If you want to get into a good school, doing well on the ACT or SAT is an absolute must. In addition to helping you get into the school of your dreams, the ACT can also help you get a scholarship.
Since you don’t have to take both the ACT and SAT, it’s up to you to decide what you want to do. Just keep in mind that the ACT algebra section is a bit lighter compared to the SAT. So, if you think you’ll do better with trigonometry and geometry, you should consider taking the ACT.
Once you have the test results, you’ll need to figure out which schools you can go to based on those. So, if you want to figure out what’s a good ACT score and what to do if you aren’t happy with the results — keep on reading.
The National Average ACT Score
The ACT consists of four mandatory parts and an optional one, just like the SAT. You will have to do the English, Math, Science, and Reading parts, while doing the Writing section is entirely up to you.
Overall, the scoring scale for the ACT ranges from 1 to 36, with 1 being the lowest. These scores directly correspond to a percentile scale. Basically, figuring out the percentile scale will tell you exactly how well you did compared to others who took the test nationwide.
When it comes to ACT scores, most test-takers usually land somewhere around the middle of the scale. On the other hand, not that many people go way under or over the national average, which is 20.8. If you want to see what’s a good ACT score been for the past five years, you can follow this link for more information.
Analyzing Your Score
Now that you know what the national average is, it’s time to learn how to analyze your scores. To start, scoring anything less than 16 points will mean you’re in the bottom 25% group.
But if your ACT score is anywhere between 20 and 21, you’ll fall in the middle of the pack, somewhere around 50%. On the other hand, by getting three points more and scoring 24 or higher, you are in the top 75%.
29 points will get you a place in the top 90% national test-takers. What’s more, getting 31 will put you in the top 95%. Now, if you want to apply to a top school in the country, you will need to score 35 or 36 points to place in the 99th percentile.
Since most people land around the middle of the scale, the competition there is pretty stiff. So, if you manage to boost your points from 19 to 22 for example, you’ll be making a huge difference in your overall ranking.
What’s a Good ACT Score for Your Desired School?
These numbers don’t mean a thing if you don’t know how much you need for your dream school. Now, let’s say you’ve scored exactly 21 points on your ACT. With that score, you have a chance of getting into the New York School of Interior Design. You can also get into California State University in Long Beach and Westminster College, to name a few.
If you got 24 points, you’ll get a chance to enroll in the University of Dallas, San Diego State University, and the University of Alabama for example. But if you place in the top 90% with 29 points, you can try for the University of California in LA. You can also try for New York University, Boston University, and many others.
With an ACT score of 35 or 36 and a good GPA, you’ll be able to pick pretty much any school you want. For example, a score of 35 can get you into any Ivy League school in the country, and other elite schools like MIT, Duke, or John Hopkins, as well.
That being said, getting a great ACT score can do more for you than just get you into a good school. If you do well on the test, you’ll get a chance to apply for and receive a scholarship.
Even if you’re planning on going to a local college with a high acceptance rate, always try your hardest during the test. There are no downsides to overshooting your goal and doing so is a surefire way of getting that acceptance letter.
Setting an ACT Score Goal
By following a simple, three-step plan, you’ll be able to calculate what’s a good ACT score for you.
1. Filling In an ACT Worksheet
First, you’ll need to start by filling in a simple worksheet. You can either download it here or make one yourself. Simply draw three columns and eight rows where you’ll input the data. The columns should read, from left to right: School Name, 25th Percentile, and 75th Percentile.
Then, you’ll need to write down the names of the schools you want to attend. If you’re feeling unsure about where to go, talk to other people. You can ask your friends, family, or guidance counselors for advice on where you should go. Don’t make any rash decisions and research all of the schools thoroughly.
Now that you have all of the school names written down, you need to find the percentile scores. To get that information, you can use websites like CollegeSimply. On the website, you’ll also be able to find more information on the schools you want to attend. You can look up the size of the school, what’s a good ACT score there, and tuition costs to name a few.
To find the percentile statistics you’re looking for, simply type the name of the school in the search bar. When you scroll down a bit, you’ll see both the SAT and ACT admission standards. You can also check out the average GPA needed to get in.
For example, let’s say you want to attend the University of Texas in Austin. The average score of people who’ve enrolled there is between 26 and 33, with a GPA of 3.8. That means you’ll have to be in the 80th to 95th percentile to get in.
2. What’s a Good ACT Score for You?
So, now that you’ve filled the sheet out with the schools you want to attend and the ACT average, it’s time to calculate your perfect score. Go through the right column and find the highest number you’ve written. Take that number, and unless it’s 35 or 36, add one or two more points to figure out what’s a good ACT score for you.
If you manage to reach that number, you’ll be able to go to every single school on your list. Of course, your GPA will play a huge role in your acceptance, as well. But with an amazing ACT score, even if you don’t have the best GPA, you can bridge the gap a bit.
3. Keep Your Eyes on the Prize
Now that you know what’s a good ACT score that will get into the school of your dreams, it’s time to buckle down and get to work. But just because you’re preparing your ACT doesn’t mean your grades should suffer. And, if you’re ever feeling overwhelmed by the amount of work you have to do, take a quick break.
One method to help you stay motivated is writing down the number you want and putting it above your desk. You should also tell your friends and family what it is so that they can help you stay on track. You can even set it to be the wallpaper on your phone or computer so you always have a reminder.
That way, even when it gets tough, you can see the finish line right in front of you. But if you’re feeling unsure about taking the test, you can take a mock test. By doing so, you’d be able to see which areas you need to work on more and where you shine.
Preparing for the ACT
There are a couple of ways you can go about preparing for the ACT, which include private tutoring, online instructions, and different prep guides. In fact, you can find most of these on the official website for the ACT. You can also start practicing with the ACT Academy for free, or download various questionnaires to help you better prepare for the test.
And again, if you can, try taking the test for the first time during junior fall. By doing so, you’ll be able to see what your starting point is. Also, you’ll have enough time to improve and get your points up.
Getting a Low ACT Score — What Now?
Just because you got a low score on your ACT doesn’t mean that the fight is over. Buckle down, rearrange your priorities, and start again.
- Change Your Desired School List
First things first, you need to go back to your worksheet and see which schools are left. Make those schools your new priority and see what you can do to increase your chances of getting in. Also, if you’ve missed the cutoff for some schools, don’t give up yet.
Let’s take the University of Texas in Austin as an example one more time. As you’ve seen, you need to score at least 26 on your ACT to get in. But even if you scored 24 or 25, there’s still hope for you. Namely, someone might drop out of the waitlist and there could be a spot available for you.
However, if you’ve scored 22, for instance, you might want to redirect your focus and look at other schools. If your heart is set on staying in Texas, you could apply for the Texas Tech University or the University of North Texas, for example.
If your score won’t get you into any of your desired schools, scrap the old list and make a new one. There’s always time to shift focus and research some other schools that might be an even better fit. But if you don’t want to change your priorities, lucky for you, you still have two options left.
2. Retake the ACT
If your heart is set on going to one particular school and you don’t want to compromise going there, why not retake the test? According to the ACT website, 57% of people who retake the test manage to increase their score. And even if you don’t improve it, it’s up to you to decide which score is sent to universities.
In general, you’ll need around 10 hours of studying to increase your score by one point. But most often, it’s not worth retaking the ACT if you’ve missed the mark by anything less than two points. So, if you’re on a tight schedule and don’t have enough time to redo the test, you might want to look at strategy 3.
3. Don’t Worry About It
Doing nothing to change your ACT results when you feel like you’ve failed might sound counter-intuitive. But, it’s usually not worth retaking the test if you’ve only missed your goal by one or two points.
Also, consider that you need to do the test no later than two months before your college applications are due. So, if you’re one month out, you won’t even be able to redo it.
You also have to keep in mind that it’s not just an ACT score that will get you into the school of your dreams. During your senior year, you should focus more on maintaining or improving your GPA. And, since your last year is so stressful, don’t take on more than you can handle.
As you can see, there’s no right or wrong answer to what’s a good ACT score. Things like which school you want to attend, what your GPA is, and when you took the test will all factor into how happy you are with your score.
Even though the national average is 20.8, that doesn’t mean getting 21 will get you into any school you want. You should use websites like CollegeSimply to see how well you need to do to get into the school of your dreams.
Also, to achieve your goals, you should stay focused and motivated because it’s going to be a tough ride. And finally, don’t let your GPA go down just because you were prepping for the ACT.