Whats a Good ACT Score for 2020



feature_2020_balloon_climbing

No matter what time of year it is, there’s

always

an

ACT test date

right around the corner.

What’s a good ACT score for 2020?

And how can you determine what score you should aim for on test day?

In this comprehensive guide, we introduce three possible ways you can define good ACT scores for 2020. We also take a look at how the definition of good ACT scores has changed in recent years.

What Is a Good ACT Score for 2020 Overall?


First off, a good ACT score for you will

always

be one that’s high enough to get you into the colleges you’re applying to. But if we want to figure out what a good ACT score for 2020 is overall, then we’ll need to consider how high a score is compared with those of other test takers. In other words,

the more test takers you scored higher than, the more impressive your ACT score will be

.

The two most common ways people compare their ACT scores with those of others is by looking at averages and percentiles.

Let’s start with the average. The basic rule is that

as long as you scored in the top half of all test takers, your ACT score will be considered good

. The higher above average you score, the better. Similarly, a score that places you in the bottom half of test takers can be considered not good. The further below average your ACT score is, the worse you did on the exam relative to other students.

According to data released by

ACT, Inc.

, the

average composite ACT score is 20.8


(


out of 36


)

. The average for each individual ACT section is as follows:


  • English:

    20.2

  • Math:

    20.5

  • Reading:

    21.3

  • Science:

    20.8

This means that

any ACT score above 21 (20.8 rounded up) can be considered a good score

.

But what about percentiles? Percentiles tell you what percentage of students you scored the same as or higher than on the ACT. For instance, if you earned a score in the 62nd percentile, this would mean that you did the same as or better than 62% of test takers.

The following chart shows how ACT percentiles translate to performance on the test based on how well you did relative to other students:


Percentile

English

Math

Reading

Science

Composite
99th (Best) 35-36 34-36 35-36 35-36 34-36
90th (Excellent) 30 28* 31 28 29*
75th (Good) 24 24* 25* 24* 24*
50th (Average) 19* 18-19 20* 20 20*
25th (Poor) 14* 15-16 16* 16* 16*
10th (Very Poor) 11* 14 12* 13* 13*
1st (Poorest) 1-8 1-12 1-9 1-9 1-11


Source:


National Norms for ACT Test Scores 2019-2020 Reporting Year


*Estimated score based on available percentile data

As you can see,

you only need to get a 29 out of 36 composite score on the ACT to break into the top 10% of test takers

. In other words, you can get an excellent ACT score without having to break your back for a

perfect 36

.

On the flip side,

a score at 13 or below would place you in the bottom 10% of test takers

. This naturally doesn’t look particularly impressive on college applications. Even if you were able to raise your score by 3 points, you’d still be in the bottom 25% of test takers, with the vast majority having scored better than you. Therefore, we can say that any ACT score at or below the 25th percentile is not (objectively) good.

But percentiles aren’t the only factors that can help us determine what a good ACT score is. What’s most important is whether your score is good enough to get

you

into the college of your dreams.

What Is a Good 2020 ACT Score for You?


Although averages and percentiles can show you how well you did on the ACT compared to other test takers, what’s most important is that you achieve a score high enough to get you accepted to

all

the colleges to which you’re applying. At PrepScholar, we call this

your ACT goal score

. It’s the score that’s most likely to get you admitted to your dream college(s).


How high your own ACT goal score is will depend on the specific schools you’re applying to.

This means that everyone has their own unique goal score for the exam. I

n other words, what’s a very good ACT score for one person might be a not-that-great score for somebody else.

For example, if you were applying to

Harvard

or other ultra-competitive

Ivy League schools

, then a

good ACT score for

you

would be something close to a perfect 36. If you were applying to other, less competitive schools, however, such as

Texas A&M

, then you’d aim for a score closer to 27.

Setting an ACT target score means finding the score expectations for each school you’re applying to. Read on for our step-by-step guide on how to do this!

body_target_bullseye

How to Set an ACT Goal Score for 2020, Step by Step


To set your own ACT target score for 2020, follow these three simple steps.

Step 1: Make a Chart

Start by making a chart in which you’ll list all the colleges you’re applying to (you can exclude any

safety schools

). Feel free to make the chart yourself or


download ours


by clicking the thumbnail below:


body_act_target_score_worksheet_thumbnail

Here’s a sample chart with some schools filled in:


School Name

25th Percentile ACT Score

75th Percentile ACT Score
New York University
Stony Brook University
Barnard College
Pace University

Step 2: Find ACT Score Information for Your Schools

Next, it’s time to do heavy digging and find ACT score info for the schools in your chart. Specifically,

you’ll want to find the middle 50% (or average range) of ACT scores

for each school; this range consists of the 25th and 75th percentile scores of admitted students.

The most convenient way to do this is to use our PrepScholar college database.

Search online for “[School Name] PrepScholar” or “[School Name] PrepScholar ACT.”

Then, click the link for that college’s admission requirements or ACT/GPA page:

body_nyu_our site_act_search_screenshot

After you click the link to that school’s page in one of our databases, scroll down to find info on the average ACT scores and 25th/75th percentiles. Here’s what this section looks like on

our admission requirements page for NYU

:

body_nyu_our site_act_page

Write down the 25th and 75th percentile scores for that college in your chart.

