading up to the ACT
  • coping with highly stressful life events (i.e. family sickness, death, etc.)
  • a calculator or other equipment malfunctioning during the exam
  • misunderstanding instructions on the test

Remember, you can choose which colleges see your test scores to, so the only potential outcome of an ACT retake is improvement.

NOTE: The next ACT test date is Saturday, April 14, 2014. The registration deadline for that test date is Friday, March 7.

Students interested in taking the test again (whether you did not get the score you wanted or simply want to take it for a second, third, or fourth time) should contact MASTERs Plus for studying assistance.

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