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What Is a Good ACT Score in 2022? Find Your Ideal Score 

 March 1, 2022

By  Chuky Ofoegbu

young student wearing glasses working on a laptop while smiling at the camera

The ACT is used for college admissions decisions, similar to the SAT. That being said, the scoring on the SAT is very different from that on the SAT.

ACT scores on each component of the test - English, Math, Reading, and Science - range from 1 to 36. The average scores from all components of the test - called a composite score - also ranges from 1 - 36. 

Since most students and parents want to know what a good ACT score is or what the average ACT score is, in this article we'll answer this question using data available from the ACT Inc.

We hope that after reading this article, families can have a better understanding of what ACT score to target as they prepare their child for success with the college admissions process. 

Why You Can Trust ACT Scores

Before we jump into the sections about different benchmarks for your ACT score, let’s take a quick look at the research supporting the validity and reliability of ACT scores. The ACT uses scaling for its score system to make sure that college admissions counselors can interpret the score effectively.

In essence, you should be able to compare an ACT score from one student in 1995 to another student in 2010 and the comparison would be the same. There isn't a disruption in the score scale.

How is the ACT Scored?

The following table shows the number of questions in each section of the ACT and the reporting categories.

Test

# of Questions

Reporting Categories

English

75

Production of Writing (29-32%)

Knowledge of Language (13-19%)

Conventions of Standard English (51-56%)

Mathematics

60

Preparing for higher math (57-60%)

Integrating essential skills (40-43%)

Reading

40

Key ideas and details (55-60%)

Craft and structure (25-30%)

Integration of knowledge and ideas (13-18%)

Science

40

Interpretation of data (45-55%)

Scientific investigation (20-30%)

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


Average ACT Score by Year 

ACT inc.’s national profile report includes the number of test-takers and average ACT scores by year. The following table includes the total number of students who took the ACT each year, the average composite scores, along with the specific English, Math, Reading, Science scores. 

Year

# of test takers

English

Math

Reading

science

composite

2021

1,295,349

19.6

19.9

20.9

20.4

20.3

2020

1,670,497

19.9

20.2

21.2

20.6

20.6

2019

1,782,820

20.1

20.4

21.2

20.6

20.7

2018

1,914,817

20.2

20.5

21.3

20.7

20.8

2017

2,030,038

20.3

20.7

21.4

21

21

As you can see, the number of test-takers has declined each year since 2017, with over 2 million taking the test in 2017 and just under 1.3 million taking it in 2021. Also, the average composite score decreased. In 2017, the average composite score was 21 and in 2021 it hit a low of 20.3.

The graph below displays the same average score data, but it is easier to see the patterns. For example, the English score is the lowest score for all years and the Reading score is the highest. The Science and Math scores fall in the middle. Throughout all five years, the lowest score was the 2021 English score (19.6) and the highest score was the 2017 Reading score (21.4).

Sources: ACT National Profile 2021Average ACT Scores by State 2021

Average annual math and CR sat score

Average annual math and CR sat score - Source ACT (Image Credit: Sojourning Scholar)

Average ACT Scores by State

Even though looking at the average ACT scores by year is helpful, sometimes it can be beneficial to dive deeper by looking at the score distributions by area. The table below shows the average composite ACT score by state, ordered by the highest score to the lowest score for the year 2021.

State

Avg. Composite ACT Score

Massachusetts

27.6

Connecticut

27.2

New Hampshire

26.6

New York

26.3

California

26.1

Rhode Island

25.8

Delaware

25.7

District of Columbia

25.6

Maine

25.6

Maryland

25.5

Virginia

25.5

Illinois

25.2

Michigan

25.1

New Jersey

25.1

Pennsylvania

25

Vermont

24.7

Colorado

23.6

Washington

23.6

Indiana

23.1

Idaho

23

Georgia

22.6

Minnesota

21.6

South Dakota

21.6

Iowa

21.5

West Virginia

20.8

New Mexico

20.7

Alaska

20.6

Missouri

20.6

Oregon

20.6

Utah

20.6

Florida

20.4

Montana

20.4

National

20.3

Texas

20.1

Nebraska

20

Wisconsin

20

Kansas

19.9

Arizona

19.8

Wyoming

19.8

Oklahoma

19.7

North Dakota

19.6

Ohio

19.6

Kentucky

19.2

Tennessee

19.1

Arkansas

19

North Carolina

18.9

Alabama

18.7

South Carolina

18.6

Louisiana

18.4

Hawaii

18.2

Mississippi

18.1

Nevada

17.8


The state with the highest ACT score in 2021 was Massachusetts, with a composite score of 27.6. The state with the lowest score was Nevada, with a composite score of 17.8. 

Students who are looking to attend a state school might be especially interested in this data because they can see how they compare to other in-state students. However, it is also important to note that scores vary based on individual schools. 

Average Annual ACT composite scores by state - Source ETS

2021 Average ACT composite scores by state - Source ACT (Image Credit: Sojourning Scholar)

The next couple of sections will go over the average ACT scores for the Ivy League Schools and the top colleges.

What is a good ACT score for Ivy League Schools?

Ivy League Schools are considered “the best of the best” and that means they usually want the highest ACT scores. Below, we put together a table with the data from The National Center of Educational Statistics to show the 25th percentile and 75th percentile ACT scores for the Ivy League Schools.

The 25th percentile means that 25% of students scored below this and the 75th percentile means that 25% of students scored higher than the given score.

This means the average is somewhere around the middle, making these ranges good benchmarks for students who want to make sure they're good candidates for the Ivy Leagues.

