What is a Good ACT Score?

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

At the bookstore, there are several books to help you with studying the ACT test.

What is a Good ACT Score?

Imagine holding a key that could unlock the door to your dream college. That key is your ACT score. Think of the ACT as a big test that colleges use to see how much you know and how well you can use that knowledge. It’s a crucial piece of your college application puzzle. In this post, we’re going to dive into what a ‘good’ ACT score really means. It’s not just about beating a number; it’s about hitting the right score for the colleges you’re aiming for and matching your personal goals.

Here, we’ll guide you through understanding these scores and setting a target that makes sense for you. The ACT has four sections: English, Math, Reading, and Science. Each one tests different things – from your grammar skills to how you solve math problems, understand what you read, and analyze scientific data. Plus, there’s an optional Writing section where you get to show off your essay skills. Some colleges might ask for this, so it’s good to know what your target schools expect.

We’ll take you through how these sections are scored and what those scores mean for your college dreams. We’ll also cover how to figure out what a good ACT score is for you, how to prepare for the test, and tips to improve your score. Remember, while the ACT is a big deal, it’s just one part of your college application. With the right strategy and mindset, you can tackle the ACT confidently. Let’s get started on unlocking the potential of your ACT score and paving the way to your college future.

What is the ACT?

The ACT is a standardized test that high school students in the United States take as part of the college admissions process. It’s one of the key tools colleges use to evaluate how prepared you are for college-level work.

Math test

Understanding the ACT is important if you’re planning to go to college, as it can play a big role in where you can get admitted.

What Does the ACT Test?

The ACT is designed to test the knowledge and skills you’ve gained in high school. It covers four main areas: English, Math, Reading, and Science. There’s also an optional Writing section. Let’s break these down:

  • English: This section tests your understanding of English grammar and usage. It has questions on sentence structure, punctuation, and rhetorical skills. You’ll be asked to read passages and answer questions about them, focusing on how well the sentences are constructed and how clearly the ideas are communicated.
  • Math: The Math section covers a range of topics from algebra, geometry, and trigonometry. It tests your ability to solve problems using mathematical concepts. You’ll need to know formulas and be able to apply them to different types of questions.
  • Reading: Here, you’ll find passages to read, followed by questions about them. This section tests your reading comprehension skills. You’ll need to understand what you’ve read, draw inferences, and analyze the text.
  • Science: The Science section doesn’t require you to memorize a bunch of scientific facts. Instead, it tests your skills in interpreting and analyzing scientific data. You’ll be given scientific information in various formats like graphs, tables, or descriptions of experiments and asked to make sense of it.
  • Writing (Optional): In the Writing section, you’ll write an essay. This tests your writing skills, including how well you can organize your thoughts, provide supporting details, and express ideas clearly.

Preparing for the ACT means developing a wide range of skills, from analytical reading to scientific reasoning and effective writing.

Understanding the ACT Scoring System

The ACT scoring system might seem complex at first, but it’s pretty straightforward once you break it down. Each of the four main sections of the ACT – English, Math, Reading, and Science – is scored on a scale from 1 to 36. Your performance in each section determines your score for that section. Now, let’s look at each section individually.

Scoring for Each Section:

  1. English: This section has 75 questions, focusing on grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, and rhetorical skills. Your score is the number of correct answers (your raw score) converted to a scale of 1 to 36.
  2. Math: Here, you’ll face 60 questions covering algebra, geometry, and trigonometry. Like English, your raw score (number of correct answers) is converted to the 36-point scale.
  3. Reading: The Reading section presents 40 questions, all about reading comprehension. Your score is again based on the number of correct answers, converted to the 1-36 scale.
  4. Science: This section isn’t about specific science facts; it’s about interpreting data and understanding experiments. With 40 questions, your raw score is converted in the same way as the other sections.

For the optional Writing Test, your score from this essay doesn’t affect your Composite Score. However, some colleges might ask for it or recommend it. If you decide to do the Writing Test, your essay will be graded between 2 and 12. This gives you a chance to show off your writing skills and how well you can analyze topics.

Composite Score

The Composite Score on the ACT is pretty straightforward. It’s just the average of your scores from the four main sections: English, Math, Reading, and Science. Each of these sections is equally important for this average, no matter how many questions each one has.

