Are you wondering what ACT score you need to get into your dream school? You’ve come to the right place. In the 202-2021 school year, 35% of all high school graduates took the ACT. Since then, has published the average test scores by state and nationally. You can read the whole report here.

When attempting to determine what ACT scores you will need, it can help to look at the national averages and the breakdown by percentiles to help paint a better picture of where you stand compared to your peers who took the same test in the same year.

So What Are Average Act Scores?

Nationally, the average composite score (the score that would put you in the 50th percentile of all test-takers, was between 19 and 21 depending on the subject. The scores below were reported by for the 2020-2021 school year.

2020 – 2021 ACT Score 50th Percentile (

Percentile English Math Reading Science Composite
50% 19 18-19 20 20 20-21


While these scores may not be high enough to be accepted by a top university, they mark the average student who may be admitted into a less competitive state university.

What Are Good Act Scores?

Beyond that, a composite score of 24 was enough to put you into the 75th percentile.

2020 – 2021 ACT Score 75th Percentile (

Percentile English Math Reading Science Composite
75% 24 24-25 25-26 23-24 24


Act Scores for Private and Top Universities

When it comes to the college admissions process for top and private universities, the requirements will be more competitive all around. If you are applying to a competitive program, you will need to reach for the top 10th percentile of scores. Fortunately, that does not necessarily mean that you need a perfect score of 36 to reach the top 10 percent of all ACT-takers. In 2021, a score of 29+ would have been enough to place you in that top category.

2020 – 2021 ACT Score 90th Percentiles (

Percentile English Math Reading Science Composite
90% 31 28 32 28 29


How to Determine What ACT Score You Should Aim For

It is important to understand that different schools will have different minimum ACT score requirements which means that your target score will change depending on which schools you are applying to. For example, an average ACT score may be enough for your safety schools, but not for your reach school.

What Can You Do if Your Act Score Is Too Low?

If after you take the ACT you feel that your score is not where you’d like it to be, it’s possible to retake the test up to 12 times without negatively impacting your application. In fact, it’s common for students to take the ACT 2-3 times before submitting their scores which can help improve their scores.

Additionally, it can be beneficial to take a few ACT practice tests to help you become more comfortable with the length of the questions and sections as well as the time constraints of the ACT. You can sign up for one-off practice tests or sign up for a complete ACT workshop for a multi-day test experience.

Cultivate. offers ACT testing, tutoring, and workshops to help students prepare for the ACT exam. For a list of ACT testing dates and deadlines, please view our College Application Timeline.