Average ACT Score for 2023: What Is It and How to Improve


As a high school student, you must have frequently heard people tell you that you need high ACT scores to be accepted into the college of your dreams. Higher test scores, in general, indicate that you might be suitable for ivy-league and other prestigious colleges, whereas lower scores can narrow your school options. But, which are high and low scores in this case? What should you compare your test score to? It can be confusing to try and find out whether your scores are good enough. Well, let’s break down the average ACT score you need for a strong application and help you find ways to improve them.

Do ACT Scores Actually Matter?

Your ACT scores, combined with the grade transcript, personal statement, list of activities, and recommendation letters, play a big role in increasing your chances of getting into college. Although in recent years, some colleges are going test-optional, the scores from the ACT still matter. This standardized test, like most others, is designed to measure your academic aptitude in some core academic areas and functions as a way for the admissions committee to compare you to the other applicants. Many schools also offer merit-based scholarships, for which you can qualify through your ACT scores. The higher the scores, the better your chances.

What Is the Average ACT Score?


The ACT consists of 215 questions divided into four sections:

  • English (75 questions)
  • Math (60 questions)
  • Reading (40 questions)
  • Science (40 questions)

Each correct answer earns you a point. Then, the raw score of all the correct answers is converted into a scale of 1 to 36 possible points for each section individually. The overall average ACT score equals the average of the four sections. So, the points gathered from the four sections are added, then divided by four and rounded to the nearest whole number.

But, what is the average ACT score of all test-takers? Well, based on the percentiles for students from the classes of 2018, 2019, and 2020, the average composite score is 20.7. So, if you score 21 or higher, then you are above the 50% of test-takers. Is that good enough or not for the college of your dreams? It depends.

What Is the Average ACT Score for Your Ideal College?

Usually, colleges publish data sets with information on the accepted students for each year, including their ACT scores, ranging from the 25th and 75th percentiles. So, to know the average ACT score for your ideal college, first check and see what the average is for their previously accepted students. Compare your score to theirs and see whether yours is acceptable or should you practice some more and retake the test.

To help you better understand how selective some popular schools are, we have gathered their average ACT scores. Ivy League schools, such as Harvard University, Princeton University, Yale University, Columbia University, Dartmouth College, and so on, accept students with a 32-36 point average from the ACT.

Other popular schools admit students with lower scores than that. Here are some examples:

  • Penn State University (25-30 points)
  • The University of California, Los Angeles (27-34 points)
  • The University of California, Berkeley (28-34 points)
  • University of Georgia (27-32 points)
  • Ohio State University (28-32 points)
  • Clemson University (27-32 points)
  • Texas A&M University (26-31 points)
  • New York University (29-32 points)

As for BAU, you’ll have to contact us in order to get information on the ACT scores of our students.

How to Improve Your ACT Score?

If you are looking to raise your average ACT score, make use of the tips we will talk about below. It is all about acknowledging your weaknesses and creating a study plan based on them.

Use Practice Tests

Taking practice tests is an excellent way to review your skills and knowledge. Through these tests, you can reflect back on your scores and identify the sections or areas where you are struggling.

Utilize ACT Prep Materials

There are many ACT prep books that you can use to learn new tips and tricks of how to approach each section and question type that you can benefit from. Utilize every material you have that can help you better prepare for the test. In addition, get acquainted with the tools you will use during the test, such as the calculator. Make sure you can work well with the functions it offers so that the process of working with it is quick and easy during the actual test.

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Practice Practice Practice


Although this seems like an obvious step, it is always worth mentioning. Surely, you know how important practice is. But, remember that it is even more crucial to keep practicing once you know what areas you need to focus more on. At this stage, you have identified your weaknesses. Now, the only way you will strengthen these weaknesses is through practice.


You should always find a balance between the work you put into something and taking care of yourself. If you do not rest every now and then, enjoy leisure activities between practice tests, and give your brain some time to rest, you will experience burnout, and all your hard work can go down the drain.

Guessing is better than leaving blanks

This one mostly applies to the situation when you’re sitting for the test. Did you know that there is no penalty for incorrect questions on the ACT? So, even if you are unsure of an answer, it is better to guess than to leave it blank.

Where Do You Stand?

Now that you know more about what other test-takers get on their ACT, as well as what some colleges require, then you can see where you stand and determine what your next step should be. Are your scores satisfactory, or should you retake the test? It is up to you and the colleges you have chosen to apply to.


Each college has different score expectations. This is why the notion of a good ACT score is relative and depends on the college you plan to apply to. Remember that test scores are part of a bigger puzzle. Colleges rarely have cutoff ACT scores, so they are always evaluated with the student’s GPA and other achievements. You are more than a test score!

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