Writing the answer on the sheets

To find out your Composite Score, you simply add up your scores from these four sections and then divide that total by 4. If the result is a decimal, it’s rounded to the nearest whole number. For example, if you score 28 in English, 30 in Math, 31 in Reading, and 29 in Science, your calculation for the Composite Score would be (28 + 30 + 31 + 29) / 4, which equals 29.5. Since we round decimals, this would be rounded up to 30. So, your Composite Score, in this case, would be 30. It’s a simple way to get a general idea of how well you did across all parts of the test.

Percentile Rankings

Percentile rankings on the ACT are a way to see how your score stacks up against other students who took the test. Let’s say you’re in the 75th percentile. This means you scored better than 75% of the people who took the ACT. It’s a handy way for colleges to see where you rank in the big pool of students.

Below are the different ranges of ACT Composite Scores and what percentile of test-takers you’d be in if you scored within those ranges.

ACT Composite Score with Equivalent Percentile Score

ACT Composite Score

Percentile Score

34-36 99%
32-34 98%
30-32 95%
28-30 90%
26-28 85%
24-26 78%
22-24 65%
20-22 50%
18-20 35%
16-18 25%
14-16 15%
12-14 5%
10-12 1%
1-10 <1%

These rankings are pretty important for college admissions. Colleges often look at what percentile you’re in to decide if you meet their standards. If you’re in a higher percentile, you have a better shot at getting into more competitive colleges. So, it’s not just your Composite Score that counts. It’s also about how that score compares to scores from students across the country. This ranking gives colleges a clear picture of where you stand.

Understanding how each section is scored and what your Composite Score and percentile ranking mean is crucial. This knowledge will help you set realistic goals and focus your study efforts where they’re needed most. The ACT might just be a test, but its scores are a major part of your college application, so getting familiar with this scoring system is a smart move.

What Defines a ‘Good’ ACT Score?

When you’re preparing for the ACT, one of the big questions you might have is, “What’s a good ACT score?” The answer isn’t as straightforward as you might think because a ‘good’ score can mean different things depending on your goals. Let’s break down what a good ACT score looks like in terms of national averages, requirements for selective colleges, and scholarship opportunities.

National Averages

When you’re trying to figure out what counts as a good ACT score, a smart place to start is by looking at the national average. For 2023- 2024, according to the folks who make the ACT, the average Composite Score is 19.9. This number comes from adding up scores from millions of high school students all over the United States and then finding the middle score. It’s like taking the temperature of how well students are doing on the ACT as a whole.

Test score sheet with answers

So, if your ACT score is over 20, you’re already ahead of more than half the students out there. It’s like being in the faster half of a huge race. But keep in mind that every college is different. Some colleges might be happy with scores right around the national average, while others might be looking for scores that are a lot higher.

The national average is useful because it gives you a basic idea of where you stand, but when it comes to college applications, it’s also important to check the scores that specific colleges are looking for. They might have their own idea of what they consider a good score, based on the average scores of their own incoming students.

Selective Colleges

If you’re aiming for a spot in a selective or top-ranked college, the definition of a ‘good’ ACT score goes up. Selective colleges often look for scores that are much higher than the national average. For these schools, a good ACT score might be in the range of 28 to 36, which places you in the top 25% to 10% of all test-takers.

Below shows the ACT score ranges for the top national universities, liberal arts colleges, and public schools. These ranges are what the schools typically see from their applicants.

Top 50 National Universities


National Universities

ACT Score Range

1 Princeton University 33 – 35
2 Harvard University 33 – 36
3 Columbia University 34 – 35
4 Massachusetts Institute of Technology 34 – 36
5 Yale University 33 – 35
6 Stanford University 34 – 35
7 University of Chicago 33 – 35
8 University of Pennsylvania 33 – 35
9 Northwestern University 33 – 35
10 Duke University 33 – 35
11 Johns Hopkins University 34- 35
12 California Institute of Technology 35 – 36
13 Dartmouth College 33 – 35
14 Brown University 33 – 35
15 University of Notre Dame 32 – 35
16 Vanderbilt University 34 – 35
17 Cornell University 33 – 35
18 Rice University 34 – 35
19 Washington University in St. Louis 33 – 35
20 University of California–Los Angeles 27 – 34
21 Emory University 32 – 34
22 University of California–Berkeley N/A
23 University of Southern California 32 – 35
24 Georgetown University 32 – 35
25 Carnegie Mellon University 33 – 35
26 University of Michigan–Ann Arbor 31 – 35
27 Wake Forest University 30 – 33
28 University of Virginia 32 – 35
29 Georgia Institute of Technology 31 – 35
30 New York University 32 – 35
31 Tufts University 33 – 35
32 University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill 29 – 33
33 University of Rochester 31 – 35
34 University of California–Santa Barbara 26 – 31
35 University of Florida 29-33
36 University of California–Irvine 26 – 33
37 Boston College 33 – 34
38 University of California–San Diego 28 – 34
39 University of California–Davis 25 – 31
40 Boston University 31 – 34
41 Brandeis University 31 – 34
42 Case Western Reserve University 32 – 35
43 College of William and Mary 31 – 34
44 Northeastern University 33 – 35
45 Tulane University 30 – 33
46 University of Wisconsin–Madison 28 – 32
47 Villanova University 31 – 34
48 University of Illinois–Urbana-Champaign 29 – 34
49 University of Texas–Austin 29 – 34
50 Lehigh University 30 – 34

