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Thomas Broderick

What Is a Passing Score on the ACT?

Welcome back Magoosh readers! Spring ACT season has just about rapped up, and soon high school students like yourself will receive their scores. Yet after many students see their scores, a single thought passes through their minds: ‘Is this good enough? Did I pass?’


What Is a Passing Score on the ACT? -Magoosh


Fear not! In this article we’ll talk about what makes a passing score on the ACT. So if you are preparing to taking the ACT for the first time, or have scores in hand, let’s find the numbers that are your perfect match.


True, the ACT has no official ‘pass’ score. Unlike your teacher, the ACT doesn’t give letter grades. It doesn’t leave notes in the margins. It just gives you a number with very little commentary. Many first time test takers have more questions than answers after seeing their scores.

The truth is that everyone has his or her own unique passing score. Though everyone takes the same ACT, every person’s plan for what to do with the results is different. If you don’t have your own passing score on the ACT, let’s figure yours out.

Your Passing Score on the ACT

The ACT is one of only many steps in preparing to apply for college. To come up with your individual passing score, you need to have a good idea of the types of colleges you might apply to your senior year. You don’t have to have the final college list ready a year in advance, but a general idea helps.

With that long list of potential colleges, look up each college’s ‘ACT Middle 50%’ score range. If you’ve done a fair amount of research, you will likely find that the ‘ACT Middle 50%’ for each school is similar. No matter the case, create an average of all the different score ranges.

And voila! Your individual passing score on the ACT is now anywhere within that score range.


Don’t I Want Better than ‘Middle 50%’?

If your score is better than the ‘Middle 50%’ range, that’s awesome. It puts you in a great position when you apply. Also, more scholarship opportunities open up with higher ACT scores.

That being said, at the ultra-competitive schools across the country, the only score above the ‘Middle 50%’ is a perfect 36. Scoring anywhere in the ‘Middle 50%’ will keep your application in the “maybe” box long enough so that admissions counselors can get to know the real you. Besides, not aiming for the perfect 36 gives you more time to focus on your grades, extra curricular activities, volunteer work etc. Because at the end of the day, an admission counselor would much rather admit a well-rounded applicant with a ‘Middle 50%’ ACT score rather than an applicant with perfect test scores and…that’s it.

Final Thoughts

Put a little time into creating your own passing ACT score, and the results will pay off later. You’ll have a challenging, but reasonable goal to work towards. Also, your study plan will benefit from having a target score range.

That’s all for now, Magoosh readers. Good luck with your test preparation, and remember that there are more passing scores besides a 36!

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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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