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!

 

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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
2 (tie)Columbia University 3335
2 (tie)Harvard University3335
2 (tie)Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
3436
5Yale University 3335
6 (tie)Stanford University 3135
6 (tie)University of Chicago3436
8 University of Pennsylvania 3335
9 (tie)California Institute of Technology (Caltech)3536
9 (tie)Duke University3435
9 (tie)Johns Hopkins University 3435
9 (tie)Northwestern University3335
13Dartmouth College 3235
14 (tie)Brown University3335
14 (tie)Vanderbilt University 3335
14 (tie)Washington University in St. Louis3335
17 (tie)Cornell University 3235
17 (tie)Rice University 3436
19 University of Notre Dame 3235
20University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) 2934
21Emory University3134
22University of California--Berkeley2735
23 (tie)Georgetown 3135
23 (tie)University of Michigan at Ann Arbor3134
25 (tie)Carnegie Mellon University3335
25 (tie)University of Virgina 3034
27 University of Southern California (USC)3034
28 (tie)New York University (NYU)3134
28 (tie)Tufts University3235
28 (tie)University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB)2633
28 (tie)University of Florida2933
28 (tie)University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (UNC Chapel Hill)2733
28 (tie)Wake Forest University3033
34 (tie)University of California--San Diego2633
34 (tie)University of Rochester3034
36 (tie)Boston College3134
36 (tie)University of California, Irvine (UCI) NANA
38 (tie)Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) 3135
38 (tie)University of California, Davis (UC Davis)2531
38 (tie)University of Texas, Austin (UT Austin) 2633
38 (tie)College of William and Mary3034
42 (tie)Boston University 3034
42 (tie)Brandeis University3133
42 (tie)Case Western Reserve University3135
42 (tie)Tulane University3033
42 (tie)University of Wisconsin Madison2732
47University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign2733
48University of Georgia2732
49 (tie)Lehigh University2933
49 (tie)Northeastern University3335
49 (tie)Ohio State University2632
49 (tie)Pepperdine University2631
49 (tie)Purdue Univesity-West Lafayette2533
49 (tie)Villanova University3033
55 (tie)Florida State University2731
55 (tie)Rennselaer Polytechnic Institute2934
55 (tie)Santa Clara University2832
55 (tie)University of Miami 2832
59 (tie)Syracuse University2530
59 (tie)University of Maryland--College Park2934
59 (tie)University of Pittsburgh--Pittsburgh Campus2832
59 (tie)University of Washington2733
63 (tie)George Washington University2933
63 (tie)Pennsylvania State--University Park2530
63 (tie)Rutgers University2532
63 (tie)University of Connecticut2732
63 (tie)Worcester Polytechnic Institute2933
68 (tie)Fordham University2732
68 (tie)Indiana University--Bloomington2431
68 (tie)Southern Methodist University2932
68 (tie)Texas A&M University--College Station2532
68 (tie)University of Massachussetts-Amherst (UMass Amherst)2732
68 (tie)University of Minnesota--Twin Cities2531
68 (tie)Yeshiva University2431
75 (tie)Baylor University2631
75 (tie)Clemson 2732
75 (tie)Loyola Marymount2731
75 (tie)Virginia Institute of Technology (Virginia Tech) 2531
79 (tie)American University2732
79 (tie)Brigham Young University--Provo2632
79 (tie)Gonzaga University2530
79 (tie)North Carolina State University--Raleigh2732
83 (tie)Binghamton University2932
83 (tie)Colorado School of Mines2833
83 (tie)Elon University2530
83 (tie)Howard University2226
83 (tie)Marquette University2530
83 (tie)Michigan State University2329
83 (tie)Stevens Institute of Technology3134
83 (tie)Texas Christian University2531
83 (tie)University of California--Riverside2229
83 (tie)University of Iowa2229
93 (tie)Stony Brook University (SUNY)2632
93 (tie)University at Buffalo2329
93 (tie)University of California--Merced1722
93 (tie)University of Delaware2531
93 (tie)University of Denver2631
93 (tie)University of San Diego2531
99 (tie)Auburn University2531
99 (tie)University of Colorado Boulder2431
99 (tie)University of Oregon2229
99 (tie)University of Utah2229

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. 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!

Author

  • 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.

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

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