Top 50 National Liberal Arts Colleges


National Liberal Arts Colleges

ACT Score Range

1 Williams College 33- 35
2 Amherst College 32 – 35
3 Swarthmore College 33 – 35
4 Wellesley College 31 – 35
5 Pomona College 33- 35
6 Bowdoin College 31 – 34
7 Carleton College 31 – 35
8 Claremont McKenna College 32 – 35
9 Middlebury College 32 – 34
10 Washington and Lee University 32 – 35
11 Colby College 32 – 34
12 Haverford College 33 – 35
13 Smith College 31 – 34
14 Grinnell College 30 – 34
15 Hamilton College 33 – 35
16 Vassar College 32 – 34
17 Colgate University 31 – 34
18 Davidson College 30 – 33
19 United States Naval Academy 26 – 32
20 Wesleyan University 31 – 34
21 Bates College 30 – 34
22 United States Military Academy 28 – 33
23 Harvey Mudd College 34 – 36
24 University of Richmond 31 – 34
25 Barnard College 32 – 34
26 Macalester College 30- 35
27 Bryn Mawr College 30 – 33
28 College of the Holy Cross 28 – 32
29 Colorado College 29 – 33
30 Kenyon College 31 – 34
31 Soka University of America 24- 28
32 Mount Holyoke College 31 – 35
33 Oberlin College 30-34
34 Scripps College 31 – 34
35 Bucknell University 26 – 32
36 Pitzer College 31 – 33
37 Thomas Aquinas College 25 – 30
38 Franklin and Marshall College 29 – 32
39 Lafayette College 30 – 33
40 Occidental College 30 – 33
41 Skidmore College 29 – 33
42 United States Air Force Academy 29 – 34
43 Denison University 28 – 32
44 The University of the South 26 – 31
45 Union College 28 – 32
46 Berea College 23 – 28
47 Connecticut College 30 – 33
48 DePauw University 24 – 31
49 Dickinson College 28 – 32
50 Furman University 29 – 33

Top 50 Public Schools


Public Schools

ACT Score Range

1 University of California–Los Angeles 28 – 34
2 University of California–Berkeley 28 – 34
3 University of Michigan–Ann Arbor 30 – 34
4 University of Virginia 30 – 34
5 Georgia Institute of Technology 31 – 34
6 University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill 27 – 33
7 University of California–Santa Barbara 26 – 32
8 University of Florida 27 – 32
9 University of California–Irvine 25 – 33
10 University of California–San Diego 26 – 33
11 University of California–Davis 25 – 31
12 College of William and Mary 30 – 33
13 University of Wisconsin–Madison 27 – 32
14 University of Illinois–Urbana-Champaign 26 – 32
15 University of Texas–Austin 27 – 33
16 University of Georgia 27 – 32
17 Ohio State University–Columbus 27 – 32
18 Florida State University 26 – 30
19 Pennsylvania State University–University Park 25 – 30
20 Purdue University–West Lafayette 25 – 32
21 University of Pittsburgh 28 – 33
22 Rutgers University–New Brunswick 25 – 31
23 University of Washington 27 – 32
24 University of Connecticut 26 – 31
25 University of Maryland–College Park 28 – 33
26 University of Massachusetts–Amherst 26 – 31
27 Clemson University 27 – 32
28 Texas A&M University–College Station 25 – 31
29 University of Minnesota–Twin Cities 26 – 31
30 Virginia Tech 25 – 31
31 Binghamton University–SUNY 28 – 32
32 Indiana University–Bloomington 24 – 31
33 University at Buffalo–SUNY 24 – 29
34 Colorado School of Mines 28 – 33
35 Michigan State University 23 – 29
36 North Carolina State University–Raleigh 27 – 31
37 University of California–Santa Cruz 24 – 31
38 University of Iowa 23 – 28
39 Miami University–Oxford 26 – 31
40 Stony Brook University–SUNY 26 – 31
41 University of California–Riverside 23 – 29
42 University of Delaware 25 – 30
43 New Jersey Institute of Technology 25 – 30
44 Auburn University 25 – 30
45 Temple University 24 – 30
46 University of California–Merced 18 – 24
47 University of Colorado–Boulder 25 – 30
48 University of Oregon 22 – 28
49 University of South Carolina 25 – 30
50 University of South Florida 25 – 29

