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Thomas Broderick

How to Get a 30+ Score on the ACT

If you’re hoping to reach the 95% percentile on the ACT, it can seem pretty intimidating at first glance. After all, scoring above 30 on the ACT means that you’d have the highest score in a group of 20 test takers. Yet earning a 30+ score on the ACT has become a goal for many students hoping to attend selective colleges, and you shouldn’t let the statistics discourage you! In this post, we’ll cover how to get a 30+ score on the ACT. You’ll see that it’s not only possible, it’s also achievable!


get 30 act score -Magoosh

No, it doesn’t have to be!

So if you’re one of those students who wants to see a 30+ on your ACT score reports, know that it’ll take some work—sky-high scores don’t happen overnight! And if you’re ready to put in the effort, let’s begin.

Why 30+?

If you’re applying to top-tier U.S. universities, a score of above 30 on the ACT will really help your application. Looking at the table below, you can see that, at the top-ranked 19 universities, 75% of students scored above a 30 on the ACT. If that doesn’t light a fire under you, I don’t know what will!

College ACT Score Range for the Top 100 Universities

College RankingCollege Name25th Percentile Scores75th Percentile Scores
1Princeton University3235
2Harvard University3235
3University of Chicago3235
4Yale University3135
5 (tie)Columbia University3235
5 (tie)Stanford University3135
7Massachusetts Institutes of Technology (MIT)3335
8 (tie)Duke University3134
8 (tie)University of Pennsylvania3134
10Johns Hopkins University3234
11Dartmouth College3034
12 (tie)California Institute of Technology (CIT)3435
12 (tie)Northwestern University3134
14Brown University3134
15 (tie)Cornell University3034
15 (tie)Rice University3235
15 (tie)University of Notre Dame3234
15 (tie)Vanderbilt University3235
19Washington University in St. Louis3234
20 (tie)Emory University2933
20 (tie)Georgetown University3034
20 (tie)University of California--Berkeley2934
23University of Southern California3033
24 (tie)Carnegie Mellon University3134
24 (tie)University of California--Los Angeles2533
24 (tie)University of Virginia2833
27 (tie)Tufts University3033
27 (tie)University of Michigan--Ann Arbor2933
27 (tie)Wake Forest University2733
30University of North Carolina--Chapel Hill2732
31Boston College3033
32 (tie)College of William & Mary2832
32 (tie)University of Rochester2933
34 (tie)Brandeis University2932
34 (tie)Georgia Institute of Technology3033
36New York University2932
37 (tie)Case Western Reserve University3033
37 (tie)University of California--Santa Barbara2430
39 (tie)Boston University2731
39 (tie)Northeastern University3134
39 (tie)Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute2832
39 (tie)Tulane University2932
39 (tie)University of California--IrvineN/AN/A
44 (tie)Lehigh University2932
44 (tie)University of California--Davis2430
44 (tie)University of California--San Diego2732
44 (tie)University of Illinois--Urbana-Champaign2631
44 (tie)University of Miami2832
44 (tie)University of Wisconsin--Madison2731
50 (tie)Pennsylvania State University--University Park2529
50 (tie)Pepperdine University2530
50 (tie)University of Florida2731
50 (tie)Villanova University2932
54 (tie)Ohio State University--Colombus2731
54 (tie)University of Washington2631
56 (tie)George Washington University2731
56 (tie)Southern Methodist University2832
56 (tie)University of Georgia2631
56 (tie)University of Texas--Austin2631
60 (tie)Fordham University2731
60 (tie)Perdue University--West Lafayette2531
60 (tie)Syracuse University2429
60 (tie)University of Connecticut2631
60 (tie)University of Maryland--College ParkN/AN/A
60 (tie)Worcester Polytechnic Institute2732
66 (tie)Clemson University2731
66 (tie)Yeshiva University2429
68 (tie)Brigham Young University--Provo2731
68 (tie)University of Pittsburgh2631
70Rutgers University--New BrunswisckN/AN/A
71 (tie)Baylor University2530
71 (tie)Stevens Institute of Technology2932
71 (tie)University of Minnesota--Twin Cities2631
74 (tie)Clark University2630
74 (tie)Texas A&M University--College Station2530
74 (tie)University of Massachusetts--Amherst2530
74 (tie)Virginia TechN/AN/A
79 (tie)Miami University--Oxford2630
79 (tie)University of California--Santa Cruz2329
79 (tie)University of Delaware2529
82 (tie)Colorado School of Mines2832
82 (tie)Michigan State University2328
82 (tie)Texas Christian University2530
82 (tie)University of Iowa2328
86 (tie)Binghamton University--SUNY2731
86 (tie)Indiana University--Bloomington2430
86 (tie)Marquette University2430
86 (tie)University of Denver2330
86 (tie)University of San Diego2630
86 (tie)University of Tulsa2632
92 (tie)Florida State University2529
92 (tie)North Carolina State University--Raleigh2731
92 (tie)University of Colorado--Boulder2430
92 (tie)University of Vermont2530
96 (tie)Drexel University2530
96 (tie)Saint Louis University2531
96 (tie)Stony Brook University--SUNY2631
99 (tie)Auburn University2430
99 (tie)Loyola University Chicago2429
99 (tie)SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry2529
99 (tie)University at Buffalo--SUNY2429