Repeat this process for every school you’re applying to.

If you’re having any trouble finding your school in our databases, try browsing the school’s official website and looking for information on ACT scores, admissions, student profiles, facts and figures, etc. You could also search for “[School Name] average ACT scores” or “[School Name] ACT scores” to find

direct links

to relevant pages on the school’s official website.

Once you’ve finished researching, your chart should look something like this:


School Name

25th Percentile ACT Score

75th Percentile ACT Score

New York University
29 33

Stony Brook University
26 31

Barnard College
30 33

Pace University
22 27

Step 3: Determine Your ACT Goal Score

The final step is to figure out what your ACT goal score is. To do this,

simply look for the highest 75th percentile score in your chart; this will be your target score, as it’s the one most likely to get you admitted to

all

the schools you’re applying to

.

In our example above, the highest 75th percentile score is 33 (for both NYU and Barnard). So your goal score for the ACT would be 33

—that’s a

very

high score in the 98th percentile!


If your goal score feels like a huge reach for you, you can lower it slightly by aiming instead for the second-highest 75th percentile score in your chart


or


a score in-between your highest and second-highest 75th percentiles.

body_orange_line_graph_red_arrow

Have Good ACT Scores Changed? 2020 vs Past Years

So far we’ve looked at a few different ways we can define good ACT scores for 2020. But how has the definition of good ACT scores changed over the years?


The truth is, it hasn’t really.

Even though average ACT scores and percentiles tend to shift a bit from year to year, it’s usually not by much. So what’s considered a good ACT score will stay

fairly consistent

over time.

This chart shows how

average section and composite ACT scores

have changed over the years:


Year

English

Math

Reading

Science

Composite
2019 20.2 20.5 21.3 20.8 20.8
2018 20.2 20.5 21.3 20.7 20.8
2017 20.3 20.7 21.4 21.0 21.0
2016 20.1 20.6 21.3 20.8 20.8
2015 20.4 20.8 21.4 20.9 21.0


Sources:

National Norms for ACT Test Scores 2019-2020 Reporting Year

,


ACT National Profile Report 2018

As you can see,

average ACT scores have barely changed

in the past five years. The biggest shift was just 0.3 points, which is

very nominal

. The Reading section has the most consistent averages, varying just 0.1 points some years.

Now, let’s look at percentiles. Remember that percentiles show you what percentage of test takers you scored the same as or higher than on the ACT.

This chart shows

past and present ACT score percentiles

from 2015 to 2019:


Year

90th %ile

75th %ile

50th %ile

25th %ile

10th %ile

2019
29* 24* 20* 16* 13*

2018
29* 24* 20* 16* 13*

2017
29* 24* 20* 16 13-14

2016
28* 24* 20* 16* 13*

2015
28* 24* 20 16* 14*


*Estimated score based on available percentile data

Like the averages,

ACT percentiles really haven’t changed much

over the past five years. In fact, most percentile scores stayed pretty much the same, with only a 1-point shift at most. We can thus say with confidence that the definition of good ACT scores (using percentiles) hasn’t changed much since 2015

—and very likely won’t for a while!

Recap: So What’s a Good ACT Score for 2020?

There are three primary ways you can define good ACT scores for 2020.

The first is to

look at the national average

. Currently,

the average composite ACT score is 20.8

. Any score above this average, or in the top half of test takers, can be said to be a good score, since it means you did better than the majority of test takers.

The next way to define good 2020 ACT scores is to

consider ACT percentiles

, which compare your performance with those of other students. The higher your percentile, the better you did. Typically, ACT scores in the 50th percentile (20) are considered average, while scores in the 75th percentile (24) and 90th percentile (29) are considered good and excellent, respectively.

The final way you can determine good ACT scores is to

figure out what kinds of scores

you

need based on the colleges you’re applying to

. In other words, what’s your ACT goal score? To answer this question, you’ll need to research the ACT score expectations of all the colleges you’re applying to. The highest 75th percentile for your schools will be your goal score, that is, a good score for

you

and you only.

Once you know your target score, you can

get started with your own ACT study plan

!

What’s Next?



Aiming for a high ACT score?

Get help using our expert guides to

getting a perfect 36

(written by our resident full scorer) and the

best ACT prep books

. Our

ultimate ACT prep guide

can also teach you everything there is to know about the exam, from topics to strategies.


What’s a bad ACT score, nationally and by college


?


Learn all about the types of ACT scores you should avoid getting.


Having trouble understanding what your ACT score means?

Then read our

explanation of the ACT scoring system

and see

how raw scores convert to scaled scores out of 36 points

.


Want to improve your ACT score by 4 points?

Check out our best-in-class online ACT prep program. We guarantee

your money back

if you don’t improve your ACT score by 4 points or more.

Our program is entirely online, and it customizes your prep program to your strengths and weaknesses. We also have expert instructors who can grade every one of your practice ACT essays, giving feedback on how to improve your score.

Check out our 5-day free trial:






Get 4 More Points on Your ACT, GUARANTEED