ACT SCORES: FALL 2020 (ENROLLED FIRST-TIME STUDENTS)

School

25th Percentile

75th Percentile

Princeton University

32

35

Columbia University

33

35

Harvard University

33

35

Yale University

33

35

University of Pennsylvania

33

35

Dartmouth College

32

35

Brown University

33

35

Cornell University

32

35


Based on the table, we can see that most of the Ivy League Schools have similar ACT score ranges - between 32 and 35 on average. However, we want to make sure that students and parents know that the Ivy League Schools base their admission decisions on more than just standardized test scores.

Students will also need an engaging essay, glowing letters of recommendation, a top-notch academic transcript, experience with community service, and more.

Good ACT scores for Top Colleges

Even if you’re not aiming for the Ivy League Colleges, there are a bunch of Tier One Schools out there with high standards for their standardized test scores. Tier One Schools are the colleges in the top 50 US News college rankings, which adds to their reputation as an elite university. 

As of the 2022 US News report, the following schools are listed as some of the top National Universities. Based on that list, we pulled the ACT scores for the 2020 incoming class:

ACT Scores for Tier One Schools

School

US News Ranking

25th Percentile

75th Percentile

Princeton

1

32

35

Columbia

2 (tie)

33

35

Harvard

2 (tie)

33

35

MIT

2 (tie)

34

36

Yale

5

33

35

Stanford

6 (tie)

31

35

UChicago

6 (tie)

34

35

UPenn

8

33

35

Caltech

9 (tie)

35

36

Duke

9 (tie)

34

35

Johns Hopkins

9 (tie)

34

36

Northwestern

9 (tie)

33

35

Dartmouth

13

32

35

Brown

14 (tie)

33

35

Vanderbilt

14 (tie)

33

35

WUSTL

14 (tie)

33

35

Cornell

17 (tie)

32

35

Rice

17 (tie)

34

36

Notre Dame

19

32

35

UCLA

20

29

32

 

How COVID-19 Impacted ACT Scores

The average ACT scores dropped when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. The ACT blog has a couple of articles about how COVID-19 impacted ACT scores. The key takeaway from the news article was that the decline in scores from 2020 to 2021 was the most severe in the history of school-day testing. The researchers concluded that fewer students are ready for college and careers, which means it’s so important to focus on raising a low ACT score.

In addition, according to the news report on the ACT achievement data, out of the 1.3 million students who took the ACT in 2021, only 25% met all four ACT Benchmarks and 38% failed to meet any of the benchmarks. While the report claims that COVID-19 isn’t the only cause of the decline, the trend is thought to have been worsened by the conditions of the pandemic.

How to Raise a Low ACT Score

Take An ACT Prep Course

According to a research study, taking an ACT online prep course is associated with score gains. This means that you probably want to find the right ACT prep course to help you meet your goals.

Check out our in-depth review article on the best ACT prep courses on the market. 

Watch Helpful ACT Prep Content on YouTube 

Yes, you heard us correctly. Watching the right YouTube videos just might help you raise a low ACT score. In one of our previous articles, we covered the best ACT YouTube channels. Our list of top YouTube channels with valuable ACT prep content include the following:

Find a Good ACT Prep Book

There isn’t one ACT prep book that we can say best fits the need of every student. However, some good ACT prep books we recommend are The Princeton Review 2022 ACT Prep Book, and the Kaplan 2022 ACT Prep Book.

Stick to A Study Schedule

As much as everyone thinks they can just study when the time is right, making a more structured study schedule and sticking to it is the way to go. Whether you’re going to spend one hour per night, five nights per week, or you’re going to spend all weekend with your nose stuck in your prep book - find the study schedule that works for you. Keeping a routine is key.

FAQs Related To What Is a Good ACT Score

To conclude this article, we wanted to cover some of the questions we get asked most often about what a good ACT score is. Take a look at the answers below:

Is 32 a good ACT score?

The short answer is Yes. 32 is quite a high percentile ACT score. However, it depends on where you're applying. If you're shooting for the Ivy Leagues or a Tier One school, this might not be high enough. On the other hand, if you're aiming for a Tier Two School, this will probably get you admitted and might even earn you a scholarship.

Is 27 a good ACT score?

If you want to get into the Ivy Leagues, then 27 is not a high enough ACT score. But, if you’re set on going to a state school or a Tier Three private university, this might be enough to ensure your admission.

Is 29 a good ACT score?

Again, this probably isn’t good enough for an Ivy League School, but 29 is still a good ACT score and will likely earn you a spot at a variety of national universities.

Is 28 a good ACT score?

Knowing that the average national ACT composite score is around 20.3, you would think that 28 would be a great ACT score. We’re not saying that it isn’t good, but if you’re aiming for a top university, this might fall short of their minimum.

Is 22 a good ACT score?

Since the average ACT score was 20.3 in 2021, we can say that 22 is still slightly above average, but it certainly won’t get you into a top college.

Is 20 a good ACT score?

This is just around the average score for the US in 2021. If you have your sights set on a low competition school and you don’t need a scholarship, this could still be good enough.

Is 19 a good ACT score?

An ACT score of 19 creeps into the below-average territory, which puts a student at risk for missing the mark for their target schools. This score might be okay if you want to go to a community college or if the rest of your application is amazing, but we recommend trying to improve an ACT score of 19.

Chuky Ofoegbu


With almost a decade of experience pursuing higher education in the United States, I fully understand the pain points foreign students endure. I created this website to help foreign students successfully navigate their way through the challenges they will face while living in the United States.

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