If you’re gearing up to take the ACT or have taken it recently, you might be wondering how your scores compare to other college applicants. What’s a good ACT score 2023? And how do you know what ACT score you should be aiming for to get into your dream schools?

In this article, we’ll explain how to figure out if your ACT scores qualify as “good.” Most importantly, we’ll tell you how to set a target ACT score so you can earn an ACT score that’s good for you and your college admissions goals. We’ll also take a look at how the definition of a good ACT score has changed over the years.

What’s a Good ACT Score 2023 Overall?

As a general rule, the best ACT score for you is one that gets you accepted to all the schools you’re applying to. But to figure out what a good ACT score is in general, we need to look at how your scores compare to those of students who’ve recently taken the ACT.

The bottom line is that the higher your scores are compared to other students, the more impressive your score is for college admissions. There are two main ways to compare your ACT scores to other test takers: by looking at ACT score averages, and by looking at ACT score percentiles.

ACT Score Averages

When it comes to score averages, any score that puts you in the top half of test takers is considered a good ACT score. The higher you score above average, the better it is. In the same way, scores that fall below the average aren’t as good. The further your scores are below that middle marker, the less impressive they’ll be on college applications.

According to the most recent data from ACT Inc., the 2022 average composite score is 20.3 out of 36. For each individual section of the ACT, the averages scores are:

• English: 19.5
• Math: 19.9
• Science: 20.3

Based on the data above, we can conclude that ACT scores of 21 or higher can be considered “good” ACT scores for 2023 as well since ACT score averages stay fairly stable year over year

ACT Score Percentiles

But there’s another data-based method we can use to define good ACT scores: percentiles.  Percentiles tell you what percentage of students scored the same as or lower than you on the ACT. For instance, if you earned a score in the 66th percentile, that means that you performed the same as or better than 66% of test takers.

The chart below shows you ACT scores that are considered poor, good, and great based on current percentiles:

 Percentile English Math Reading Science Composite 99th (Best) 35 34-35 35-36 34-35 34-35 90th (Excellent) 29 27 31 27 28 75th (Good) 23 22-23 24-25 23-24 23-24 50th (Average) 17-18 16-17 19-20 18-19 18-19 25th (Poor) 13 14-15 14 14-15 14-15 10th (Poorer) 9-10 13 11-12 12 12-13 1st (Poorest) 7 and below 10 and below 8 and below 8 and below 10 and below

Source: ACT.org

Based on this data, you need to score a composite score of 28 to make the top 10% of test takers. This means that you can achieve a great ACT score without earning a perfect score of 36.

On the other hand, a score of 13 or lower puts you in the bottom 10% of test takers, or the 10th percentile. Unfortunately, scores in these lower percentiles don’t look impressive on college applications. Even if you raised your score by just one point from a 13 to a 14, you’d still be in the bottom quarter, or 25th percentile, of test takers. Thus, we can conclude that any ACT score below the 25th percentile is objectively not good.

Keep in mind that test optional policies can skew the average ACT scores for admitted classes. Many admitted students will get accepted without submitting test scores since doing so is optional. The average ACT scores and percentiles released by test optional schools won’t provide a comprehensive picture of the scores of the entire body of students admitted that year as a result.

Now that we’ve covered how to define good ACT scores using averages and percentiles, let’s go over the most important way to determine a good ACT score for you: by looking at the ACT scores of students admitted to your dream schools.

You're one-of-a-kind...and so is your ACT goal score. It's okay to stand out from the crowd!

What Is a Good ACT Score 2023 for You?

To get into the schools you’re applying to, we need to look at more than just ACT averages and percentiles. We also need to look at the average ACT scores of students who’ve been recently admitted to the schools on your list!

Achieving a score that’s high enough to get you accepted to your dream schools is the most important thing for you. That means a “good” ACT score for you might be different from a “good” score for another student.

At PrepScholar, we call this process of calculating the customized ACT score you need setting your goal score.

So how do you set an ACT goal score? First, you have to finalize your college list. Your goal score will be based on the ACT scores of students admitted to each of these schools, which means your goal score will be unique to you!

Most schools post the average ACT scores from admitted students on their admissions websites or in their common data sets, which you can find by searching for “[school name} + common data set”.

You should set your score target at or above the highest average score on your school list so you’re giving yourself the best chance of acceptance across the board. If you’re serious about getting into a school, you should consider setting your target score on or above the school’s average ACT score.

Yep, that's right—colleges are switching up testing policies again. Here's what you need to know.

How Do New Testing Policies Affect What’s a Good ACT Score 2023?

One more factor to keep in mind when asking, “What Is a Good ACT Score 2023?” is the fact that many schools have changed their requirements for ACT scores in college admissions over the past several years. We’ll break down what these new testing policies are and explain how they affect what’s a good ACT score for you.

To make college admissions fairer and more accessible, many schools have adopted test optional or test blind admissions policies, either temporarily, indefinitely, or permanently. Both of these policies mean that you are not required to submit ACT scores as a component of your college application.

Schools with test optional policies let you choose whether you submit your ACT scores. These schools will accept your scores, but don’t require them in order for you to get accepted.