At the very top universities like Princeton, Harvard, and MIT, a good ACT score is usually between 33 and 36. That’s pretty high and means you have to be in the top percentiles nationally. For top liberal arts colleges like Williams and Amherst, the range is similar, generally from 32 to 35. This tells you that to be a competitive applicant at these elite schools, you need to aim for the higher end of the ACT score spectrum.

However, a good ACT score can vary a lot depending on the school. For example, for some of the best public universities like UCLA and UC Berkeley, a good ACT score might be a bit lower, ranging from 28 to 34. Still, these scores are above the national average, showing that you’re performing better than many of your peers.

a student is studying while using his laptop

As you look down the lists, you’ll see that the ACT score ranges broaden a bit. Some really good schools have lower ranges, like the University of Florida and the University of California–Santa Barbara, where a good score could be anywhere from 26 to 33. This means that while it’s still important to score well, you don’t necessarily need to be at the very top to get into a good school.

In the end, a good ACT score is one that aligns with the ranges of the schools you’re excited about. Each selective college has its own score range that they consider good. It’s important to research the average ACT scores of admitted students at the colleges you’re interested in. This will give you a target score to aim for.

Scholarship Opportunities

ACT scores can also play a big role in scholarship opportunities. Many scholarships use ACT scores as part of their criteria for eligibility. A higher ACT score can increase not only your chances of getting a scholarship but also the amount of money you might be awarded.

For instance, some state-based scholarships have specific ACT score requirements. Meeting or exceeding these scores can qualify you for scholarships that cover a significant portion of your college tuition. Private scholarships also often have score criteria, and a higher score can make you more competitive.

A ‘good’ ACT score is relative and depends on your personal goals, whether it’s getting into a specific college, qualifying for a scholarship, or just exceeding the national average. Understanding what scores you need to achieve your goals, preparing diligently, and maintaining a positive mindset is key to succeeding on the ACT. With the right approach and preparation, you can achieve a score that not only meets but exceeds your expectations.

Factors Influencing a Good ACT Score

When it comes to the ACT, what counts as a ‘good’ score can change based on several factors. It’s not just about getting the highest score possible; it’s about what that score means for you, your college plans, and your future goals. Understanding how these factors play a role can help you set a realistic and personalized target for the ACT.

College and Major Preferences

Firstly, the colleges and majors you’re interested in can greatly influence what is considered a good ACT score for you. Different colleges have different score requirements, and these can vary even more when it comes to specific programs or majors. For instance, if you’re aiming for a top-tier university, they might expect scores in the higher range, say 28 to 36. On the other hand, a local state college might have a lower requirement.


Also, certain majors or programs can have their own score expectations. For example, engineering or science programs might require higher Math and Science scores. This means that what’s a good score for someone aiming for a literature program might not be the same for someone targeting an engineering program. It’s essential to research the average ACT scores of admitted students in the colleges and specific programs you’re interested in.

State Averages

Your location can also impact what’s considered a good ACT score. Different states have different average ACT scores. For example, students in some states might average around 20, while in others, the average could be closer to 24. Knowing your state’s average can give you a baseline to compare your score against.

However, it’s important to remember that college admissions officers are aware of these state differences. So, if you’re from a state with a lower average score, don’t feel discouraged. Colleges consider this context when looking at your scores. The key is to aim for a score that’s good relative to your state’s average but also aligns with the requirements of the colleges you’re applying to.

Personal Goals

Perhaps the most crucial factor is your own personal academic and career goals. Your ACT score should align with what you want to achieve. For some students, a ‘good’ score might be one that just gets them into a decent college. For others, it might mean a score high enough to get into a highly competitive program or to secure a scholarship.

Below is an understanding of ACT scores and where they stand in terms of performance.

35-36 Excellent
33-34 Good
30-32 Average
29-Below Weak

If you get a score between 35 and 36, that’s excellent. It means you’re at the top of the game, acing nearly every part of the ACT. A score in this range is much higher than what most people get.

