What is a Good ACT Score in 2021?

good act score graphic

After a year of cancelled test dates, inconsistent study classes, and colleges going test-optional, have the standards for what is a good ACT score changed? If so – what qualifies as a good ACT score in 2021?

In this post, we’ll go over the basics of how the ACT is scored and walk you through what makes up a good ACT score in 2021.

How is the ACT Scored?

We’ll keep this quick: your composite ACT score is the average of your four section scores. Each section of the test (English, Reading, Math, and Science) is scored on a scale of 1-36 and then the four scores are averaged into a composite score, also out of 36. 

You can read more in detail about how the ACT is scored here

What is the Average ACT Score in 2021?

The average composite ACT score for 2020-2021 is a 20.7. About 50% of test-takers earn at least a 20.7 on the test. 

This score is actually 0.01% higher than the average ACT score in 2019-2020, which was 20.6.

In contrast, according to last year’s data less than one-half of one percent (0.27%) of students get a 36 composite on the ACT. Although this number has risen slightly year over year, it’s still a mix of knowledge, testing conditions, and luck that get you a 36 on the ACT. 

(Because the odds are so small and hard to control, this is just our friendly reminder that if you’re scoring really high on the ACT (like 34-35), then it’s really more strategic to focus on other aspects of your college application, like the essays, than it is to focus your efforts on getting a 36 on the ACT!)

That being said, the higher your ACT score is, the more competitive an applicant you will be. Take a look at the 2020-2021 ACT score percentiles:

2020 – 2021 ACT Score Percentiles

PercentileEnglishMathReadingScienceComposite
90%3128322829
75%2424-2525-2623-2424
50%1918-19202020-21
25%1415-16151616

Via ACT.org

We see from this table that you don’t even have to get a 30 to be in the top 10% of ACT scorers! Furthermore, scoring a 24 sets you higher than 75% of ACT test-takers. 

What is a Good ACT Score for ME ?

This is the most important section of this blog post! How do you determine what a good ACT score is for you, specifically?

Well, you need to look at the average ACT scores of students admitted to the schools you are interested in attending. A good ACT score for you is a score that matches or exceeds these averages. 

Look at the average ACT scores of students admitted to the schools you are interested in attending. A good ACT score for you is a score that matches or exceeds these averages. 

To figure out the average scores for the schools you’re interested in, you’ll need 3 things: a list of colleges you are interested in attending, internet access, and a note-taking device. 

Once you have your list of colleges, take to the internet and find each college’s admissions page or their “freshman statistics” page. They will usually list their average ACT scores. Write down the highest and lowest score they list. 

*If you can’t find this information on a college’s website, try giving their admissions office a call and ask if they have data (they do) on the average ACT score of admitted freshmen. If this doesn’t work, sites like Niche.com and Magoosh.com are pretty reliable sources.

Below are some examples of ACT score statistics listed on a college’s website. We found that many colleges gave a range of the average ACT scores for their freshman class:

SchoolLow ACT ScoreHigh ACT Score
University of Virginia3034
University of Texas at Austin28 (in-state)
30 (out-of-state)
33 (in-state)
34 (out-of-state)
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill2833
NYU3034

The lowest score on the list is a 28, and the highest is a 34. So if you’re looking at these colleges, then your goal ACT score should be about a 32. Aiming for a 32 puts you on the upper ACT score range for every school, bolstering what is surely a fabulous admission application of well-written essays, a good GPA, and a few meaningful extracurriculars!

What is a Good ACT Score for a Test-Optional School?

In 2020, many schools made their admissions “test-optional” to accommodate students affected by the many canceled test dates. If a school is “test optional,” they do not require an ACT or SAT test score for admission. They will, however, consider any test score you send them as part of your application.

Why apply with a test score, even if it is optional? Applying with a test score, even if it is optional, can help you distinguish yourself as an applicant and provide the school with a fuller picture of your academic abilities.

The same guidelines for submitting your score to a school that requires it apply to a test optional school. Aim to score in the middle-to-high end of the school’s average ACT scores.

The same guidelines for submitting your score to a school that requires it apply to a test optional school. Aim to score in the middle-to-high end of the school’s average ACT scores.

Colleges are Going Test Optional; Should You Still Take the ACT or SAT?

So What is a Good ACT Score in 2021?

A good ACT score is a score that aligns with your dream college’s ACT score range. So, only you can answer that question! But in general, a score in the 75th percentile, around 25, has a high likelihood of helping you get into a great school.

Not achieving your goal ACT score? It’s time to start prepping! Check out our list of the best prep courses for every budget, or visit www.olive-book.com to enroll in Olive Book’s online, animated ACT course!

Get a better score. Get into a better school.

Olive Book’s online ACT and SAT courses are all you need to boost your score. Check them out:

Instagram | Facebook | Twitter | YouTube | Courses

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *