ACT Test Scores: Understanding Your Scores

Learn what goes into your composite score, how to use it, and more!

Are you feeling a little lost when it comes to your ACT scores? Don't worry, because today we're going to break down ACT scores and help you understand what they mean for your college application process. Whether you've just received your scores or are still preparing for the test, this page will equip you with the knowledge to understand your ACT scores.  

How are ACT scores calculated?

You’ve answered the questions and we’ve scored the results. Here’s how:

  1. First we counted the number of questions on each test that you answered correctly. We did not deduct any points for incorrect answers. (There is no penalty for guessing.) 
  2. Then we converted your raw scores (number of correct answers on each test) to "scale scores." Scale scores have the same meaning for all the different forms of the ACT® test, no matter which date a test was taken. 
  3. Your Composite score and each test score (English, mathematics, reading, science) range from 1 (low) to 36 (high). The Composite score is the average of your four test scores, rounded to the nearest whole number. Fractions less than one-half are rounded down; fractions one-half or more are rounded up. 
  4. Each reporting category includes the total number of questions in that category, the total number of questions in that category you answered correctly, and the percentage of questions correct. ACT reporting categories are aligned with ACT College and Career Readiness Standards and other standards that target college and career readiness. 

See below for sample score reports: 

For explanations of the different sections of your ACT score report and how you can use it to make decisions about college and beyond, download this FREE eBook

How Do Tests, Questions, and Reporting Categories Relate to One Another?

Score reports help students get the most from their test results

Users wishing to drill down further into what their scores mean can directly reference Reporting Category information found in their score reports. Reporting Category results are directly tied to ACT’s College and Career Readiness Standards.

Additional information regarding Reporting Categories can be found in the ACT Technical Manual (PDF).

TestNumber of QuestionsReporting Categories
English 75

Production of Writing (29-32%)

Knowledge of Language (15-17%)

Conventions of Standard English (52-55%)


Preparing for higher math (57-60%)

  • Number & Quantity (7–10%)
  • Algebra (12–15%)
  • Functions (12–15%)
  • Geometry (12–15%)
  • Statistics & Probability (8–12%)

Integrating essential skills (40-43%)


Reading 40

Key ideas and details (52-60%)

Craft and structure (25-30%)

Integration of knowledge and ideas (13-23%)

Science 40

Interpretation of data (40-50%)

Scientific investigation (20-30%)

Evaluation of Models, inferences, and experimental results (25-35%)

What Is a Good ACT Score?

During your college application process having an ACT score can help you realize your dream of going to college. It is important to keep in mind that a "good" ACT score can vary greatly from person to person depending on their individual goals and college preferences. But scoring at or above the average ACT score for the college you are applying to gives you a good chance of being accepted. 

The standard for what is considered a "good" ACT score will differ based on the selectivity and academic rigor of the colleges you have in mind. Are you aiming for admission into highly competitive Ivy League schools, or are you considering smaller, more specialized institutions?  

Different colleges have varying average ACT score ranges. While some universities may look for students with scores in the 30s, others may consider scores in the mid-20s as competitive. For example, the average ACT score for admitted students at Harvard University is 34 compared to the average ACT score of 23 for admitted students at University of Massachusetts Boston.  

To get a clear understanding of what score you should aim for, research the average ACT scores of the schools you're interested in. College websites and admissions resources will often provide this information, allowing you to gauge where you stand and set a realistic target. 

What are National Ranks?

Your national ranks tell you how your scores compare to those earned by recent high school graduates who took the ACT. Your national ranks appear on your score report under “US Rank”. 

ACT Test Score Ranges

Understanding ACT score ranges and what they mean is crucial in evaluating your performance and determining where you stand in comparison to other test-takers.   Each section has a test score range of 1-36:  

  • Below Average Score Range: 1-16
  • Average Score Range: 17-24
  • Above Average Score Range: 25-36

Let's put these score ranges into context:

A low score in any section, falling within the range of 1-16, indicates that there is room for improvement. Don't worry if you find yourself in this range initially; it simply means there are areas you can focus on to boost your performance.

An average score, ranging from 17-24, suggests that you are performing at an expected level. This is a solid range to be in, showcasing your competency in the subject matter. However, if you have dreams of attending highly competitive schools, aiming for a score above this range would be beneficial.

An above-average score, ranging from 25-36, demonstrates exceptional performance. If you find yourself in this range, congratulations! Your score demonstrates to colleges and universities that you’re prepared for rigorous coursework, potentially opening doors to more opportunities and scholarships.

Remember, these score ranges are not set in stone. Your target score may vary based on your college aspirations and personal goals. While it's great to aim for an above-average score, it's also important to set realistic expectations and focus on improving your weaknesses.

Ultimately, ACT score ranges provide a useful framework for evaluating your performance and setting targets. They help you evaluate where you stand in relation to other test-takers and guide you in making informed decisions about your academic future.

So, whether you find yourself in the below average, average, or above-average range, remember that your ACT score is just one piece of the puzzle. It's your determination, work ethic, and dedication that will truly define your journey towards success.

What is the lowest ACT score college will accept?

In general, the lowest ACT score that colleges will accept varies from institution to institution. However, most colleges have a minimum requirement of 18 or 20 on the ACT. While this is the baseline, it's worth noting that colleges consider a range of factors beyond just test scores, such as GPA, extracurricular activities, essays, and letters of recommendation.  
While there isn't a one-size-fits-all answer, a “good” ACT score is generally considered to be above the national average, which was 19.8 as of 2022. However, keep in mind that top-tier colleges and universities tend to have higher expectations, often looking for ACT scores in the 27-32 range or higher.  
Colleges consider a range of ACT scores when making admissions decisions, giving students some flexibility. Commonly, students with scores in the range of 20-23 are still considered competitive at many mid-tier colleges. For more selective schools, a score in the 24-28 range will increase your chances of admission. However, for highly selective institutions, aiming for an ACT score above 30 can significantly enhance your application. While ACT scores do play a role in the admissions process, it's essential to remember that they are just one aspect considered by colleges. Admissions committees also look at your high school transcript, extracurricular activities, essays, and other factors to assess your overall potential as a student. Don't worry if your ACT score falls slightly below the average;, a well-rounded application can still open doors. 

Standards and Benchmarks

For College and Career Readiness

The Benchmarks are scores on the ACT subject-area tests that represent the level of achievement required for students to have a 50% chance of obtaining a B or higher or about a 75% chance of obtaining a C or higher in corresponding credit-bearing first-year college courses. These college courses include English composition, college algebra, introductory social science courses, and biology. Based on a sample of 214 institutions and more than 230,000 students from across the United States, the Benchmarks are median course placement values for these institutions and as such represent a typical set of expectations.  

Taking the ACT with writing will provide additional scores to you and the schools to which you have ACT report scores. Find more information about how the writing test is scored.

Scoring for the Writing Test

Taking the ACT with writing will provide additional scores to you and the schools to which you have ACT report scores. Find more information about how the writing test is scored

ACT / SAT Concordance

ACT and the College Board have completed a concordance study that is designed to examine the relationship between scores on the ACT test and the SAT. These concordance tables do not equate scores, but rather provide a tool for finding comparable scores.

Make Sense of Your Scores

Understanding what ACT scores colleges accept and what they consider "good" is a valuable piece of information for any aspiring college student. Keep in mind that each college has its own set of requirements, and what might be considered acceptable at one institution may be different elsewhere. Therefore, it is important to aim for a score that reflects your abilities and showcases your potential. Remember that your overall application tells a more comprehensive story than just your test score. 

See below for more information on how to use your ACT results: