One of the things that make the last couple of years in high school stressful and terrifying is taking the ACT. Nothing can be more nerve-racking than waiting for your ACT score to come out. Getting a passing ACT score, as most students believe, can spell the difference between attending your dream school and going to a school you don’t like.
There are no passing ACT scores. Likewise, there are no failing ACT scores. There are, however, good and bad ACT scores. Currently, the average ACT score is 21, which puts the test-taker in the 50th percentile. An ACT score of 24 or higher is considered good. The higher the ACT score, the better.
Before anything else, there’s one important thing you need to know: your ACT score is not the only thing that admissions officers will take a look at when deciding your fate.
Whether you are waiting for your ACT score or planning to retake the test because you are not happy with your current score, keep on reading. Below, we will tackle some of the things about the ACT that many first-time test-takers are too shy to ask about, such as what ACT scores are good and what they can do if they have bad ACT scores.
What is Considered a Good ACT Score?
A good ACT score is something that places the test-taker in the 50th percentile. This means that he or she scored equal to or higher than 50% of all test-takers on the same test date. A good ACT score is also something high enough to gain the test-taker admission into his or her school of choice.
When it comes to determining what ACT score you should aim for, you should take into account the colleges or universities you are interested in. The minimum ACT score they accept should be your goal.
There are good ACT scores. Then there are phenomenal ACT scores. They are those that are anything higher than 34, which put the test-takers in the 99th to 100th percentile. So, in other words, they scored equal to or higher than 99% of all test-takers on the same test date!
Let’s take a quick look at what the different ACT scores mean compared to all test-takers:
|16 and below||Bottom 25%|
|21||Right in the middle|
|24 to 28||Top 25%|
|29 to 30||Top 10%|
|31 to 33||Top 5%|
|34 to 36||Top 1%|
What are the Benefits of Having a High ACT Score?
One of the main benefits of having a high ACT score is increased acceptance odds. This is especially true for those who would like to go to selective colleges and universities. Another benefit of having a high ACT score is that it makes earning a college degree cheaper via scholarships and grants.
In some instances, getting a good ACT score is not enough. It’s a much better idea to get a high ACT score.
Just about any score that’s as close as possible to 36, which is the highest score any ACT test-taker can get, is considered high. Based on 2017 data, the odds of getting a perfect ACT score is just 0.14%. Luckily, getting a whopping 36 on the ACT alone will not guarantee acceptance into selective schools.
There are some perks that come with getting an impressive ACT score:
Better chances of receiving an acceptance letter
Do you plan to attend nothing but the college or university of your wildest dreams?
Then it’s a good idea to prepare for the ACT very well to get a high score. That’s because it will make it more likely for you to gain admission into it. Similarly, it will make you desirable in the eyes of the admissions officers of various elite schools. But then again, the rest of your application should be just as striking as your ACT score.
Cheaper cost of attendance (COA)
If you are going to college on a budget, having a high ACT score can make you more eligible for merit-based scholarships than any other student.
As a general rule of thumb, the higher your ACT score, the lower your tuition and other fees can become.
Access to some exclusive honor programs
Some colleges and universities offer honor programs that allow their students to enjoy exclusive tools and events such as select courses, separate housing, field trips, social events, etc.
To benefit from honor programs, you will need to have a high ACT score. However, in most instances, having a high GPA, too, is a requirement to let the school know you really do have what it takes.
What are My Options If My ACT Score is Low?
There’s no need to turn your back on your dream of being a degree holder if your ACT score is low. There are certain steps that you may take to either give getting a better score a chance or increase your chances of gaining admission into a college or university that requires ACT score submission.
Here are some of the things that you may do if you feel that your ACT score is dragging you down:
Retake the ACT test
According to ACT, the company that administers the ACT, more than 50% of test-takers who take the standardized test a second time tend to get better scores. It’s because of this why you might want to consider retaking the ACT if you feel that there’s plenty of room for improvement.
But just because the majority of ACT retakers tend to be happier the second time around doesn’t mean right away that you will surely get a higher score if you take the ACT one more time.
Like taking the ACT for the first time, you will have to prepare very well for a retake.
Related Post: 12 Best ACT Test Hacks
Take the SAT instead
Most colleges and universities will accept either SAT or ACT scores. If taking the ACT twice, thrice or four times did not yield favorable results, you may consider taking the SAT instead.
Some test-takers are simply better at taking the SAT than the ACT. Similarly, some test-takers are so much better at taking the ACT than the SAT. This time around, give the SAT a try.
And if you fail to get a good initial score, retake the SAT — most students who retake it end up with scores high enough to gain admission into their preferred schools.
Verify your ACT score
Are you unhappy with your ACT score because you believe you committed an obvious error in answering the test, or think that there might be a scoring error on the part of ACT?
Worry not because you can request for score verification or hand scoring. As the name suggests, your ACT will be scored manually to determine whether or not the machine that checked the answer sheets may have made a mistake. But before you do this, it’s a good idea that you order a test information release (TIR).
A TIR allows you to get your hands on your answers, the answer key, and scoring instructions. Put simply, requesting a TIR will let you know which answers you got correct and which answers you got incorrect.
Apply to a test-optional school
If none of the suggestions above works, consider applying to a different school.
The best college or university to apply to is one that welcomes students with low ACT scores. Refrain from assuming that schools accepting applicants with low ACT scores are bad. There are many good ones out there that are lenient with test scores.
You may also try applying to test-optional schools where the submission of ACT scores may or may not be done. These days, many selective schools have test-optional admission policies.
Just Before You Worry About a Failing ACT Score
There is no such thing as a failing ACT score. The lowest score you can get on the standardized test is 1, while the highest score you can get on it is 36.
However, there are such things as good and bad ACT scores.
Especially if you would like to attend one of the selective colleges or universities in the nation, it’s a must to aim for an ACT score that’s well above average — the average ACT score is 21. The higher your score, the higher your chances of gaining admission into an elite school.
But don’t forget the importance of having a stellar GPA and a strong overall application, too.
Do schools superscore the ACT?
Many colleges and universities have been superscoring the SAT for a long time already. These days, more and more schools will superscore the ACT, too. This means that they will take your highest scores for each of the four sections of the ACT. They will then combine them to get your ACT superscore.
Can I choose which ACT score to send to a college?
If you took the ACT numerous times, you may choose which ACT score you would like to send to colleges or universities. However, you cannot choose individual section scores from different test dates. To superscore your ACT, you will have to submit all your ACT scores from all test dates to the school.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the College Reality Check.