What’s a “Good” Score? 3 Ways to Evaluate Your ACT Score

by Zena Smith


With the latest round of ACT scores set to release in the coming weeks, students (and their parents) may soon be wondering how they did. But despite what they may learn from a quick Google search or by comparing scores with friends, the truth is that what counts as a “good” or “bad” ACT score depends on man things—from the student’s test-taking history to their personal higher-ed goals and even “how they choose to look at it”.

ACT scoresA Game of Averages

Perhaps the easiest way to look at an ACT score is to determine whether it falls above or below the average. As with a good personal statement or admissions essay, many schools—while they may not require a minimum score to gain admission—will look to ACT scores as “tie-breakers” when comparing two similar applications. If GPAs, extracurriculars, and the quality of written components are similar but one application boasts an above-average ACT score, that just may be enough to tip the decision.

To give you an idea of what “average” ACT scores look like, consider the following:

Illinois: 20.7

USA: 21

Keep in mind that these are composite scores. If your student is enrolling in a competitive subject-specific program, a university may put more weight on their scores in the individual Reading, Math, English, or Science sections. Either way, comparing a score against state and national averages can be a useful tool in determining a student’s success on the test.

School-by-School Standards

While comparing averages is an effective way of measuring an ACT score for students with more open-ended college plans, those with their sights on specific schools should consider checking the university’s website for any specific scoring requirements. Some schools do require students to achieve a minimum score before being admitted, and if a student’s heart is set on that school, then a “good” score may be one that is good enough to get them in.

In an older post on the MASTERs Plus EduBlog, we offer a useful breakdown of ACT scoring requirements for different schools—from local technical schools to Ivy League powerhouses. Compare your student’s score to our list to help determine whether their latest ACT has them on the road to admission or if they have more work ahead of them.

Look for Improvement

If this is not your student’s first time taking the ACT—many students may take the test as many as three, four, or five times, depending on their individual goals and performance—then a “good” ACT score may simply be one that is better than the last. There is no guarantee that a second or third test will yield better results, or even the same results, as the one before. So improvement is always a victory when students take the test. For those who have improved upon re-testing, do be sure to celebrate your success this time around.

But what if my latest ACT score isn’t “good” enough?

Don’t panic! There are a few routes you can take here to ensure that you (or your student) stays on track to admission next fall.

Retake the Test

As we’ve mentioned elsewhere, there is no limit to the number of times you can take the ACT, and each retake presents a new opportunity to get the score you’re seeking. Keep studying, and register ASAP for the upcoming December and February test dates!

Hire a Tutor

If you’ve tried to prep on your own but still find yourself struggling on test day, there is an answer: a MASTERs Plus tutor! We offer ACT Prep services year round, and our tutors have proven to improve students’ test scores time and again. Whether your student needs a lot of work or only has time for a few sessions, we can develop an ACT Prep program that works for you. There is nothing we enjoy more than the moment a student receives a score that puts a smile on their face.

To learn more about what makes our ACT Prep services unique, visit our ACT Prep page, or simply call, email, or visit us to set up an appointment!

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