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What Is a Good ACT Score for Top Universities in 2024?

30/06/202430 minute read
What Is a Good ACT Score for Top Universities in 2024?

Earning a good score on your ACT test can provide a crucial boost for your college applications. With that in mind, students often wonder what is a good ACT score? In this post we’ll help you gauge if you have a good ACT score, nationally or based on individual schools you’re applying to. Knowing what a good ACT score is will help you determine which schools to apply for, how some of your core academics measure up to expectations, or even when to withhold test scores if submitting them is optional. We’ll also equip you with expert tips and insights for how to prepare for and improve your own ACT scores!

While many top colleges and universities adopted test-optional policies in recent years, many schools’ testing policies are in flux, with Harvard, Yale, Brown, Dartmouth, Stanford, and the University of Texas, among others, reinstating testing requirements this past year.

See our list of the 100 top US colleges and universities that require SAT/ACT scores.

Even when students apply to a test-optional school, we typically recommend submitting scores as the best strategy.

These factors make it important to know  what constitutes a good ACT score for college admissions. Understanding score values in the context of national percentile rankings and in relation to the caliber of applicants to selective universities can provide valuable insights:

  • to guide what ACT score to aim for and how to prepare for the test
  • to make more informed decisions about your best potential target and reach schools
  • to assess the overall merits of the academic components of your applications (test scores, GPA, course rigor)
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What Is a Good Overall ACT Score?

Typically, a good ACT score is one that is in the top 25% of all the scores submitted by other applicants to the same school who also took the ACT.

Put another way, a good score is in or above the 75th percentile, which means scoring as high as or higher than 75%.

The higher your percentile rank, the better it looks on college applications.

By comparison, if you score in the 25th percentile, that means you scored as low as or lower than 75% of other students.

Remember, percentile rankings are relative — referring not to your specific test score but to how your test score compares and ranks alongside the scores of other test takers — be it nationally across all test takers, or relative to a designated group of test takers, such as those applying to a specific school.

If a score ranks in the 75th percentile, it’s a good score by most standards because it is among the top 25% — or better than the scores earned by 74% of all of the competing test takers.

If your score gets you into the 90th percentile (top 10% of scores), that’s an even stronger score, closer to the top of the score range among other test takers or applicants.

A “Good” ACT Score is 75th Percentile (or Higher)
Excellent ACT Score90th percentileYou scored in the top 10% or as well as or better than 90% of of other test takers= Overall ACT Score of 28 or higher
Good ACT Score75th percentileYou scored in the top 25% or as well as or better than 75% of other test takers= Overall ACT Score of 24 or higher
Low-Ranking ACT Score25th percentileYou scored in the bottom 25% or as low as or lower than 75% of other test takers= Overall ACT score of 14 or lower

What’s a Good Overall ACT Score Nationally?

Remember, to know what score puts you in the 75th percentile (top 25%), it depends on a comparison or averaging across ACT scores submitted by the other student scores you're comparing your score to.

One way to look at this is determining how your ACT score stacks up nationally.

When you receive your scores, you’ll also be given a corresponding percentile rank — a number between 1 and 99.

How an ACT score report looks

If you earned a percentile rank of 59%, that means 59% of of recent high school graduates who took the ACT earned an equal or lower score than yours, and only 41% earned a score higher than yours.

To know what percentiles correspond to what scores or to figure out what percentile your score puts you in, you can refer to ACT’s table of national ACT score rankings to find the answer.

Using the National ACT Score Rankings

As you read across the score ranking table, from left to right, you’ll see what percentile (nationally) corresponds to any score you earned or are targeting, with columns for composite (overall) scores and other columns for subject matter scores.

  • Let’s say you want to know what overall score you'd need to rank 75% or higher nationally. On the table you'll see that a composite score of 24 corresponds to a national rank of 78th percentile; a composite score of 23 corresponds to the 74th percentile rank.
  • If you want to know what score to target to rank in the 90th percentile nationally (the top 10%), find "90" in the Composite column on the table and you'll see that you'd need a composite score of 28 to be in the 90th percentile.
  • As a general guide, ACT defines "above average scores" as scores of 25 and above, with a score of 24 (78th percentile) designated only as at the top of the "average" range.

Using the same ACT table, you can also find correspondences between subject area scores and your national percentile rank for that subject area.

