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Average ACT Score by State

Wondering how your ACT score compares to that of other test-takers? While average scores shouldn’t be your only gauge of success, they can serve as good benchmarks to aim for. In this guide, we’ll discuss average ACT scores at both the national and state level.  

See also: Average SAT Score by State

What is the national average ACT score?

The ACT is scored on a scale of 1-36. The national average ACT score is 20.6, but it doesn’t stop there. There’s also average scores for each section of the test. These include English, Math, Reading, and Science. Here’s a breakdown of average scores for each section at the national level: 

Test Section National Average Scores in 2020
Composite (Total) Score 20.6
English 19.9
Math 20.2
Reading 21.2
Science 20.6

Average ACT scores by state

Average ACT scores vary from state to state. A key factor to keep in mind is participation rate, which is the percentage of students in the state that take the ACT. States with higher participation rates typically have lower scores because the pool of test-takers is larger.

Meanwhile, states with lower participation rates generally have higher scores. Because of this, scores between states can only be accurately compared when the participation rates are similar. For instance, Oregon (42%) and Georgia (43%) can be compared accurately. 

Here are the average ACT scores by state in 2020, according to American College Testing

State Participation Rate Average Composite Score
Alabama 100% 18.8
Alaska 33% 20.1
Arizona 71% 19.1
Arkansas 100% 19
California 19% 23.3
Colorado 25% 23.7
Connecticut 19% 25.9
Delaware 11% 24.2
District of Columbia 33% 23.1
Florida 46% 20.6
Georgia 43% 21.7
Hawaii 82% 18.5
Idaho 28% 22.7
Illinois 31% 24.7
Indiana 25% 22.6
Iowa 68% 21.1
Kansas 82% 20.4
Kentucky 100% 19.5
Louisiana 100% 18.7
Maine 5% 24.9
Maryland 19% 23.8
Massachusetts 18% 26
Michigan 17% 24.6
Minnesota 92% 21.3
Mississippi 100% 18.2
Missouri 78% 20.7
Montana 100% 19.9
Nebraska 100% 19.9
Nevada 100% 17.9
New Hampshire 12% 25.7
New Jersey 23% 24.4
New Mexico 56% 19.3
New York 20% 24.9
North Carolina 100% 18.8
North Dakota 94% 19.6
Ohio 100% 19.9
Oklahoma 100% 18.7
Oregon 42% 21
Pennsylvania 15% 23.7
Rhode Island 11% 24.8
South Carolina 76% 18.4
South Dakota 70% 21.7
Tennessee 100% 19.3
Texas 38% 20.2
Utah 100% 20.2
Vermont 23% 23.3
Virginia 19% 24.4
Washington 20% 22.9
West Virginia 38% 20.9
Wisconsin 100% 20.1
Wyoming 100% 19.7

What is a good ACT score?

We’ve discussed average scores, but what is a good ACT score? That depends on the schools you’re applying to and the type of scores they expect from applicants. To get an idea of what you should aim for, check the average scores of the colleges you’re considering. The more selective the school, the higher the average score will be. 

A great way to evaluate your score is to look at percentile ranks. Percentiles are numbers between 1 and 99 that indicate how your score compares to other test-takers. For instance, scoring in the 50th percentile means that you scored higher than or equal to 50% of other test-takers. Scoring in the 75th percentile of above will give you a great shot of admission at a variety of schools. But if you’re aiming for a top tier school like Harvard or Stanford, you’ll probably have to score in the 95th percentile or above. 

In the end, you should set a realistic (but also ambitious) goal based on the ACT scores at your target schools. And regardless of the type of score you’re aiming for, the key to success is preparation. That means studying hard, taking practice tests, and taking the ACT multiple times if needed. If you do all that, you should have no trouble earning a good score and increasing your chances of admission. 

Also see: 2021-2022 ACT test dates

Additional resources for students preparing for the ACT

If you’re getting ready for the ACT, you’re probably getting ready to enter the busiest part of the admissions process. The process can be overwhelming, but luckily, we’ve got resources at your disposal. We can help get you through the test taking process with a guide to when to take the SAT or ACT, and a guide to the differences between the two tests. You can also look at our guide to find the right test prep tutor. And if you don’t get the results you want, don’t fret. There are great college options for low test takers.

Once you’ve got your tests out of the way, you’ll be getting into your college application process. We’ve got answers on whether you should apply early action or early decision. We can also help you find financial safety schools, pick a college, and interpret your financial aid award letter. Good luck with the process, and don’t forget to check back if you have any questions!