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ACT Score Shock

I've gotten emails from happy-and disappointed-students since February's ACT scores were released. Perhaps operating from a realistic perspective might lift some spirits.

Below, numbers from show that a very small number of students achieve very high ACT scores, despite what you might believe. The ACT should not be approached like an extreme sport, where only reaching the pinnacle counts. Of course, prep to do as well as you can, whatever your score. But unless you're applying to the most highly selective colleges, your test scores may support your application more than than you thought. Don't let them cause an inordinate amount of stress. (By the way, the same is true for the me for those numbers.)

What was an Average Score?

In the class of 2017, 2,030,038 students took the ACT. The average composite score was 21.0 out of 36. This means that a score of 22+ puts you above average.

How Many Test Takers Got Top 10% ACT Scores?

Getting a 29 or higher means you are in the top 10% of scorers. So if 22 and up is good, and 33 and up is incredible, a score of 29 or higher would qualify as a great score.

The breakdowns for ACT scores between 29 and 32 are as follows:

Score # of Students Percentile

32 33,115 97

31 39,554 95

30 47,628 93

29 52,031 91

Only the Top 1% of Test Takers Scored a 34 and up

But exactly how many students earned a 33, 34, 35, or 36 in 2017?

Score # of Students Percentage of All Test Takers

36 2,7600 .136%

35 12,386 0.610%

34 20,499 1.010%

33 26,920 1.326%


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