Now, a score between 33 and 34 is also strong. It’s considered a good ACT score and shows colleges that you’ve got a solid handle on the material. When you’re getting scores like this, you’re doing better than a lot of other test-takers.

Scores from 30 to 32 are in the average range. This means you’re right in the middle of the pack. While it’s not as high as those good ACT scores in the 33 to 34 range, it’s still a respectable score and one that can get you into many universities.

If you score 29 or below, that’s seen as a bit weak. It suggests there are areas you could improve on to boost your score. A score in this range is below average, so if you’re aiming for more competitive schools, you might want to retake the ACT to try and get that score up.

Ultimately, your target score should be based on what you need to achieve your goals. This means understanding the requirements of your dream schools and programs and setting a score target that meets or exceeds these requirements. Also, consider your own academic strengths and weaknesses. For instance, if you’re stronger in English than Math, you might set a higher target score for the English section.

student works on her laptop in a university classroom

A good ACT score isn’t a one-size-fits-all number. It varies based on the colleges and majors you’re interested in, the average scores in your state, and, most importantly, your own personal and academic goals. By considering these factors, you can set a target ACT score that’s not only realistic but also aligned with your future aspirations. This approach ensures that you’re working towards a score that opens doors for you, in line with the path you want to take after high school.

Preparing for the ACT

Getting ready for the ACT is a key part of getting into college. It’s about making a plan, figuring out the best ways to study, and staying positive and focused. Here’s a straightforward guide to help you prepare:

Create a Study Plan That Works

Start preparing for the ACT well before the test date. This way, you have plenty of time to go over all the material without having to cram. Determine which parts of the ACT are easy for you and which are tougher. Spend extra time on the tough stuff to get better at it.

  • Start Early: Begin your preparation months before the test date. This gives you enough time to cover all topics and not rush through them.
  • Assess Your Strengths and Weaknesses: Identify which ACT sections you’re strong in and which ones need more work. Focus more on improving your weaker areas.
  • Set a Schedule: Make a study schedule that fits with your daily routine. Be consistent with your study times, and make sure to include breaks.
  • Use the Right Materials: Use good quality ACT prep books, online resources, and practice tests. Your school might also have resources you can use.
  • Set Realistic Goals: Set achievable goals for each study session. It could be understanding a math concept or improving reading speed.
  • Review Regularly: Regularly review what you’ve learned. This helps reinforce your knowledge and keeps the information fresh in your mind.

The ACT isn’t just testing what you know, it’s also about how well you can take a test. So, practice like you’re on the real test, stay focused, and don’t get discouraged.

Test Taking Strategies

Moreover, doing well on the ACT isn’t just about knowing the material—it’s also about having the right strategies for taking the test. Here’s how to tackle each section effectively.

  • English: Get the hang of standard English grammar rules. Practice spotting mistakes in sentences. Learn to read quickly and answer questions about passages without losing time.
  • Math: Familiarize yourself with the types of math questions on the ACT. Practice solving problems without a calculator, as you’ll need to do this in the test.
  • Reading: Work on reading faster and understanding what you read. Try to get better at figuring out what the main points and big ideas are in the passages you read.
  • Science: Get comfortable with charts and graphs. You don’t need to know every scientific fact, but you should be able to make sense of scientific data and what experiments show.
  • Writing (Optional): If you choose to do the writing part, write practice essays. Make sure your points are clear and that you support them with solid examples.

Across all sections, time management is crucial. Practice answering questions within a set time to get a feel for the pace you’ll need in the real test. This will help you stay calm and focused when it’s time to take the ACT for real.

The Importance of Practice Tests

Taking practice tests is one of the most important things you can do to get ready for the ACT. These tests are more than just a warm-up; they’re an essential part of making sure you’re ready for the big day.

When you take a practice test, you’re doing more than just reviewing material. You’re getting used to the way the ACT is set up, from the kind of questions you’ll be asked to the layout of the test itself. This means that when you actually sit down to take the ACT, you won’t be thrown off by how it looks or works; you’ll feel like you’ve been there before.

Practice tests also act like a spotlight on the parts of the test where you’re not as strong. Maybe fractions throw you off, or maybe you get stuck on grammar rules. When you know where you’re struggling, you can zero in on those topics and hammer away at them until they’re no longer a problem.

Another big benefit of practice tests is learning how to manage your time. The ACT is timed, and it’s crucial to know how to split up those precious minutes so you’re not rushing through the last few questions or, worse, leaving them unanswered. With practice tests, you’ll get better at figuring out how much time to spend on each question and when to move on.

