What Are Average ACT Test Scores?

Instructor: Laura Melega
The ACT national and state average test scores vary from year to year. Find out the most recent average ACT scores as well as information about how the ACT is scored.

ACT National Average Scores

The 2014 national average composite score for the ACT was 21.0. The composite score is the average of the scale scores for the individual tests in English, mathematics, reading and science. There is an optional essay test that has a 40-minute time limit. The essay score does not impact the composite score.

The current national average composite ACT score is based on the scores of about 1.85 million students who graduated in 2014 (57% of the national graduating class). The 2014 national average scores for individual tests were:

  • English: 20.3
  • Mathematics: 20.9
  • Reading: 21.3
  • Science: 20.8

ACT State Average Scores

While many students take the ACT to determine their college readiness, some states require all students, even those not planning on attending college, to take the ACT. Thus, not only do the average scores vary from state to state, but the number of students on which these scores are based also varies from one state to the next.

For example, in 2014, every high school graduate in Colorado, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, North Carolina, North Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, and Wyoming took the ACT, while Delaware, Maine, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island each had less than 20% of graduates take the ACT.

The 2014 national average composite ACT score range for each state is:

Average Score RangeStates
22.8-24.3 Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Maine, New York, Delaware, Vermont, New Jersey, Washington, Minnesota, Rhode Island, Virginia
21.7-22.7Pennsylvania, Maryland, Idaho, California, Wisconsin, Iowa, Kansas, Ohio, Indiana, South Dakota, Missouri, Nebraska
20.6-21.6 Oregon, Nevada, Alaska, Texas, Georgia, Utah, Illinois, Oklahoma, Alabama, Colorado, North Dakota, West Virginia
18.2-20.5Montana, Arkansas, South Carolina, Michigan, Wyoming, Kentucky, New Mexico, Tennessee, Arizona, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Hawaii

How the ACT Is Scored

The ACT is made up of 215 multiple-choice questions spread out across the four test areas. Your raw score on each test is determined by the questions answered correctly, which means that you are not penalized for guessing. The raw scores are then converted to scale scores; the best score possible is 36, and the lowest score possible is 1. Finally, all four scale scores are averaged to get the composite score.

What These Scores Mean

Using actual college success and scoring data, ACT has come up with benchmark scores to help determine college readiness. The following scores mean that students have a 50% chance of achieving a B or higher in the corresponding college courses:

18 on English English Composition
18 on mathematics Algebra
21 on reading Social Science
23 on science Biology

Preparing for the ACT

Taking the ACT is not meant to be a stressful ordeal, and there are resources available on Study.com that provide lessons designed to get you ready for test day. The ACT Prep: Practice & Study Guide is a comprehensive resource that offers video lessons and practices quizzes so that you can review all of the core subjects as well as prepare for the optional writing test.

Other courses that deliver in-depth lessons focused on a specific exam subject include:

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