Average ACT Scores by State (2021-2022 Update)

us map for average act score by state

Why would you care what the average ACT score by state is? A lot of colleges and universities have admissions officers who focus on a particular region. Believe me, they’re more than familiar with what the average score looks like in your area! Also, if you’re applying to college in a particular state with a lot of in-state applicants, it’s good to know approximately where you stand in terms of the admissions pool by comparing yourself to local test takers.

So if your score is slightly lower than average for the college—but far above average in your state—it might not hurt your chances as much as you think it might. In fact, it may even help you!

State ACT Score Averages

Here are the average ACT scores by state, plus information about the percentage of students who meet national performance benchmarks for the United States. These are composite ACT scores or scores for the overall ACT test.

State%
Students
Tested
Average
Composite
Score
% Meeting
English
Bench-
mark
% Meeting
Reading
Bench-
mark
% Meeting
Math
Bench-
mark
% Meeting
Science
Bench-
mark
Alabama10018.7 48322123
Alaska1620.656474138
Arizona3519.852413532
Arkansas9919.051342326
California526.184747268
Colorado1623.678645956
Connecticut927.292827876
Delaware525.786766668
District of Columbia1925.676706666
Florida3420.459463435
Georgia2422.672585048
Hawaii6718.240312223
Idaho162375615351
Illinois1925.288726865
Indiana1423.174625752
Iowa4721.564524144
Kansas7919.953423232
Kentucky10019.251362726
Louisiana9818.448312023
Maine225.687777269
Maryland825.586746765
Massachusetts727.692838179
Michigan925.187726865
Minnesota6021.661524845
Mississippi10018.143281819
Missouri6320.659463536
Montana7020.456443636
National3520.356443635
Nebraska8620.055423335
Nevada10017.839292020
New Hampshire426.689797571
New Jersey1225.183706762
New Mexico2320.758473637
New York926.388777673
North Carolina9218.943362927
North Dakota10019.651373532
Ohio8519.650403331
Oklahoma5819.755422629
Oregon2020.656473838
Pennsylvania72584736765
Rhode Island425.889797067
South Carolina5018.643352526
South Dakota5521.665524645
Tennessee10019.152362528
Texas2320.152423534
Utah8620.659463837
Vermont424.783776266
Virginia925.586756867
Washington723.670625755
West Virginia3020.868493236
Wisconsin9620.055393736
Wyoming9119.853423232
National3520.356443635
This chart contains data on the percent of high school graduates who took the ACT, average composite scores, and the percent of tested students who met subject benchmarks. The data is organized by U.S. state.

 
Data from ACT Average Scores by State (PDF), provided by the ACT.

That’s a lot of information, so let’s break it down. The table gives us the average composite score for each state, as well as the percentage of students from each state meeting college-readiness benchmarks in English, Reading, Science, and Math.

What’s a Readiness Benchmark?

If you take a look at the Condition of College & Career Readiness 2019 report (PDF), the most recent report released by ACT, you can see that they take another measure into consideration for college readiness.

ACT has done a lot of research (and I invite you to read it), but for those of you on a tight schedule, this is how the ACT evaluates college readiness:

  • ACT scores (or other standardized test scores) are a valuable predictor of college success for high school students, taken in consideration with high school grades and other factors.
  • The “benchmark” scores for each section show the threshold above which high school graduates can expect to be reasonably prepared for college courses in this subject area. More specifically, the ACT explains, these indicators show the percentage of students who “have a 50% chance of obtaining a B or higher or about a 75% chance of obtaining a C or higher in corresponding credit-bearing first-year college courses.”
  • In each state, a different percentage of test-takers meets or exceeds the benchmarks every year.

Average ACT Scores by the Numbers

What do those scores mean in a national context? In 2019, the national average ACT score was 20.8 (Source: ACT College Readiness 2019 Report). The breakdown looks like this:

ACT Test (Section)Average Score (2019)
English20.2
Math20.5
Reading21.3
Science20.7
Composite20.7

However, keep in mind that these numbers come from an incredibly large pool of students (over 2 million, according to the National Center for Education Statistics!) each of whom is taking the ACT for different reasons.

So the overall averages are really not all that helpful in contextualizing your score. Instead, let’s look at how to contextualize average SAT scores by state and how you can use them to your advantage.

What Average ACT Scores by State Mean for Everyone

Benchmarks are one way of determining college readiness and what constitutes a “good” ACT score, and they’re more reliable than comparing your score to the 20.8 average. But as we’ve seen, test scores in one state are not perfectly comparable to scores from another state—the 100% test rate in some states shows us that, in places, all students, not just those who are determined to go to college, take this exam. This most likely lowers that state’s ACT composite score.

A Better Way to Put Your Score in Context

In other words, to get a better idea of how your scores stack up, it can be helpful to look at data from a smaller pool of students—preferably some who have had a similar education.

  1. First of all, you can look at average ACT scores for your state.Although you will find that scores don’t vary drastically between states, you may live in a slightly less or more competitive one.
  2. Next, you can look at average ACT scores for your high school.Many students can access this data on their high school’s “Profile” sheet. This might be posted on your school’s website, or you can ask your college counseling department for it. In fact, this is a really crucial piece of paper. Did you know that this is the info colleges use to understand how your high school compares to other high schools, as well as how you compare with to fellow students? Information is valuable, people!
  3. Compare them to the average ACT scores at the colleges or universities you are targeting.If you don’t have a college list yet (or even if you do), I highly recommend doing some exploratory research by reading our comprehensive post on ACT scores, which has a great table you can use to find the average test scores at the top 100 U.S. universities.

    As you might expect, more selective schools have high average scores (even up to the highest possible score of 36!), while less selective schools have lower average scores. But keep in mind that these are usually ranges–you don’t need to get the maximum score of 36 to get into a highly selective school (though it won’t hurt!).

The Magoosh Answer

Your ACT score can be a very important factor in determining college admissions. So make sure to arm yourself with all of the above facts and figures before you set your ACT goals. But, it’s also important to keep in mind that your ACT scores are only one part of who you are as an applicant, and you have lots of other talents to offer a college or university!

And, don’t forget the most important person to be comparing yourself to is…you.

So, if you studied hard and increased your ACT score from a 16 to a 20, that is a huge win! You are now way better prepared than “average you” was before. And that—rather than the average ACT scores by state—is what really counts at the end of the day.

Author

  • Rachel Kapelke-Dale

    Rachel is a Magoosh Content Creator. She writes and updates content on our High School and GRE Blogs to ensure students are equipped with the best information during their test prep journey. As a test-prep instructor for more than five years in there different countries, Rachel has helped students around the world prepare for various standardized tests, including the SAT, ACT, TOEFL, GRE, and GMAT, and she is one of the authors of our Magoosh ACT Prep Book. Rachel has a Bachelor of Arts in Comparative Literature from Brown University, an MA in Cinematography from the Université de Paris VII, and a Ph.D. in Film Studies from University College London. For over a decade, Rachel has honed her craft as a fiction and memoir writer and public speaker. Her novel, THE BALLERINAS, is forthcoming in December 2021 from St. Martin's Press, while her memoir, GRADUATES IN WONDERLAND, co-written with Jessica Pan, was published in 2014 by Penguin Random House. Her work has appeared in over a dozen online and print publications, including Vanity Fair Hollywood. When she isn't strategically stringing words together at Magoosh, you can find Rachel riding horses or with her nose in a book. Join her on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook!

By the way, Magoosh can help you study for both the SAT and ACT exams. Click here to learn more!