But don’t despair! With some work, a 30+ score may just be in reach.

Your Starting Line

We’re all coming from different places when we approach the ACT for the first time. Our home lives, our educational backgrounds, even our parents’ educations all have some correlation to our ACT scores. But no matter where you’re starting from, remember this: your ACT score wasn’t carved in stone on the day you were born.

So if you’re discouraged by early practice test results, keep in mind that your determination and grit are the most valuable assets you have, and with some practice you can learn how to get a 30+ score on the ACT.

Discovering Weak Spots

The first thing to do, as you might have guessed, is to take a timed practice test. Once you do this, look over your results. Let’s say, for example, you got the following scores:

(Now, even though it’s not what you’re hoping for, a 28 is a really strong score, and we’re just using it as an example—your initial score may be lower and it’s still possible to bring it up to over 30!)

Now it’s time for the most important part of your early ACT prep: triage!

get 30 act score 2 - magoosh

Get this Math Test two hours of studying, stat!

Just like a doctor in an ER, you need to make some judgment calls about which “patients,” (or, you know, exam sections) you’ll treat first. In the above scenario, Science and Math are the lowest scores, so they take top priority. English might come later if there’s time, but Reading is good to go—for the moment. If you do have time, aiming for a perfect 36 in that strong section will help bring up your composite (overall) score, but it’s definitely your last priority right now.

Raising Your Score

So you’re focusing on the Math and Science Tests. The first thing to do is set some reasonable goals. Remember, you’re not aiming for perfection, just 30+. Using our handy-dandy ACT Raw Score Conversion Chart, we can see that on the Math Test, you answered 37/60 questions correctly. You answered 30/40 questions correctly on the Science Test.

To earn a score of 30 on both the Math and Science Tests, you would need to get these raw scores:

  • Math: 50/60
  • Science: 35/40

In the simplest terms, 18 missed questions stand between you and a 30+ score on the ACT. That’s going to take some work, but there are a few tips I can offer you.

The first thing is to take time to focus solely on the Math and Science Tests. As you review the results of your practice test and create a study plan based on your weaknesses, set aside topics with which you are already comfortable.

Also, consistently apply new knowledge and techniques to practice questions. Doing this will reinforce learned material. Finally, take multiple timed practice Math and Science Tests to determine whether or not your studying is having the desired effect.

If you are doing these things, your sub-scores—that’s those scores on the different sections, or tests—will improve. But let’s say that, in this scenario, weeks spent studying Math and Science have still not resulted in a 30+ score. At this point I would suggest turning to the English Test. Getting just two more questions correct would raise your English score from 29 to 31. On the actual ACT, that goes a long way to earning a 30+ composite score.

Final Thoughts

In a nutshell: how to get a 30+ score on the ACT? Identify your weaknesses, attempt to fix them, and only then reinforce your strengths.

It’s a hard road to a 30+, but I hope this article makes your journey a little smoother. Good luck studying, students, and I’ll see you next time!


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About Thomas Broderick

Thomas spent four years teaching high school English, social studies, and ACT preparation in Middle Tennessee. Now living in Northern California, he is excited to share his knowledge and experience with Magoosh's readers. In his spare time Thomas enjoys writing short fiction and hiking in the Sonoma foothills.

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