Test blind schools will not look at or consider ACT scores at all in their admissions process. If you submit them anyway, your scores won’t be factored into your admissions decision.

Even though a school is test optional, it might still be a good idea for you to take and submit your ACT scores. Some schools may not look at ACT scores as part of your admissions packet, but they may be required by your departmental program. Test scores can also determine whether students can be exempted from entry-level classes. Scholarships may also require you to submit test scores as part of the award criteria.

So how do test optional and test blind policies affect your ACT goal score? These policies can make it more difficult to track down the most up-to-date ACT score percentiles and averages for some schools. Many schools that have adopted test optional/test blind policies have stopped releasing the ACT scores of their admitted students. As a result, it can be difficult to find the scoring data you need to set your ACT goal score.

To learn more about how these changes may affect you, check out our article on how test optional policies affect the significance of SAT/ACT scores in college admissions. We’ll tell you how to set score goals if you’re applying to test optional or test blind schools!

All the best things come in threes...like these kittens.

How To Set an ACT Score Goal for 2023 in 3 Easy Steps

While setting your ACT goal score will take some time, it doesn’t have to be tough. Just follow our expert step-by-step instructions!

Step 1: Make an ACT Scoring Chart 2023

Start by making a chart that includes each school you’re applying to. From there, you’ll search for and fill in the 25th and 75th percentile ACT scores for each school. Remember: the 25th and 75h percentile scores tell you the average score range of students recently admitted to your schools. These numbers are crucial to setting your ACT goal score!

You can make your own chart, or just use our ACT scoring chart 2023 to fill in your school information, which you can download here or by clicking the link below. Here’s what our chart looks like:

When you fill in your chart, don’t worry about including your safety schools, since you’re already very likely to get admitted there. But do include your match and reach schools. You’ll want to make sure you set your ACT goal scores high enough to snag acceptance letters to these more competitive schools!

Check out a sample ACT scoring chart 2023 with sample schools filled in here:

 School Name 25th Percentile ACT Score 75th Percentile ACT Score Boston University Amherst College UMass Boston Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts

Step 2: Find ACT Percentiles 2022 for Your Schools

After you fill in your schools, you’ll need to find recent scoring information and ACT score percentiles 2022 for the schools in your list. Specifically, you’ll need to look up the 25th percentile and 75th percentile score range for your schools. This is also known as the middle 50% of ACT scores, which reflects the average ACT scores of recently admitted students to a given school.

To find a school’s middle 50% ACT scores, start by searching our PrepScholar database! Start by searching “[School Name] PrepScholar” or “[School Name] PrepScholar ACT.” Click the link in results to the school’s page in either our ACT/GPA or admissions databases.

Here’s what the admissions page with ACT percentiles 2022 looks like for UC Berkeley:

For Boston University, the 25th percentile ACT score is 30, and the 75th percentile ACT score is 33. The average ACT score for Boston U is 32. To start completing your score chart, you’d simply add those 25th and 75th percentile scores into the correct row for Boston U. Then, just rinse and repeat this process for each school on your list, and your chart will be complete!

If you run into a situation where you can’t find one of your schools in the PrepScholar database, there are other ways to track down ACT score info. Go to your school’s official website and look for any info on student facts and figures, admissions data, and so on. Searching for “[School Name] average ACT scores” or “[School Name] ACT scores” can also lead you back to the info you need on your schools’ official websites.

If you’re still stumped, you can always check a school’s Common Data Set, which is a document of admissions data for a school’s most recently admitted class. Search for “[School Name] Common Data Set,” click on the document for the most recent year (most likely 2020-2021), then scroll to Section C. That’s where you’ll find information about ACT score percentiles 2022!

When you’re done, your chart will look something like this:

 School Name 25th Percentile ACT Score 75th Percentile ACT Score Boston University 30 33 Amherst College 31 34 UMass Boston 21 27 Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts 19 26

Step 3: Determine Your ACT Goal Score

The third step to determining your ACT score goal is to, well, determine your ACT score goal! You can do this by finding the highest 75th percentile ACT score in your school chart

When you take your ACT scores, this is the score you’re going to aim for. Why? Because that score is more likely to get you accepted to each school you’re applying to.

For instance, the school with the highest 75th percentile score in the sample list above is Amherst, with a 34 composite score. This means that your overall goal score will be 34, which is excellent! A 34 is in the 99th percentile of all test takers, which means it’s higher than 99% of students who took the ACT.

If you’re concerned that reaching your goal score will be tough, you can lower your target score a bit to one that’s in between the highest and second-highest 75th percentile scores in your chart, or your second-highest 75th percentile score. In our sample chart, the second-highest 75th percentile belongs to Boston University with a 33, which is in the 98th percentile

Setting a goal score doesn't have to feel like climbing Everest. Take a look at how our three-step process made setting a goal score easy for Sheri.