And let’s not forget confidence. The more practice tests you take, the more you’ll feel like you’ve got this. Each test is a chance to see how much you’ve improved and to get comfortable with the pressure of a timed exam. This can be a huge boost when you’re actually in the exam room.

So, use practice tests as a way to track your improvement. After you finish each one, take a close look at what you missed and why. This way, you’ll turn mistakes into learning opportunities and get a clear idea of how much progress you’re making. Keep at it, and by the time the ACT rolls around, you’ll be ready to take it on with confidence.

Managing Test Anxiety

Feeling nervous about the ACT is pretty normal, but don’t worry; there are ways to keep those jitters in check.

First off, being well-prepared is a huge help. The more you know your stuff, the less scary the test will seem. Make sure you’re sticking to your study schedule and really understanding the material. Learn some relaxation tricks. Deep breathing or meditation can be great for keeping you calm. Try them out while you study and use them on test day if you start to feel tense.

Student feeling emotional reading a letter

Keeping yourself healthy is also key. Eating right, staying active, and getting plenty of sleep will help your brain handle stress a lot better. It’s also important to keep your thoughts positive. You’ve been prepping for this, so remind yourself that you’re ready and capable of acing the test.

Get all the details about test day sorted out in advance. Know the rules of the test center, what you need to bring, and how you’re going to get there. When you’ve got all that down, you won’t be stressed about the little things. And remember, it’s okay to take a moment during the test to just breathe and get your focus back if you need it.

Feeling some nerves is part of the deal, but they don’t have to take over. With the right prep, a few stress-busting techniques, and a calm approach, you can take on the ACT and show it who’s boss.

Improving Your ACT Score

Improving your ACT score is a process that requires dedication, smart strategies, and, sometimes, a bit of help. Whether you’re taking the test for the first time or looking to boost your score on a retake, understanding how to identify and work on your weaknesses, managing your time effectively, and seeking the right kind of help can make a big difference.

Identifying Weaknesses

Knowing where you need improvement is the first step to boosting your ACT score. Here’s how you can pinpoint your weak areas:

  1. Analyze Practice Tests: After each practice test, review your answers. Pay attention to the questions you got wrong or guessed on. Are they from a particular section or topic? This can show you where to focus your study efforts.
  2. Look for Patterns: Over time, you might start to see patterns in the types of questions you miss. Maybe it’s geometry questions in the Math section or questions about main ideas in the Reading section.
  3. Ask for Feedback: Sometimes, it’s hard to see your own weaknesses. Teachers or tutors can provide valuable feedback on where you might need improvement.
  4. Reflect on Your Study Habits: Are you studying in a way that works for you? Maybe you need more visual aids, like charts or diagrams, or maybe you learn better by doing lots of practice questions.

Once you’ve identified your weak areas, focus your study time on improving these. Use targeted practice, like specific math problems or reading exercises, to build your skills in these areas.

Time Management

Managing your time in preparation and during the test is crucial for improving your ACT score.

During Preparation:

  • Create a Study Schedule: Set aside specific times each week for ACT study. This helps ensure you’re dedicating enough time to your preparation.
  • Balance Study Time: Divide your study time between different subjects. Give more time to your weaker areas but don’t neglect your stronger ones.
  • Take Timed Practice Tests: This helps you get used to the pace you need to maintain in the actual test.

On Test Day:

  • Know the Test Format: Understanding how much time you have for each section helps you pace yourself.
  • Practice Section Timing: During your preparation, practice each section with the same time limit as the actual test. This gets you used to the time constraints.
  • Use Your Time Wisely: Don’t spend too long on one question. If you’re stuck, move on and come back to it if you have time.

Seeking Help

More importantly, getting help is a smart strategy when preparing for the ACT. Here’s when and how to seek it:

  1. When to Seek Help: If you’re consistently struggling with certain topics or your practice test scores aren’t improving, it might be time to seek help.
  2. Teachers: Your high school teachers can be a great resource. They can clarify concepts you’re struggling with and offer advice on how to study for the ACT.
  3. Tutors: A tutor, especially one who specializes in the ACT, can provide personalized guidance and strategies to help improve your score. They can work with you one-on-one to focus on your specific needs.
  4. Online Resources: There are numerous online resources available for ACT prep. These can range from practice questions and tests to instructional videos and study guides. Some are free, while others are paid services.
  5. Study Groups: Joining a study group can also be beneficial. Discussing problems with peers and teaching each other can enhance your understanding of different topics.
  6. Prep Courses: Consider enrolling in an ACT prep course if you need more structured help. Various organizations offer these courses and provide comprehensive instruction and practice for the test.

