Did you recently get your ACT scores back and are now wondering how your score compares with those of other test takers in your state? Or perhaps you're curious as to how your state's average ACT score stacks up against other state averages.
For this article, we compiled the average ACT scores by state, as well as the average in each subject area, using the latest data from ACT, Inc. Read on to learn how your state's SAT data—and your ACT score—compares with the averages in the rest of the country.
What's the National Average ACT Score?
Nearly two million students nationwide took the ACT in 2019/2020—1.67 million, to be precise. Out of all of those tests, the national average scores came out as follows:
|ACT Section||Average Score|
Sources: ACT National Profile Report 2020
Remember that each ACT section, and the overall composite score, are scored between 1 and 36.
This means that if you get a composite score of 21 or higher, you will beat half the other high school students in the country. If you get significantly higher than 21, you will have beaten out a majority of test takers. Likewise, if you get lower than 21, a majority of test takers will have beaten out you.
But what about the ACT averages in your state specifically? Read on to learn how well you have to do on the exam to be considered above average in your home state.
All Average ACT Scores by State (2020)
The following table contains all ACT state averages for the class of 2020 (the most recent data available). We've 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||33%||23.1|
ACT Averages by State: Hall of Fame
Now that you've had a chance to skim the list of state ACT averages, we thought it would be fun to highlight the highs and lows of the United States' ACT performance. See if your state made the cut below!
Highest ACT State Score: Connecticut and Massachusetts
Massachusetts has the highest ACT score in the country, with an average composite of 26, just above Connecticut (25.9) and New Hampshire (25.7).
However, it should be noted that these three states have relatively low ACT participation: 12% for New Hampshire, 18% for Massachusetts, and 19% for Connecticut. This is because the SAT is more popular in these states.
So what does this data mean? Ultimately, it suggests that those taking the ACT in these states are ambitious, college-bound students looking to improve their applications, which would make for a higher average ACT score.
Team Players: 100% ACT Participation
There are 15 states with 100% ACT participation. These states have made the ACT a mandatory part of their statewide testing regimens, helping high school students be better prepared for their college applications.
- North Carolina
Highest ACT State Score With 100% Participation: Utah and Wisconsin
As you know, 15 states currently have 100% ACT participation. The state with the highest average score out of this group has a lot to be proud of because that average represents the entire high school population of that state.
So who wins? Utah is barely ahead of Wisconsin, with a 20.2 average composite score (vs. Wisconsin's 20.1 average). The runners-up are Montana, Nebraska and Ohio, each with a 19.9 average composite.
Lowest Participation: Maine
Maine wins this one by a landslide, with just 5% of its 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 in Maine, is now optional as well.
Lowest ACT State Score: Nevada
Nevada earns the dubious honor of getting the lowest average ACT score, with an average composite of 17.9.
This low average is likely due to the fact that Nevada only recently began to mandate statewide ACT testing starting in 2016. In general, big jumps in test takers often result in lower averages. As such, this new average is noticeably lower than Nevada's 2015 average of 21, back when just some students took the ACT.
As the ACT becomes a staple of Nevada's state testing regimen, averages will likely increase.
Key Takeaways: Average ACT Scores by State
As you can see, the average ACT score can change pretty dramatically depending on which state you're looking at.
Nationally, the average composite ACT score is 20.6—but many states' averages are higher or lower than this. In general, states with 100% participation rates (i.e., states that require the ACT) tend to have lower averages, whereas states with low participation rates tend to have higher averages.
In terms of notable states, here's a quick wrap-up of the ACT "awards" we gave above:
- Highest ACT State Score: Massachusetts (26 average)
- Team Players: 100% ACT Participation
- North Carolina
- Highest ACT State Score With 100% Participation: Utah (20.2 average)
- Lowest ACT State Score: Nevada (17.9 average)
If you're ever curious what ACT score you need to aim for to be considered above average for your state, simply come back to this page, check the chart, and see whether your state made our Hall of Fame!
What ACT scores are considered good by various colleges? Check out our guide to developing a target ACT score based on the schools you want to apply to.
Wondering about what your composite ACT score represents in terms of right and wrong answers? Learn the ins and outs of ACT scoring and get 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 top 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.