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!
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.
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 Ranking||College Name||25th Percentile Scores||75th Percentile Scores|
|3 (tie)||Columbia University||33||35|
|3 (tie)||Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)||34||36|
|3 (tie)||Yale University||33||35|
|6 (tie)||Stanford University||32||35|
|6 (tie)||University of Chicago||33||35|
|6 (tie)||University of Pennsylvania||32||35|
|10 (tie)||Duke University||33||35|
|10 (tie)||Johns Hopkins University||33||35|
|12 (tie)||California Institute of Technology (CIT)||35||36|
|12 (tie)||Dartmouth College||31||35|
|15 (tie)||University of Notre Dame||33||35|
|15 (tie)||Vanderbilt University||33||35|
|17 (tie)||Cornell University||32||34|
|17 (tie)||Rice University||33||35|
|19||Washington University in St. Louis||32||35|
|20||University of California--Los Angeles||28||34|
|22 (tie)||University of California--Berkeley||28||34|
|22 (tie)||University of Southern California||30||34|
|25 (tie)||Carnegie Mellon University||33||35|
|25 (tie)||University of Michigan--Ann Arbor||30||34|
|27||Wake Forest University||29||33|
|28||University of Virginia||30||34|
|29 (tie)||Georgia Institute of Technology||31||34|
|29 (tie)||New York University||29||34|
|29 (tie)||Tufts University||31||34|
|29 (tie)||University of North Carolina--Chapel Hill||27||33|
|29 (tie)||University of Rochester||30||34|
|34 (tie)||University of California--Santa Barbara||26||32|
|34 (tie)||University of Florida||27||32|
|36||University of California--Irvine||N/A||N/A|
|37 (tie)||Boston College||31||34|
|37 (tie)||University of California--San Diego||26||33|
|39||University of California--Davis||25||31|
|40 (tie)||Boston University||30||33|
|40 (tie)||Brandeis University||29||33|
|40 (tie)||Case Western Reserve University||30||34|
|40 (tie)||College of William and Mary||30||33|
|40 (tie)||Northeastern University||32||34|
|40 (tie)||Tulane University||30||33|
|46 (tie)||University of Wisconsin--Madison||27||32|
|46 (tie)||Villanova University||30||33|
|48 (tie)||University of Illinois--Urbana-Champaign||26||32|
|48 (tie)||University of Texas--Austin||27||33|
|50 (tie)||Lehigh University||29||33|
|50 (tie)||Pepperdine University||26||32|
|50 (tie)||Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute||29||33|
|50 (tie)||University of Georgia||27||32|
|54 (tie)||Ohio State University--Columbus||27||32|
|54 (tie)||Santa Clara University||28||32|
|54 (tie)||Syracuse University||25||32|
|57 (tie)||Florida State University||26||30|
|57 (tie)||Pennsylvania State University--University Park||25||30|
|57 (tie)||Purdue University--West Lafayette||25||32|
|57 (tie)||University of Miami||29||32|
|57 (tie)||University of Pittsburgh||28||32|
|62 (tie)||Rutgers University--New Brunswick||25||31|
|62 (tie)||University of Washington||27||32|
|64 (tie)||Loyola Marymount University||27||31|
|64 (tie)||Southern Methodist University||29||33|
|64 (tie)||University of Connecticut||26||31|
|64 (tie)||University of Maryland--College Park||28||33|
|64 (tie)||University of Massachusetts--Amherst||26||31|
|64 (tie)||Worcester Polytechnic Institute||29||33|
|70 (tie)||Clemson University||29||32|
|70 (tie)||George Washington University||25||30|
|70 (tie)||Texas A&M University--College Station||25||31|
|70 (tie)||University of Minnesota--Twin Cities||26||31|
|74 (tie)||Fordham University||28||32|
|74 (tie)||Stevens Institute of Technology||30||32|
|74 (tie)||Virginia Tech||25||31|
|74 (tie)||American University||27||31|
|77 (tie)||Brigham Young University--Provo||26||31|
|79 (tie)||Baylor University||26||31|
|79 (tie)||Binghamton University--SUNY||28||32|
|79 (tie)||Gonzaga University||25||30|
|79 (tie)||Indiana University--Bloomington||24||31|
|79 (tie)||University at Buffalo--SUNY||24||29|
|84 (tie)||Colorado School of Mines||28||33|
|84 (tie)||Elon University||25||30|
|84 (tie)||Marquette University||24||30|
|84 (tie)||Michigan State University||23||29|
|84 (tie)||North Carolina State University--Raleigh||27||31|
|84 (tie)||University of California--Santa Cruz||24||31|
|84 (tie)||University of Iowa||23||28|
|91 (tie)||Clark University||28||31|
|91 (tie)||Miami University--Oxford||26||31|
|91 (tie)||Stony Brook University--SUNY||26||31|
|91 (tie)||University of California--Riverside||23||29|
|91 (tie)||University of Delaware||25||30|
|91 (tie)||University of San Diego||25||30|
|97 (tie)||Drexel University||25||30|
|97 (tie)||New Jersey Institute of Technology||25||30|
|97 (tie)||Saint Louis University||25||31|
|97 (tie)||Texas Christian University||26||30|
|97 (tie)||University of Denver||26||31|
|97 (tie)||University of San Francisco||23||29|
|97 (tie)||Yeshiva University||22||30|
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!
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.
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. If you need more practice, check out Magoosh ACT prep for helpful videos and interactive tutorials. 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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