Improving your ACT score is about working smarter, not just harder. By identifying your weaknesses, managing your time effectively, and seeking help when needed, you can make significant improvements in your performance. This approach not only prepares you for the ACT but also teaches you valuable skills that can benefit you in college and beyond.

Understanding College Admission Beyond ACT Scores

When you’re applying to college, it’s easy to think that your ACT score is the only thing that matters. But the truth is, colleges look at a lot more than just test scores. They use a holistic admission process, which means they consider your whole story – who you are, what you’ve done, and what you bring to their community. Let’s dive into how this process works and what else, besides ACT scores, plays a crucial role in college admissions.

The Holistic Admission Process

Colleges want to build a diverse and dynamic student body. So, when they look at your application, they’re trying to see the full picture of who you are. Yes, your ACT scores are part of this picture because they show your academic readiness. But colleges also want to know about your personality, your interests, and your potential.

letters of recomendation

Think of your application as a puzzle. Your ACT score is just one piece of that puzzle. The other pieces include your GPA, your extracurricular activities, your essays, and your letters of recommendation. All these elements come together to give colleges a sense of who you are as a student and as a person.

GPA and Extracurricular Activities

Your GPA is a big deal because it shows how you perform academically over time, not just on one test. Colleges look at your grades to see if you’re consistent in your studies and how well you do in challenging courses. They also consider the difficulty of your coursework – things like honors, AP, or IB classes can really stand out.

Extracurricular activities tell colleges about your interests and how you spend your time outside of class. These can be sports, clubs, volunteering, part-time jobs, or any other activities that you’re passionate about. Colleges aren’t just looking for a long list of activities. They’re more interested in seeing commitment and leadership. They want to see how you’ve grown through these experiences and what skills you’ve developed.

Essays and Recommendations

Your essays are your chance to speak directly to the admissions committee. They let you tell your story in your own words. This is where you can explain what makes you unique, share your goals, and show your personality. Good essays can really make an application stand out, especially if they’re well-written and heartfelt.

Recommendations, usually from teachers or counselors, give colleges another perspective on you. They provide insights into your character, work ethic, and how you interact with others. These letters can highlight your strengths and give colleges a sense of how you contribute to your school community.

Balancing ACT Prep with Other Responsibilities

Preparing for the ACT is important, but it’s just one part of your life. It’s crucial to balance your test prep with your schoolwork, activities, and personal life. Here are some tips for maintaining this balance:

  1. Plan Your Time Wisely: Create a schedule that includes time for studying, extracurricular activities, and ACT prep. Be realistic about how much time you can commit to each.
  2. Don’t Overwhelm Yourself: It’s better to be genuinely involved in a few activities than to stretch yourself thin with too many. Choose activities that truly interest you and align with your goals.
  3. Stay Organized: Keep track of deadlines for college applications, ACT tests, and other commitments. Use a planner or digital calendar to stay on top of your responsibilities.
  4. Prioritize Your Health: Ensure you get enough sleep, eat well, and take breaks. Staying healthy is key to performing well in all areas.
  5. Seek Support: Don’t hesitate to ask for help from teachers, family, or friends. They can offer support, advice, or even just a listening ear when things get stressful.
  6. Reflect on Your Goals: Regularly remind yourself of your goals and why you’re working hard. This can help keep you motivated and focused.

In summary, while ACT scores are a significant part of your college application, they’re not the only thing that matters. Colleges look at your application from all angles, considering your academic record, extracurricular activities, essays, and recommendations.

mentor explaining new online project to newly graduate students

Balancing all these aspects can be tough, but with careful planning and a focus on what truly matters to you, you can create an application that not only meets the criteria but also truly represents who you are. Remember, the goal is to show colleges your best self in all aspects, not just your test-taking abilities.

FAQ Section: Common Questions About the ACT

Dealing with the ACT can make you scratch your head with all sorts of questions. It’s okay to feel a bit lost or stressed out by it. In this part, we’re going to sort out some of the usual questions that pop up about the ACT. We’ll straighten out any wrong ideas you might have and give you some solid advice on things like whether to take the ACT again and how to stay in the loop with any new changes to the test.

We’re here to clear the air and get to the bottom of your ACT questions.

Q: What is the ACT, and why is it important?