For example, the Act table indicates you'll need a Reading score of 25 or higher to rank in the 75th percentile in this subject area.

Remember, if your composite score is in the 75th percentile, your overall ACT score was in the top 25% of all the scores earned that year nationally — not bad!

National Rank vs. Your Rank at Top Colleges and Universities

It’s important to remember that a “good” score nationally is not the same as a good score for college admissions to top universities.

“An average score, ranging from 17-24, suggests that you are performing at an expected level. This is a solid range to be in, showcasing your competency in the subject matter. However, if you have dreams of attending highly competitive schools, aiming for a score above this range would be beneficial.”


To evaluate your ACT score when applying to more selective schools, such as the Ivies or other top 20 US colleges and universities, including Stanford, MIT, the University of Chicago, Duke, Rice, or any other similarly high-ranked institutions, you need to remember that the average overall scores of applicants to top schools will be much higher than the national averages!

Why You Should Aim for the 90th Percentile or Higher Nationally

As a general guideline, an overall ACT score in the top 90th or 95th percentile nationally, a score of 28 or higher, is required to rank closer to the 75th percentile among a pool of applicants at virtually any highly selective US university. This is why you want to aim high when you're using the national rankings and corresponding ACT scores as your gauge!

What Is a Good ACT Score for Top Universities?

For many highly competitive schools, even an overall ACT score of 28 is probably not good enough to be competitive. So, how do you know what’s a good ACT score at a specific school, especially if it's highly competitive in terms of admissions?

The answer depends on how other applicants to the same school score on their ACT tests, so generally you have to look up that information to see how high a score you need to have a good score.

If your ACT scores are in the 75th percentile of ACT scores submitted by all of the competing applicants to the same school, then your score can be considered a “good” ACT score for that school.

By contrast, a score that is within the average range or low range (below 75th percentile) compared to other applicants to the same school is unlikely to stand out in terms of making a positive impression.

To be as competitive as possible, you’ll want to aim for getting and submitting ACT scores in the 75th percentile among other applicants to the same schools, especially since your ACT test score is an important indicator of academic readiness, alongside GPA and course rigor.

What Are Good Overall ACT Scores for Specific Schools?

To help you gauge what constitutes a “good” ACT score for different universities, let's analyze the average ACT scores of admitted students at the top 25 US universities from our Crimson Education ranking list.

Use these ACT score ranges, by school, as a benchmark to evaluate your own performance compared to admitted applicants and to determine how competitive you are when applying the same schools or a similarly ranked school.

Remember, for any specific school, such as one not listed below, a quick online search should allow you to quickly find information about overall ACT score ranges of first-year applicants.

ACT Scores of Admitted Students at Top Universities
University of Pennsylvania3534
Brown University3634
Northwestern University3533
University of Chicago3534
University of California, Berkeleyn/an/a
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor3431
University of Notre Dame3532
University of Southern California3532
University of California, Los Angelesn/an/a
Johns Hopkins3534
University of Texas, Austin3326
Rice University3534
University of Virginia3432
Washington University, at St. Louis3533
Georgetown University3432
Average of all ACT scores for these top 25 universities34.933.0

Based on most recent Common Data Set reporting or similar reporting or estimates, as available.

Students admitted to top universities have an ACT score of between 32 and 36 overall. Based on this data, a good SAT score when applying to top universities is 32 or above.

While achieving an ACT Composite Score of 32 or above can strengthen your application depending on the university, keep in mind that anything below 32 is on the lower end of admitted students' range at top-ranked schools. Most top universities will require an overall ACT score closer to 34.

Learn which universities are test optional, and which universities require SAT/ACT scores.

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What Is a Good ACT Score for the Ivy League?

Now, let's look at what makes a good ACT score when it comes to the Ivy League.

The Ivy League universities are known for their rigorous academic standards and selective admissions processes, so achieving a score that impresses Ivy League admissions officers is no small feat and likely to make your score impressive at any college you apply to.

Ivy League ACT Scores
Brown University3634
Average of all ACT scores for these top 25 universities35.2533.75

Based on most recent Common Data Set reporting or similar reporting or estimates, as available.

Based on this data, a good ACT score to apply to an Ivy League school is typically between 33 and 36.

Achieving an ACT score at or above 35 would generally put you in or near the 75th percentile when applying to an Ivy League institution, helping to boost your overall academic ranking among other applicants.

