Which state will come out on top?
Have you recently gotten your ACT score? Wondering about how it compares to others in your state? Or are you curious as to how your state’s average ACT score stacks up in comparison to the rest of the country?
We’ve compiled the average ACT scores by state, as well as the average in each subject area, using the latest data from the test makers. Read on to learn how your state – and your score – compares to the rest of the country.
The National Average ACT Score
More students than ever nationwide took the ACT last year – over two million, or 2.09 million to be precise. Out of all of those tests, the national average scores came out as follows in 2016:
(Remember that each ACT section, and the overall composite score, are scored between 1 and 36. For more on ACT scoring, check out our guide.)
This means that if you get a composite of 21 or higher, you will beat out half of the other high school students in the country. But what about in your state? Read on to learn how well you have to do to be above average in your home state.
ACT Hall of Fame
Before we list all of the state averages, we thought it would be fun to highlight the highs and lows of the U.S.’s ACT performance. See if your state made the cut below!
Highest ACT State Score: Massachusetts
Massachusetts narrowly achieved the highest score in the country, with an average composite of 24.8, just above Connecticut and New Hampshire, who tied for an average of 24.5.
However, all three of these states have relatively low ACT participation: 28% for Massachusetts, 23% for New Hampshire and 34% for Connecticut. The SAT is more popular in these states.
This suggests that those taking the ACT in those states are ambitious, college-bound students looking to improve their applications, which would make for a higher average score.
Team Players: 100% ACT Participation
There are eighteen states with 100% ACT participation – 36% of the country! These states have made the ACT part of their statewide testing regimens, helping high school students be better prepared for their college applications.
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- South Carolina
Highest ACT State Score with 100% Participation: Illinois
Eighteen states currently have 100% ACT participation. The state with the highest average score out of that group has a lot to be proud of because that average represents the entire high school population of that state.
So who wins? Illinois, with a 20.8 average composite score. It narrowly beats Colorado, which has a 20.6 composite. Wisconsin is in third with a 20.5 composite average.
Lowest Participation: Maine
Maine wins this one by a landslide, with just 10% of their students taking the ACT. This is likely because the SAT is still the test of choice in that Northeastern state. However, the SAT, which was once required, is now optional in Maine as well.
Lowest ACT State Score: Mississippi
Mississippi earns the dubious honor of getting the lowest average ACT score, with an average composite of 18.4. However, this is likely because Mississippi has been rapidly expanding the use of the ACT in recent years. Missisippi only mandated statewide testing starting in the 2014-2015 school year. It’s not surprising that such a big jump in test-takers would result in a lower average, as the ACT was not historically taken by a majority of Mississippian high school students.
As the ACT becomes a staple of Mississippi’s state testing, score averages will likely increase. If you’re curious about Mississippi’s recent ACT growth, you can read more here.
Chart of Average ACT Score by State from 2016
And now, check out our table of ACT state averages for the class of 2016, the latest available data. We have also included state participation rates, to give you an idea of the reach of the ACT in each state, and the size of the population being tested.
|District of Columbia||44%||21.8||21.8||22.8||21.7||22.2|
Now that you know about average ACT scores, you might be curious what scores are considered good by various colleges. To find out, check out our guide to developing a target ACT score based on the schools you want to apply to.
Wondering about what that composite score represents in terms of right and wrong questions? Check out our guide to ACT scoring to learn the ins-and-outs of ACT scoring, and tips to help you use this info to your advantage.
Trying to maximize your ACT score? Avoid this common ACT mistake to improve your composite. Also, check out our strategies to raise your ACT essay score.
Want to improve your ACT score by 4+ points? Download our free guide to the top 5 strategies you need in your prep to improve your ACT score dramatically.
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Halle Edwards graduated from Stanford University with honors. In high school, she earned 99th percentile ACT scores as well as 99th percentile scores on SAT subject tests. She also took nine AP classes, earning a perfect score of 5 on seven AP tests. As a graduate of a large public high school who tackled the college admission process largely on her own, she is passionate about helping high school students from different backgrounds get the knowledge they need to be successful in the college admissions process.