A: The ACT is a standardized test that measures your skills in English, Math, Reading, and Science, with an optional Writing section. Colleges use it to see how ready you are for college-level work. Your score can affect your college admissions and scholarship opportunities.

Q: How is the ACT scored?

A: Each of the four main sections (English, Math, Reading, Science) is scored on a scale of 1 to 36. Your composite score is the average of these four scores. If you take the Writing section, you get a separate score for it.

Q: When should I take the ACT?

A: Most students take the ACT in their junior year of high school. This gives you time to retake the test if you want to improve your score before you apply to colleges in your senior year.

Q: How can I prepare for the ACT?

A: Start by getting familiar with the test format and types of questions. Use ACT prep books, online resources, and practice tests. Develop a study schedule, focusing on your weaker areas, and consider joining a study group or getting a tutor if needed.

Q: Can I retake the ACT?

A: Yes, you can retake the ACT if you want to try for a higher score. Many students do this. Just remember to plan your retakes so you have your best score ready when it’s time to apply to colleges.

Q: How important are ACT scores in college admissions?

A: ACT scores are important, but they’re just one part of your application. Colleges also look at your grades, courses, essays, extracurricular activities, and recommendations. They use all this information to get a full picture of who you are.

Q: What’s a good ACT score?

A: A ‘good’ ACT score depends on the colleges you’re applying to and your own goals. Look at the average scores for the colleges you’re interested in and aim for a score in that range or higher.

Q: Do colleges prefer the ACT or SAT?

A: Most colleges accept both the ACT and SAT and don’t prefer one over the other. Check the requirements of the colleges you’re interested in to be sure.

Q: Should I take the Writing section?

A: Take the Writing section if any of the colleges you’re interested in require or recommend it. Even if they don’t, a strong essay can showcase your writing skills.

Q: How do I register for the ACT?

A: You can register for the ACT online on the ACT website. You’ll need to create an account, choose a test date, and select a test center. Make sure to register before the deadline for your chosen test date.

Q: Can I use a calculator on the ACT Math section?

A: Yes, you can use a calculator on the Math section, but there are rules about what types you can use. Check the ACT website for the list of approved calculators.

Q: How long is the ACT?

A: The ACT without the Writing section takes about 3 hours. If you take the Writing section, it’s about 3 hours and 40 minutes.

Q: What if I need extra time or accommodations for the ACT?

A: If you have a disability, you can apply for special testing accommodations, like extra time. You’ll need to provide documentation and get approval from ACT.

Q: How long does it take to get ACT scores back?

A: Typically, it takes about two to eight weeks after the test date to get your ACT scores.

Q: What should I do on the day of the ACT?

A: On test day, make sure to bring your admission ticket, a valid photo ID, an approved calculator, and number 2 pencils. Also, get a good night’s sleep before and eat a healthy breakfast.

Q: Is the ACT hard?

A: The ACT can be challenging, but with the right preparation, many students do well. It’s all about understanding the test format and practicing.

Remember, doing well on the ACT is about understanding the test, preparing effectively, and staying calm and focused. With the right approach, you can achieve a score that reflects your hard work and potential.

Final Thoughts

A ‘good’ ACT score varies depending on the colleges you’re aiming for and your personal goals. National averages give you a baseline, but selective colleges and scholarship opportunities often look for higher scores. Identifying your weak areas, managing your time effectively, and seeking help when needed are essential strategies for improving your ACT score. But it’s not all about the test – colleges look at your entire profile, including GPA, extracurricular activities, essays, and recommendations.

Preparing for the ACT might seem overwhelming, but it’s totally doable with the right approach. You’ve got the potential to excel, and putting in the effort now can open up great opportunities for your future. Don’t forget, this is just one step in your journey to college and beyond. Stay focused, stay motivated, and believe in yourself.

SAT and ACT books

If you haven’t started your ACT preparation yet, now’s the time to get going. If you’re already on it, keep up the good work and consider stepping up your strategies. Seek guidance from teachers, tutors, or online resources if you need it. Remember, every bit of effort you put in now is an investment in your future. So, take a deep breath, gear up, and dive into your ACT prep with confidence and determination. You can do this!

If you’re set on getting into a world-class college but aren’t sure how to make it happen, we can help! AdmissionSight is a leading college entrance expert with over a decade of experience helping students just like you get into the schools of their dreams.

At AdmissionSight, we focus on offering a wide range of services, including helping you become familiar with standardized tests, all aimed at helping you perfect your applications to catch the attention of admissions officers. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation and learn more about what we offer.



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