Example: How Sheri Set Her Goal Score

Now that you know the steps For example, say Sheri is applying to the following schools:

 School 25th Percentile ACT Score 75th Percentile ACT Score Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) 34 36 University of Alabama 22 31 Ohio State University 26 32 Purdue University 26 33 Mississippi State University 21 31

Based on this data, Sheri should set an ACT score target of at least a 35, which is a perfect score. That’s because the 75th percentile of test takers at MIT have perfect scores, Sheri will have to as well if she wants to compete for a spot at MIT. That also ensures Sheri has an ACT score that will help her get into every school on her college list as well.

However, let’s say Sheri spends a little more time refining his college list and narrows their schools down to these three:

 School 25th Percentile SAT Score 75th Percentile SAT Score University of Alabama 22 31 Ohio State University 26 32 Mississippi State University 21 31

In this case, Sheri would want to aim for an ACT score of 32, since Ohio State has the highest 75th percentile score for incoming students on her list. By making a 32 or higher, Sheri gives herself a better chance of getting into Mississippi State and the University of Alabama as well.

So, to set a goal for your own average ACT score 2023, you’ll need to find out the average ACT scores of students who’ve been recently accepted to the schools you’re applying to, then base your ACT target score off of that information.

We’ll walk you through this whole process–including how to find the average ACT scores for every school on your list!--in the next section.

Everything changes...including what constitutes a "good" ACT score. Let's take a look at the historical data to see how 2023 scores stack up.

Have Good ACT Scores Changed? ACT Percentiles 2022 vs Past Years

Now that you know some ways to identify a good ACT score, you might be wondering how 2022 ACT scores stack up against ACT scores from past years. Are good ACT scores for this year different from ACT scores from past years?

The answer is, not really! In general, there isn’t much variation in good ACT scores from year to year. Percentiles and averages may ebb and flow, but you typically won’t see any major changes to those scores. Based on averages and percentiles, what’s considered a good ACT score tends to stay pretty steady year after year.

To see how consistent ACT scores really are over time, check out the chart below. It show how the average section and composite ACT scores have changed over the years:

 Year English Math Reading Science Composite 2022 19.0 19.3 20.4 19.9 19.8 2021 19.6 19.9 20.9 20.4 20.3 2020 19.9 20.2 21.2 20.6 20.6 2019 20.2 20.5 21.3 20.8 20.8 2018 20.2 20.5 21.3 20.7 20.8 2017 20.3 20.7 21.4 21.0 21.0 2016 20.1 20.6 21.3 20.8 20.8 2015 20.4 20.8 21.4 20.9 21.0

As the chart above shows, ACT scores have changed very little in the past eight years. While scores have decreased some across the board, the biggest change we see is a drop of 1.5 points on ACT Reading, which isn’t a significant change.

We can also consider how external factors have impacted scores. For instance, the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic from 2020-2022 affected classroom learning methods, access to test prep and testing centers, and general stress levels for students.

To fully answer the question, “What’s a good ACT score 2023?”, we also have to look at ACT score percentiles. Percentiles tell you what percentage of test takers scored the same as or higher than you on the ACT. The chart below shows past and current percentiles for the ACT from 2015 to 2022:

 Year 90th %ile 75th %ile 50th %ile 25th %ile 10th %ile 2022 28 23-24 18-19 14-15 12-13 2021 29 24 19 15 12-13 2020 29 24-25 19-20 15* 12-13 2019 29* 24* 20* 16* 13* 2018 29* 24* 20* 16* 13* 2017 29* 24* 20* 16 13-14 2016 28* 24* 20* 16* 13* 2015 28* 24* 20 16* 14*

*Estimated score based on available percentile data

Similar to score averages (and with the exception of testing years during the COVID-19 pandemic), ACT percentiles haven’t changed much over the past eight years. There’s been some up and down fluctuation from year to year, but scores for each percentile have stayed pretty much within one point of each other over time.

Based on these numbers, we can safely say that good ACT scores, as defined by percentiles, haven’t changed much since 2015–and probably won’t for a while!

Conclusion: What Is a Good ACT Score 2022?

There are three main ways to answer the question, “What is a good ACT score 2023?”

The first way is to consider the national average. For 2022, the average composite ACT score is 20.3. If you score above this average, you’re in the top half of test takers, which means your score can be considered good!

We can also look at ACT score percentiles to define good ACT scores. Remember: percentiles compare your score with those of other students by telling you what percentage of test takers scored the same as or better than you. The higher your score, the better your performance comparatively. As a rule of thumb, ACT scores in the 50th percentile (18-19) are considered average, while scores in the 75th percentile (23-24) and 90th percentile (28) are considered good and excellent, respectively.

Finally, the best way you can determine a good ACT score is by looking at the scores of students admitted to your choice schools. In other words, what ACT goal score do you need to set in order to get accepted to the schools on your list? To gather the info you need to set your goal, find ACT score data for each of your schools. The 75th percentile score for each school will be your goal score, or the score that’s good for you as a college applicant!

Once you’ve set your goal score, you can get started with your own ACT study plan!

What’s Next?

If you’re aiming for a high ACT score, our ACT perfect score guide—written by a perfect scorer!—will put you on the right track.

Worried about getting a “bad” ACT score? We’ll walk you through what that means so you know where you stand.