​​Achieving a score at or above this threshold demonstrates strong academic ability and can significantly increase your chances of admission.

After comparing your ACT score to these Ivy League averages, and if your ACT score is low, retaking the exam is probably worth it — especially because Ivy League schools are reinstating ACT/SAT score report requirements in the application process. This is an important reminder that withholding your ACT score may not be an option (or may not be for long), depending on the specific Ivy.

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Is My ACT Score Good?

Now you have all the information you need to determine if your ACT score is good.

  • On a national scale, use your actual ACT composite score to find your percentile ranking using the ACT national scores table. Based on recent ACT score data, an ACT composite score of 24 is required to rank in the 75th percentile nationally.
  • For the top 25 US colleges and universities, you’ll have a good ACT score if it’s at least 32 or higher.
  • For Ivy League schools, a good ACT score is between 32 or 33; but you’ll be better off aiming for an ACT score of 34 or higher in such a competitive admissions landscape.
  • For any individual college or university, the best way to determine if your individual ACT score is good is by researching your target school’s entry requirements or the average ACT score of admitted students for that school to find points of comparison for how your score measures up.
  • For all situations, you can always reach out to a college counselor at your high school or to a Crimson Education counselor for feedback on your ACT score, about whether to retake the ACT, or for making decisions about when to submit your score if it's not mandatory.

How Are ACT Scores Calculated?

The ACT test is segmented into four subject-area exams (each multiple choice):

  • English
  • Mathematics
  • Reading
  • Science

The overall score (your Composite Score) is calculated according to the following three steps:

  1. Raw Score Calculations: A count of the number of questions you answered correctly on each subject area test, with no penalty for wrong answers or guessing.
  2. Scaled Scores: Raw scores for each section are converted to a corresponding “scale score” across a range, from a low of 1 to a high of 36. According to the ACT, “Scale scores have the same meaning for all the different forms of the ACT Test, no matter which date a test was taken.”
  3. Composite Score: Your overall ACT score is the average of each of the four scale scores (one for each subject area), rounded to the nearest whole number.

When viewing an ACT Student Score Report, you’ll see additional score breakdowns by subject area strands or themes that help you identify how well you scored on specific skills or learning objectives within that subject area.


Superscoring is a practice allowed by many colleges and universities, but not all. If you make multiple attempts to improve your ACT scores, superscoring provides a way to report the highest scores you earned in different subject areas across multiple ACT test attempts (on different test dates).

By extension, superscoring can also boost your overall ACT score, by combining your highest section scores from different test dates.

For example, let's say you took the ACT twice. On your first attempt, you scored 33 in English, 26 in Math, 24 in Science, and 32 in Reading. On your second attempt, you succeeded in raising your score in Math to 30, but unexpectedly you got a lower score in Reading.

Superscoring allows you to report the better of the two Math scores (the 30 earned on the second attempt, instead of 24), and retain the first Reading score, since it was better than the score you got on the second attempt. These two higher subject scores will also be the ones used to (re)calculate your composite score!

Superscoring your ACT test report is a prime opportunity to showcase your best performances in each section across multiple test dates, potentially improving your overall ACT score and increasing your chances of admission to your dream college — an option you certainly want to take advantage whenever a school allows it.

“To find your superscore, gather all of your ACT score reports, identify your highest score from each test section/subject, then add those four scores together, divide by four, and round to the nearest whole number or use our free tool.”


How to Improve Your ACT Score

1. Retake the Exam

One of the most straightforward solutions to a low ACT score is to retake the exam. Many students find that their scores improve on a second or even third attempt.

The first time you take the ACT, it’s often a learning experience. You get a sense of the test format, the types of questions asked, and the pacing required. Armed with this knowledge, you can better prepare for subsequent attempts.

Another advantage of retaking the ACT is the opportunity to benefit from superscoring, which can be a huge benefit.

2. Hire tutors

Collaborating with expert tutors can significantly enhance your ACT preparation experience. Here’s how:

  • Expert tutors bring specialized knowledge and experience to tailor your ACT preparation plan according to your strengths, weaknesses, and learning style. They assess your initial skills through diagnostic tests and customize a study schedule that targets your specific areas of improvement.
  • Tutors offer insights into effective test-taking strategies that are crucial for optimizing your ACT performance. They teach you how to approach different question types, manage time effectively during each section, and reduce test anxiety through strategic preparation techniques.

