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Kristin Fracchia

Average ACT Scores

In such a numbers-obsessed world, it’s easy to become obsessed with comparing your own “numbers” to the numbers of others. Who has more Instagram followers? Who has the better GPA? Who can eat the most Peeps in 30 seconds?

So it’s easy to understand why we want to know how our test scores compare to average ACT scores, although there is not always an easy answer.

First, the typical answer…

Average ACT Scores by the Numbers:

In 2014, US students averaged a composite score of 21.0 on the ACT, broken down like this:

ACT Test (Section)Average Score (2016)

However, keep in mind that these numbers are being drawn from an incredibly large pool of students (over 1.8 million, to be exact) each of whom is taking the ACT for different reasons: because it counts as their high school assessment, because they are trying to get into Harvard, because their parents made them, because they couldn’t think of anything better to do on a Saturday morning…

So it’s really not all that helpful.

A Better Answer:

To get a better idea of how your scores compare to an average ACT score, it’s better to look at a smaller pool of students.

Although you will find that scores don’t vary drastically between states, you may live in a slightly less or more competitive one.

  • You can look at average ACT scores for your 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 cheat sheet colleges use to understand how your high school compares with other high schools and how you compare with your fellow students? So, yeah, you might want to have it too.

An Even Better Answer:

You need to know how your ACT scores compare to the average ACT scores at the colleges or universities you are targeting.

You can typically find average test scores directly on admissions websites. But if you don’t have a college list yet (or even if you do), I highly recommend doing some exploratory searches on College Navigator, a great free tool you can use to find the average test scores at any U.S. college or university along with a ton of other useful statistics.

Some colleges are still stuck in the stone ages of only publishing average SAT scores, but if this is the case, you can easily convert this SAT score to an ACT score to see where your scores shake out.

The Magoosh Answer:

True, 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–you have lots of other talents, both quantifiable and unquantifiable, to offer a college.

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

If you studied hard and increased your ACT score from a 16 to a 20, that is a huge win, and to heck with any charts on average ACT scores! You are now way more awesome than “average you” was before.

Improve your SAT or ACT score, guaranteed. Start your 1 Week Free Trial of Magoosh SAT Prep or your 1 Week Free Trial of Magoosh ACT Prep today!

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About Kristin Fracchia

Kristin makes sure Magoosh's sites are full of awesome, free resources that can be found by students prepping for standardized tests. With a PhD from UC Irvine and degrees in Education and English, she’s been working in education since 2004 and has helped students prepare for standardized tests, as well as college and graduate school admissions, since 2007. She enjoys the agony and bliss of trail running, backpacking, hot yoga, and esoteric knowledge.

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