What is a good ACT score?

The Applerouth Team
January 1, 2023
min read

If you have ever asked yourself amidst the college admissions process ‘what is a good ACT score?’ you’re not alone. We get asked this question by our students and parents quite often. In order to understand what makes an ACT score ‘good’, you have to trek through test-optional territory to get a better understanding of what that looks like. That in itself has become a bit unclear.

Many students wonder:

Does test optional mean my scores don’t matter anymore? Should I even bother taking college admissions tests? If I do test, where should I dedicate my tutoring hours?

Luckily, there are a few general guidelines that are helpful to follow when thinking about standardized testing and the newer test optional policies. We’ll break these down in order to help clear things up. 

Here’s Why ACT Scores Still Matter

We’ll start by saying this: with test-optional schools you are in control of your scores, so you decide whether to send them to colleges or not.

ACT scores are basically another data point you can use to show colleges you can handle college-level work. At test-optional schools, you can include your scores if they’re high enough – and not submit them to schools where they fall outside the ideal range. Overall, students tend to submit their scores if they’re at the higher end of the school’s published ACT score range. 

When it’s a Good Idea to Take the ACT

Generally speaking, we encourage most students to take an ACT, or at the very least, a practice ACT in order to get a baseline score. It’s worth noting that even though many schools have remained test-optional, it does look like some of the most competitive test-optional schools are still leaning into testing.

In fact, there are some schools that have gone back to requiring standardized testing as part of their application. These colleges include Georgetown, MIT, some of the larger state schools like those in Georgia and Florida, and the military academies.

And although not required to play Division 1 or Division 2 sports, some college coaches are still asking for scores as part of the recruitment process. Not to mention the fact that some test-optional schools are still factoring in standardized testing scores in their Merit Scholarship Awards. We’ll explain more of that later.

In short, strong standardized testing scores can only help your application. They can help validate your transcript and reinforce that you can handle college-level work. Don’t worry–our expert tutors can help you hit your target range and reach your full potential on these tests!

So, What’s the Next Step?

We encourage you to reach out to us to schedule a practice Digital ACT, or sign up for the next one here. The practice test will give you a better feel for the new digital adaptive ACT that is coming this Spring – and it’s a good idea to learn the ins and outs!

The practice test will also give you a baseline score so you have a better understanding of where you’re starting in the process. Keep in mind – where you start on a practice test and where you finish on the official ACT after tutoring are often two different places. 

Next, get an idea for what your target score range should be. To do this, start by searching for a college’s published ACT scores to get a sense of how your current or future scores will compare. We’d recommend looking at a wide range of schools to get a big picture of their different score ranges.

Your college counselor can also provide guidance on whether your scores are in range for a particular school or not. Having a better feel for what scores you might need can help you set your goal. Our super-knowledgeable Program Directors can also talk you through that and map out a testing plan to help you reach it.

I Know Most Schools Are Test Optional…but Are They Really?

This is a question that we often hear from our students. It’s hard to give a straight yes or no answer with so many nuances – plus, the answer can vary from one institution to another. The ideal data to look at would be:

  • the percent of a college’s applicant pool who submitted scores and
  • the acceptance rate of that percentage, plus
  • the percent of their applicant pool that did not submit scores, and finally…
  • the acceptance rate of that group

Unfortunately, colleges are not releasing this information. Nevertheless, we can get some insights as to whether colleges are leaning more heavily into scores or not by looking at a data point that they are releasing: their percent of incoming students who have scores.

Key Data Points to Pay Attention to

You can find this data point from the school’s Common Data Set Report that is released annually (on the report it is category C9). For example, if you google Yale Common Data Set 2023, you will see that their published ACT score range is 1470-1560 and that their reported C9 (percent of their incoming class that submitted scores) was 88%. Certainly, some percentage of students were admitted without scores, but the vast majority submitted them. From this data, it’s reasonable to say that Yale as an institution, even though they are test-optional, is still factoring in standardized testing scores.

By contrast, another highly selective school, Northeastern, with a ACT score range of 1450-1530, reported that only 44% of their incoming class had scores. So a much higher percentage were admitted test-optionally. As another example, Quinnipiac University with a published ACT range of 1120-1300 reported their C9 at 33%. So roughly ⅔ of their enrolled class did not have scores.

While the information reported in C9 isn’t exactly the data we would like to have, it does give you a general sense of how much individual schools are still leaning into testing.

Achieve Higher Scores With Applerouth Private Tutoring

Want to know the great thing about ACT scores? They aren’t set in stone. You can study for this test and achieve major score gains if you plan ahead, practice often, and prepare effectively. We can help you with all of the above – it’s kind of our thing. We provide tutoring online and onsite for test prep, academics, and beyond.

If you’ve taken an official test and want to improve, or if you just want to try your hand at a free ACT practice test, we would love to answer your questions throughout this process.

Contact one of our Program Directors  at 866-789-7737 (PREP) or book a time to discuss one-on-one tutoring online and in-person. Whether you aim to boost your scores or simply navigate the ACT landscape, we're here to make the journey smoother. 

When Testing Might Not be a Necessary Focus

For some students, however, the effort may not be worth it. Some students might decide that a better use of their time is to focus on their day in and day out academic school work.

If standardized testing isn't in the plan, we’ll help you hone the skills needed for the academic journey that’s right for you. Find your perfect academic tutor and discover your place in the college arena.

An Important Aspect to Consider: The Merit Scholarship

There are still some colleges that value admissions testing – especially the larger state schools. Even if they don’t, though, many of them do accept the Merit Scholarship. This means you could benefit in a big way if your scores help you qualify for it!

As an example, the University of Alabama only accepts Merit Scholarships from those who took a college admissions test. If you’ve got your eye on a school like this, we would definitely recommend taking an ACT test and securing that scholarship!

So…Should I Take the ACT?

The fact is, it’s never going to hurt to have a strong testing score in your arsenal. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain by taking the ACT test – especially if some of your top colleges require it.

As the name implies, testing is optional…but whatever you decide does have an impact. Choose wisely depending on your future goals and interests! If you are leaning toward taking the ACT, a great route to take is one of Applerouth’s free ACT practice tests. Sign up for the next one here

What Else is Important in College Admissions?

We get excited about helping you achieve your dream score, but, when all is said and done, it’s only one factor in college admissions. The classes that inspire you, the grades you achieve, the exciting, creative, ambitious things you pursue outside of school — all of that matters too! 

That’s why Applerouth is so passionate about using a holistic approach with our services. We know that helping students find their college groove goes beyond acing a test. 

What’s the Bottom Line?

When you’re wondering, ‘what is a good ACT score?’ – or whether you should worry about it at all, consider this: one of the best parts about test optional is in the empowerment of being able to choose. It puts students in the driver’s seat to decide what makes the most sense for their future. 

In need of some direction? Take some time to weigh your options and goals. Our Program Advisors are here to guide you and help you sketch out a strategic plan. In the end, what’s important is that you end up at a school where you can thrive – by paying attention to what you love, and giving it your all.

Schedule a call with a Program Director.

Questions? Need some advice? We're here to help.

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