Keep in mind that some of the best admissions experts and subject matter teachers in the world provide world-class ACT/SAT tutoring. Book a free consultation to find out how easy it is to work with our expert tutors and achieve a score beyond your expectations!

3. Consider the SATs

That's right... Consider switching from the ACT to the SAT. If the ACT isn’t yielding the results you hoped for, it might be worth considering. While both tests are widely accepted by colleges, the two tests have slightly different formats and may play to different strengths.

For example, the ACT has a component devoted to Science, but the SAT does not, typically weaving science-like analysis into other sections of the exam. If you’re not a science whiz but you do have strong analytical reading skills, you might find the SAT to be a slightly better fit for your aptitudes.

Also while the ACT has more straightforward (less complex) questions, the ACT often allows less time per question.

As for Math, if you’re good at more complex word problems and like higher levels of abstraction, while less skilled in visual problem solving and geometry, the SAT math component might give you an edge compared to the ACT math component.

Read our in-depth comparison: SAT vs ACT.

4. Prepare for Your Next Attempt

If you’re retaking the test, you can maximize your chances by preparing thoroughly.

  • Start by familiarizing yourself with the test format and scoring.
  • Create a detailed study plan that targets your weaknesses and incorporates regular practice tests to simulate the actual exam environment.
  • Develop effective test-taking strategies, such as time management and process of elimination, to improve your efficiency.
  • Consider utilizing prep courses or tutoring for additional guidance and support.

Read our full guide on “How to Study for the ACT” for tips and strategies from our Crimson Education test mentoring experts that you can apply right away.

Crimson Insights: Your ACT Score and College Admissions

Q: What’s good advice for getting into an Ivy League School?

Many Ivy League schools have recently started reinstating testing requirements. But some remain test-optional. You’ll probably want to take the ACT, regardless. Why? Here’s what Crimson US Strategist Vincent Lim recommends:

Even before some of these schools reinstated their requirements, statistics showed that the majority of students who were admitted to many of the most selective schools did submit scores. Even when these schools were test-optional, submitting a high test score would seem to give a student an advantage. It makes sense because a high test score would give admissions officers more confidence in a student's academic readiness for the rigors of college coursework.

Also keep in mind that most Ivy League applicants score very high on the ACT, so you’ll want to establish a personalized study and test-prep plan, including tutoring if needed, that will help you score in the very highest percentiles nationally. Strong academics, while only part of the picture, are still an indispensable part of a strong Ivy League application, in addition to extracurriculars, essays, and interviews.

Q: How long should I study to get a really strong ACT score?

Looking for accelerated learning opportunities as early as 9th grade, or even middle school, is a great way to build a runway to ACT success. In terms of intensive academic review for the test, and test practice, it’s a good idea to leave yourself about 2 to 4 months of prep time, and commit a few hours each week.

Q: Are there ever times when it’s better not to submit my ACT score with my college application?

If your score is outside the range, deciding on the best course of action can be tricky. You may want to get input from your high school guidance counselor or reach out for feedback from a Crimson Education Strategist.

“For test-optional schools, keep in mind that ACT scores are a helpful data point for us to use, but if your score is outside of the range, it might be worth considering that including it might hurt more than it would help.”

- Steve Han, Crimson Education Advisor and Former Admissions Officer

Q: What are my next steps?

To start, take a short diagnostic practice test. Explore what ACT subject areas you most need to improve in. 

Decide on a test prep schedule, planning backwards after looking at potential test dates, and leaving time for a second and possibly third attempt, in case needed.

Identify the right level of test review and practice resources, such as additional online practice tests, ACT test prep books, or expert ACT tutoring.

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Final Thoughts

Your ACT score is one piece of your application that reflects core areas of academic readiness. Depending on your aptitudes for this kind of academic challenge, it might be one you want to invest some extra time and energy in, to get as good a score as possible.

Getting support is the best way, hands down, to get better results. Leverage our free online ACT practice tests, or find out how to connect with our tutoring services to sharpen your skills.

Already got your score in hand? Utilize our college admissions calculator to tailor your college list.

For more personalized guidance or problem solving, schedule time for a free feedback session with a Crimson Strategist. You might be surprised to discover the difference personalized insights can make!

Above all — and however you fare on the ACT — remember to embrace the journey with optimism and authenticity, with a focus on your unique interests and aspirations.

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